Driveways can be one of the most difficult parts of the home to landscape. They are there for utility, not appearance, and do not always fit in with an overall gardening or landscaping scheme. Ignored, driveways and the surrounding areas can become eyesores. Properly integrated, driveways can become part of the landscaping design and complement surrounding elements.
Hard or Soft
Hardscape refers to man-made materials that run along the sides of your driveway or accent certain parts. This includes fences, fountains, entranceways, arches, brickwork and other more durable options.
Softscape is the plant side of landscaping, such as the shrubs, lawns, flower beds and less permanent additions to the driveway. While hardscape and softscape can complement each other, it is usually wise to focus on one at a time. If you build a hardscape gateway, work on the pattern, materials and position, and then when it is finished, concentrate on the flower beds planted underneath it. The same goes for primary softscape features.
Points of Interest
A point of interest is something that attracts attention when pulling into a driveway. If you have a circular driveway, it is important to have the center be a point of interest, such as a large fountain or a well-placed tree.
For more traditional driveways, the point of interest could be a particular flower bed, a flowering tree placed on one or both sides, or a set-back water feature. These give your driveway landscaping focus and let visitors know that the driveway is an integral part of the entire landscape, not an area you prefer to avoid. Sometimes an early point of interest placed at the beginning of the driveway makes up for to less impressive features elsewhere.
How will you frame your driveway? This is basic landscaping, but it is still important. If you use grass or a similar ground cover, it is important to keep it looking healthy right up to the edges of the driveway. Rock-bound flower gardens, slightly raised, can provide an excellent framework and can give guests a grander feeling than traditional bark or lawn options. If the frame is a fence, it should be well maintained and accented by trees, vines or shrubbery.
You may or may not have a choice as to what the driveway itself looks like. Replacing a driveway usually costs thousands of dollars and may not be a viable option, but if it is in your plans, the choices you make will affect all the landscaping surrounding the driveway.
Gray driveways will produce different effects than black driveways, making different colors stand out more prominently. Greens often will stand out more with a black driveway, while gray driveways are excellent for showcasing bright flower colors. If you live in an area where driveways are prone to crack because of weather conditions, you may want to consider a patterned stone driveway that can be sealed in a variety of tones to help blend smoothly in with the surrounding landscape.
Keep in mind your environment. Driveways are usually one of the most exposed parts of your property. Is your driveway easily accessed by roving animals, neighborhood children or unwanted visitors? Sometimes it is better to choose hardier plants that can survive minor invasions than elaborate garden beds that can be destroyed by careless actions. Rock walls or raised flower beds are possible ways to prevent any unwanted interference.