Lawn Begone: 7 Ideas for Front Garden Landscapes

They say you are what you wear. This is also true of your house. Your front yard makes a strong first impression. Here are seven of our favorite landscaping ideas to dress up the place:

Flower Garden


Above: For more of this garden, see Garden Visit: The Hobbit Land Next Door. Photograph by Tom Kubik for Gardenista.

My next-door neighbor in Mill Valley, California tore up the grass first thing when she moved into her house. The property is fenced, so it feels like a private world. The walk from the front gate to the stoop is only about 30 feet, but on the way you pass so much–a hydrangea grove, lemon trees, fragrant roses, Japanese maples, columbine, wisteria, herbs–that it can take days to get there if you stop to smell everything.


Above: On the front porch, a potted orange begonia is all it takes to remind visitors of the flowers they’ve just walked past.


Above: A riot of color in a window box reinforces the theme.

Gravel Garden


Above: For more of this garden, see Before & After: A Grande Dame in LA’s Hancock Park.

The first time LA-based landscape designer Naomi Sanders saw the grand 1920s house in Hancock Park, it felt hemmed in despite its generous front yard. A maze of formal parterres and fussy plantings (“a million different plants”) were to blame.

She designed new hardscape elements (including a concrete front path to match the material of the stoop) and reduced the plant palette to three colors (green, white, and red). “I was really interested in looking at the work of Mark Rothko for inspiration, for that limited use of color for effect,” Sanders said.


Above: By simplifying the plantings, Sanders made the boxwood parterres feel tailored instead of cluttered.


Above: A front path of flagstone was replaced by concrete pavers. “It makes the hardscape feel more connected to the house,” says Sanders.

Secret Garden


Above: A mysterious front path invites visitors into Jean and Ken Linsteadt’s Mill Valley, CA front yard. Two pencil thin cypress trees flank–and define–the walkway. For more, see A Modern Garden Inspired by the Classics.

What makes it welcoming? No fence. No gate. And the high boxwood hedges look fluffy rather than fierce (thanks to gentle pruning).


Above: Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

A the end of the path, wide stone steps (and Louis the springer spaniel) lead to a covered front stoop.


Above: Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

Alongside the Linsteadts’ path, cheerful pink and white clumps of Santa Barbara daisies signal that visitors are welcome.

Elevated Garden

front-garden-philadelphia-walls-stairs-railing-stone-perennials-gardenistaAbove: In Philadephia, a steep grade change required retaining walls at a property’s edge. To make the house feel accessible and welcoming to visitors, designers at Fieldesk planted a colorful, drought-resistant front yard garden on either side of the stairs.


Above: Hardy perennials including coreopsis (R) and thyme edge the walkway.

Prairie Garden


Above: Photograph courtesy of Adam Woodruff & Associates.

In central Illinois, garden designer Adam Woodruff created a painterly mini prairie when he tore out the turf in his own front yard and planted a low-maintenance mix of perennials, ornamental grasses, and shrubs.


Above: Photograph courtesy of Adam Woodruff & Associates.

Woodruff planted hardy blooming plants that will perform year after year. He created a crazy quilt of color (L) with Astilbe chinensis ‘Purpurkerze’; Helenium “˜Mardis Gras’; Baptisia “˜Purple Smoke’; Eryngium yuccifolium; Origanum laevigatum “˜Herrenhausen’, and Perovskia atriplicifolia.

At (R), plants include Perovskia atriplicifolia, Amsonia hubrichtii, and Salvia ‘May Night’.

Victory Garden


Above: Photograph courtesy of Sam Tisdall.

For more of this edible garden in London, see Garden Visit: The Little House at 24a Dorset Road.

When London architect Sam Tisdall designed a replacement house to match the rest of a block’s Victorian era homes (which had been built for railway workers), he sited the clients’ vegetable garden in the small front yard to take advantage of available sunlight.


Above: Raised beds add another architectural element to the facade. Photograph courtesy of Sam Tisdall.

Vineyard Garden


Above: From a Napa Valley farmhouse, you can see vineyards from the house with nothing to block the view. For more of this garden, see Vineyard Retreat: A Garden That Belongs to the Land.

“Our goal was to make this garden evocative of the surrounding landscape, which is just stunning,” said SF-based landscape architect Scott Lewis, who came up with a garden design for the one-acre property. “What we did was clear the clutter away to take advantage of those views.”


Above: On both sides of the front path are sweeps of perennial grass Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’. In the fall, the grass turns gold, like the distant hillsides.

For more of our favorite designs for front gardens, see Landscaping a Live-In Summer Camp and Garden Visit: My Driveway Oasis in Half Moon Bay, California.

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