The landscape of the front of your yard plays several important roles. The landscape is the first view of the house and it can either welcome or reject visitors. The landscape works with its neighbors to borrow views and share the larger neighborhood landscape. The landscape enhances the features of the home, hides some of the less appealing features, and should be designed to attract the eye to the front door. When properly designed, the landscape adds value. If a home is missing a landscape or if the landscape is in poor repair, potential buyers looking at the house will often reduce what they will pay based on how much money they calculate must be invested to fix the landscape.
Measure the front of your house. Transfer your measurements at scale to a large sheet of graph paper. Try to fit your entire front yard on the single sheet of graph paper. Draw all sidewalks, driveways, hard scape, fences, posts and gates first. Hard scape is any part of the yard that is considered permanently fixed such as retaining walls, patios and steps.
Draw your shrubbery. For large trees label the type of tree and indicate the size of its canopy by using a circle of that size. For example, if your tree has a canopy 60 feet wide your circle would be 15 inches across at quarter scale. Note where trees or shrubs touch or overhang the house. Mark the direction of north on the plans.
Mark the perimeter of your property lines. Visit your local planning department and inquire if your property has any city or utility easements. An easement is a strip of land where the city places water pipes and where utilities bury their wires. You may have easements and have strict rules on what can be done in terms of landscaping near these easements. Mark city easements or restricted areas with colored markers for easy visibility.
Note the location of any known underground objects such as septic tanks, cisterns or wells. Make a list on the side of your graph paper of any issues or concerns you are trying to address by changing your landscaping. This list might include poor drainage or uneven slopes, too much shade, no shade, unattractive power poles or neighbor fencing. This list will help you make decisions about how you spend your landscaping budget.
Determine a budget for making the improvements to your landscape. Budget 10 percent more than you expect for unexpected problems and costs. Allow for a longer time period for construction. Determine if you need permits and what the requirements and costs are for engaging in the work.
Place tracing paper over your graph paper and tape it down. Once you correct for your landscape problems such as drainage you should approach your landscape as a way to enhance the appearance of your home.
Select your landscape approach. The formal approach is to plant everything uniform and structured so that the front appearance of the home looks a little grand and very ordered. Choose a less formal approach if you want to make a more friendly statement. Casual landscaping positions larger trees and shrubs toward the outside corners of the house and gradually tapers the height and size of shrubs toward the entrance. At the entrance floral displays are used to invite the visitor up to the front door.
Draw organic-shaped beds to represent the placement of larger trees and shrubs near the corners of the house. Curved beds add interest and the beds should curve toward the front entrance. If you are designing a symmetrical and more formal look you use the same technique except that you repeat the same design on both sides of the front door. This is particularly nice on large homes with symmetrical features.
Detail your tracing paper plan by adding color for flowers. Keep in mind that you can draw in new hard scape, sidewalks, retaining walls, fences, posts, gates and other features on your tracing paper plan. Visit your garden center for plant types appropriate to your area. Consider budgeting for a watering system to more carefully control the use of water in your landscape.