This month’s topic for Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, hosted by Gardening Gone Wild, is Front-Yard Gardens. Unlike many people who start gardening in back and work their way out front, I took the opposite approach. Before I’d even moved into this house, before I gave thought to where the furniture was going to go, I was sketching out a plan for a fenced front-yard garden, which I’d wanted at my former house but never realized.
We moved into this house in October 2000, when the front yard contained an open rectangle of St. Augustine and Bermuda lawn, a tiny red oak sapling, a lovely weeping yaupon holly at the corner of the house (still there), and a few dwarf yaupons, bicolor iris, lantanas, and salvias along the foundation. By the summer of 2001 I’d hired out the fence installation and the stonework, given away the little red oak, and set to work killing the grass and bringing in several inches of composted topsoil mixed with decomposed granite to improve the health and drainage of my hard-packed clay soil. God knows what the neighbors thought. I didn’t worry about it. A year after moving in, in October 2001, I started planting the sun-loving, drought-tolerant Hill Country perennials I’d fallen in love with when I moved to Austin.
The garden has undergone many changes since then, as gardens do, and now I have a nearly lawnless back garden too, but the front is still my favorite. Here’s a tour.
The northwest side of the front garden, bordered by the sidewalk and driveway. A mulched path leads to the cedar bench in the middle of this bed, backed by a Texas mountain laurel. Farther back, by the stock-tank planter, is an Anacacho orchid tree, and near the front door is the new crepe myrtle, which I hope will shade the entry in the not-too-distant future. It gets hot out here during summer afternoons.
The southwest side of the garden. As you can see, the early spring flowering is past, everything is freshly pruned, and I anticipate early summer flowers soon. That’s a Nolina texana , a native grass-like yucca relative, in the central pot. Is this a container planting that requires daily water in summer? Ha! Maybe once every two weeks suits it just fine.
Looking from the end of the driveway diagonally across the garden to the weeping yaupon holly and my neighbor’s house. As you can see, there is no lawn in this garden. The stone paving takes the place of grass, giving the eye a place to rest while also giving the visitor a place to stroll and view the garden. Side paths of concrete, mulch, decomposed granite, and stepping stones wind through and around the beds also.
This is the view from the middle of the driveway toward the front door. The concrete sidewalk was poured by the builder, and I left it for budgetary reasons. It meets up in front of the door with the stone courtyard paving, and past that is a paver-and-decomposed-granite path that leads to the yellow bench at the far end of the garden, which helps stop the eye before it travels another few feet to the neighbor’s car in her driveway.
Courtyard view. Near the front door, looking to the left (south), the view of the ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave dominates. Just past it, a birdbath filled with green glass instead of water continues the diagonal line, the longest line in a rectangular garden. Emphasizing the diagonal in a small garden makes it feel bigger. See the stepping-stone path? If you follow it through this bed…
…and look back, here is your view across the garden. Many of the xeric southwestern plants tend to mound, especially with a little helpful pruning, including the Mexican oregano on the right. The ‘Adagio’ miscanthus grass on the left echoes that rounded shape. I’ve played up the circle theme with the hardscaping, including the circle of the stone courtyard itself, the central pot, the Mexican beach pebbles at its feet, concrete orbs, and the birdbath visible to the left.
The stepping-stone path we were following leads to the yellow bench, a stopping point, where a paver-and-decomposed-granite path takes over. Straight ahead it leads toward the front door. It also leads back and to the right, around the corner of the house to the back gate, but that is a little-used path, for space is tight where the A/C sits, and the neighbor’s cannas back there lean over the fence in a jungly manner by mid-summer.
Now let’s take this path toward the front door.
Just by the door, a variegated agave in a half-buried stock tank gives evergreen structure amid the narrow-leaved, herbaceous perennials.
The whole front garden is 43 feet long by 28 feet deep—an excellent size, despite my greed for more plants, for maintaining. In this older neighborhood, we have no deed restrictions on fences or rules about keeping grass or any of that nonsense. So I was free to do what I liked, and the neighbors have been interested and generous with compliments. Nothing strikes up a conversation between neighbors, I’ve found, like a front-yard garden.
All material © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.