Landscapers that work with home builders are notorious for putting in shrubs that grow quickly so a new house's landscape looks nice until after the buyer moves in. The unwitting homeownerhas to chop shrubs several times a year, and soon grows to detest yard work. In my first home, the developer's landscaper put ligustrum, which quickly grows to 10 feet tall by eight feet wide, in a space about two feet wide between the garage doors. My husband sheared it into a tiny rectangle several times a year so we could continue to get the cars into the garage. Avoid overused and fast growing shrubs like ligustrum, pittosporum, Indian hawthorn, and junipers in your landscape; they are useful if you need to quickly screen an unattractive view.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that the front yard must be utilitarian like everyone else's on the street, with anything imaginative reserved for the backyard. I wanted my front yard to be as much of a garden as my back yard, and so I decided on a color scheme I have repeated in other places in my garden: chartreuse and magenta, mixed in with some solid green. My design contains plants that the deer are supposed to resist eating; sometimes they listen to that instruction and sometimes they don't. I tried to buy plants that even at maturity will not cover my windows. Sometimes it is hard to find shrubs that are the right size, color, and are deer-resistant, so I did buy some that, unpruned, would eventually grow too large. However, they grow slowly; I prune them every couple of years and they behave.
|View of front garden|
Unfortunately, the loropetalums I purchased, from a reputable local nursery, were labeled as a shrub that was supposed to grow 3-4 feet tall and wide. They cost at least double the price of the huge version of the shrub. The labels were inaccurate, and the shrubs require hard pruning every year or so to make them behave. I discarded the receipt and the labels: in the future I will save both until I am sure I got the plant I paid for.
|View of perennials in front garden|
In this area of my garden, the soil is always moist, even during a drought. I think there is a spring under my house that no one noticed during its construction, but the spring does not cause the house problems. However, it does limit my choice of plants to those that tolerate consistently moist conditions. If I had a well-drained site, I would plant some of the Euphorbias, like Euphorbia 'Chameleon,' Sedums, like Sedum 'Lynda Windsor' and 'Angelina,' and Heucheras, like Heuchera 'Lime Rickey,' 'Southern Comfort,' and 'Purple Petticoats.' In my garden, these plants keep leaves most of the year.
I order most of my perennials from Bluestone Perennials, http://www.bluestoneperennials.com/. I like Bluestone because they have the widest variety of plants I have seen, their plants are healthy, and most plants they sell in groups of three for the price most nurseries charge for one. Granted, the plants are smaller than you might get elsewhere, but they bloom the first year for me and quickly catch up to those I buy in larger containers. Their customer service is excellent, and the catalog provides detailed cultural information about the plants.
Tracy Disabato-Aust's book, "The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques" is a good reference. It provides detailed cultural information about most plants and time-saving ways to take care of perennials, such as giving the entire plant a haircut with hedge trimmers or a weed-eater instead of laboriously clipping of each individual spent bloom. It also gives garden design information.
"The Southern Living Garden Book" is a good reference for folks who live in the South, which includes Delaware and west to Oklahoma and part of Missouri. The book includes cultural information, including size at maturity, of nearly any plant that grows in the South, and it includes lists of plants for different situations, such as lists of plants with colorful foliage, deer resistant plants, and plants with showy flowers.
If you need help with the design, most local garden center staff will help you choose appropriate plants; show them a photograph of the site, along with measurements and a description of soil and sun conditions.
This spring, discard your preconceived notions of the foundation planting. Pull out the shrubs that threaten to cover your windows every year, and plant some that will grow to maturity while remaining under your windows. Include perennials and grasses in the design, and turn your front yard into a garden, instead of just a path to the front door.