Driveways take up considerable space on any property. They are often highly visible and affect desirable curb appeal. As Americans became more dependent on cars for transportation, the driveway became an important feature in home ownership. Creative driveway landscaping can make the driveway blend in to complement house and garden design. A well-landscaped driveway adds a visual buffer between the house and road. Property values can be increased with even simple driveway landscaping techniques
One of the earliest examples of driveway landscaping in America is on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, where plants and trees were carefully positioned to enhance visual appeal. Mass-production of automobiles in the early 20th century resulted in driveways becoming an integral part of property landscape. In the 1970s large-scale production of concrete paverstones and blocks make it easier for ordinary homeowners to add visual interest and dimension to their driveway landscapes. Today driveways are an integral part of landscaping design for residential and commercial properties.
The basic landscape design element of a driveway is its surface. Imprinted concrete, bricks and interlocking paverstone add pattern and texture. Colored concrete and stains add color and dimension. Trees, bushes and flowers soften these hard planes with organic shapes and form. Gates, entry pillars, retaining walls and borders add an architectural element to the driveway. Outdoor architectural lighting affords safety and brings nighttime interest to the driveway.
A landscape architect considers all the engineering requirements for water run-off, layout and grading and produces a schedule of materials. The architect may supervise the project or provide a blueprint for contractors to follow. A qualified paving contractor follows specifications to install a stable decorative surface and may add a final color finish. Garden designers work with the owner to make sure the plantings are attractive and consistent with the rest of the property landscape.
Driveway landscaping adds property value. But if a driveway and its surrounding area fall into disrepair it lowers the value. Maintenance is a year-round challenge best handled by setting up a routine schedule for cleaning and repairs. In northern climates snow and ice removal must be done carefully to avoid damage to the driveway surface and surrounding vegetation. Regular care of plants and ground covering includes watering, fertilization and pruning.
More decorative driveway materials are being produced from recycled building material such as crushed concrete. Permeable pavement and concrete blocks have been developed to allow water to soak through the driveway surface. This allows for natural irrigation of nearby plantings and reduces run-off into storm drainage systems. The introduction of hydronic or electric heated driveways lowers the cost of snow removal and can eliminate the need for harsh de-icing chemicals. In some driveway landscapes gardeners are substituting food-bearing bushes and trees for plants that are primarily decorative.