Symmetry characterizes Colonial and Colonial-style home design, which carries over into landscaping details, especially at the front of the house. Of particular prominence in the home design is the front door, with both architectural and landscape elements calling attention to and leading up to this formal home entrance, which is often flanked by tall, sturdy columns.
Front Yard Trees
Large trees, placed toward the sides of the front yard, are on scale with stately Colonial-style homes and lend an ambiance of strength and permanence. Trees commonly used in Colonial home front landscapes include:
- Magnolia (Magnolia spp.), which is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 12, depending upon the species.
- Sugar maple (Acer saccharum), which is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, and red maple (Acer rubrum), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9.
- Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana), a wide-spreading broadleaf evergreen tree that provides shade and shelter from wind. It is hardy in USDA zones 7b through 10b.
Front Landscape Shrubs
Front landscaping of Colonial homes is minimalist in design and plant selection, with hardy, low-maintenance shrubs providing the backbone of the landscape. The symmetrical designs feature clipped hedges and geometric patterns. Container-grown topiaries often flank the front door.
Front Entrance Walkway
A walkway from the street to the front door should be made of brick or natural stone, such as cobblestones, in keeping with building materials available during Colonial days. A clipped hedge of boxwood (Buxus spp. hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9 depending on type) can line the walkway or provide a boundary around the front yard. Although boxwood needs minimal care, keeping a formal hedge requires clipping it annually. Boxwood varieties have different USDA zones; the the 'Green Mountain' cultivar of common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens 'Green Mountain') is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 8.
Colonial homes did not have foundation plantings until the Victorian era. Clipped boxwood hedges are sometimes used with modern Colonial-style homes to soften the architectural features while remaining in keeping with commonly used landscape elements.
Modifications for Personal Appeal
Allow your personality to come through in your landscape design. That advice is supported by David Marciniak, a landscape designer based in Virginia whose tips are in a Landscaping Network website article. Use curving lines for walkways, instead of stern, straight walkways. Consider modern traffic flow by making a sweeping, semicircular driveway in the front yard; the driveway will maintain symmetry of design and provide convenience for visitors.
Although historic homes featured diverse backyard gardens and simple, spare front landscapes, you can create a softer, friendlier approach to your home and still maintain the essence of Colonial authenticity: Combine traditional shrubs with flowering shrubs or perennials for a more colorful palette, and leave shrubbery not clipped or pruned so it keeps its natural form.