Front Yard Landscaping Makeover
This sloped front yard can't keep the homeowner out of the garden. A well-considered terrace opens the door to an entertaining front yard in North Carolina.
Before the advent of air-conditioning, sitting on the front porch was an art form in the South. Now it’s making a huge comeback because of a resurgence in desire to connect with neighbors. Many homeowners have moved beyond sipping their coffee or sweet tea on the front porch to hosting festive gatherings there as well.
Landscape designer Jay Sifford made that possible for the owners of a Cape Cod home in Charlotte, which was saddled with an undesirable sloping front lawn when they purchased it.
Working with the couple, Sifford got to the heart of the matter. “The homeowners are a fun couple with artistic sensibilities,” Sifford says. “They live in a mature and friendly neighborhood that embraces impromptu gatherings as well as formal events.” Contemporary elegance became the recurring theme for the new front yard.
The couple has childhood memories of the omnipresent Cape Cod landscapes of New England, with billowing white hydrangeas, junipers, iris, and boxwood. Their image cultivated Sifford’s design inspiration, but plant choices were updated for what would grow in the South and included new cultivars of old standbys.
Single Hue to Multicolored Pallete
A color palette of burgundy and chartreuse complements the gray stone wall and the crushed screenings on the terrace floor. For continuity, Sifford repeated plant types in both formal and informal forms. Hydrangeas were used informally as a shrub skirting the foundation and as a formal tree in standards flanking the steps to the terrace. A similar example repeats with the Diablo ninebarks. To repeat the burgundy hue of the ninebarks, Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’ was paired with a ‘Thundercloud’ plum tree, pairing nicely with the chartreuse boxwood Golden Dream and the ‘All Gold’ shore junipers.
The homeowners enjoy contemporary art, and when Sifford proposed a trio of carved granite spheres the decision became clear. The spheres on the right-hand side of the terrace counterbalance three sculptural Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Van Den Akker’ trees on the left. The ‘All Gold’ shore junipers used on both sides of the terrace provide continuity. ‘Pragense’ Prague viburnums act as bookends, stopping the eye at both terrace ends.
Today, the couple has a front yard that blends with their home, requires little maintenance to suit their busy schedules, and offers a place to entertain friends. The result is a usable, warm space that echoes the friendly, artsy vibe of the neighborhood, as well as the personality and history of the homeowners.
Plain Front Walk to Inviting Entrance
The street plantings throughout this neighborhood are Chinese elms (Ulmus parvifolia) planted about 12–15 years ago. Here, the elm at the curb is scaled to the house nicely. Below the mortared stacked-stone retaining wall is a “living quilt” design utilizing shrubs, grasses, and a few perennials to weave a pattern of color and texture.
A mass planting of ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’) lines the driveway, providing a mesmerizing sculptural presence as the blades move in the wind. A Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Aoi’) mimics the shape of the lamppost, while Antonow’s Blue honey bush (Melianthus major ‘Antonow’s Blue’) provides texture at the foot of the post.
Tree-form standards keep the eye moving around the space and provide continuity between upper and lower levels. On the upper level, tree-form Diablo ninebarks were paired on either end of the porch steps. To repeat the coloring in a less formal way, shrub-form ninebarks were used below the terrace in the quilt fashion. Similarly, shrub-form hydrangeas were used as the foundation plantings, and tree-form hydrangeas flank the sidewalk steps at the bottom of the retaining wall.
The journey to the front door is welcoming, with lots to see and places to pause to take in the views. The terrace features three varying-size granite spheres to serve as a focal point of contemporary art. The pattern of three repeats throughout the design. The chartreuse color of the ‘All Gold’ shore juniper (Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’) sets them off with stunning contrast.
Plan at a Glance
- Tree-form Diablo ninebark
- Shrub-form Diablo ninebark
- Shrub-form Phantom hydrangea
- Tree-form Phantom hydrangea
- ‘Midnight Rose’ heuchera
- Variegated Japanese iris
- Japanese holly fern
- ‘Thundercloud’ plum tree
- Prague viburnums
- Chamaecyparis nootkatensis (Alaskan cedar)
- ‘All Gold’ Shore junipers
- Chinese elm
- Japanese white pine ‘Aoi’
- Miss Grace Smokebush
- Admiration barberry
- Assorted shrubs
- Northwind panicum
- ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass