Drive through suburbia, and you'll get your fill of the same-old, same-old landscaping options: tall tree, flowers around mailbox, bushes lining front of house. You can do better than this, and you're guaranteed to increase the curb appeal of your home by putting a little creativity into what you do with your landscaping. Create a front landscaping that is inviting, appealing and dramatic enough to catch the interest of those who pass by. Of course, it should delight you as well, since you get to enjoy it every day.
Tiered beds, whether filled with flowering shrubs, annuals or an evergreen selection (or some of all three), will provide dramatic interest all year long. They are the ideal choice for hilly front yards. A tiered bed is simply a bed dug into the natural slope of the lawn and supported on the lower side by a retaining wall of some sort. The retaining wall can be simple: a stack of railroad ties or a row of river rock. Or it can be more formal with stacked landscaping tiles, bricks or pavers. A special point of drama with tiered beds is to create a "stack" of them: start with a smaller one at the top of the yard, closest to the house, and then build a second, slightly larger bed below it, about mid-way down the yard, and finish with the largest one at the furthest point from the house. This "stacked" look draws the attention of visitors from the curb and keeps moving their eye further up toward the house.
Raised Border Beds
For a smaller, suburban lawn, creating a set of raised border beds will not only cut down on mowing time, it will increase curb appeal. Think long and low: create a matching pair of raised beds, enclosed in by a stone wall, to set off the front of your yard. Leave space in between the beds for the walkway up to the house's front entrance. If you don't love stone for the enclosure, you can use any sort of hardscaping material that you like to fit the architecture and color scheme of your home's exterior. Fill the beds with smaller evergreens such as dwarf spruce and gardenia in order to keep winter interest, and fill in with showy, colorful bloomers like petunias, daisies, aster and coneflower.
To minimize the need for hardscaping (which minimizes the cost of landscaping), choose a landscape plan based on drought-tolerant, full grasses. Grasses fill your outdoor space, create structure and guide the eye without needing enclosure or formal structures. Plant the grasses in formal lines and shapes to create the illusion of walls: a line of Pampas grass beside the driveway, a ring of Zebra grass around each large tree. Each year the grasses will grow larger and can be divided to create new plantings. For a total low-maintenance yard, fill in the intervening spaces with an evergreen ground cover, such as vinca.
Front Yard Forest
Don't think sinister cypresses and spooky, dark paths; think lovely, shady paths winding around beautiful trees, with space for a bench or swing that will still be inviting in the heat of summer. The most important part of the front yard forest is, of course, the trees. You want trees that fill the space without overpowering it. Choose one tree to dominate: a larger variety, such as an oak, a maple, a sycamore or an ash. Plant it in the middle of the yard; it's the centerpiece. Plant ornamental trees such as dogwood, crepe myrtle, redbud and crabapple in the corners, or in a ring around the center tree. Fill in any space left with evergreens such as dwarf spruce and cypress. (If your space is limited, substitute some of the trees for larger shrubs for the same effect.) Each season, add more shade-loving plants around the trees and in beds along the front of the house, the driveway, the mailbox and near any walkways. Think of a lush, green effect: cool hostas, cascading ferns. You can still have color, too. Shade-loving bloomers include such favorites as columbine, lily-of-the-valley, bleeding-heart, foxglove, daffodil, snowdrops, daylily, coralbells, iris, bee balm and phlox.