Planning and installing a beautiful front yard landscape

Story by Margeaux Emery
Photos by Sue Hamilton

Curb appeal is the first impression of your home and provides a great opportunity for creativity. As a realtor would say, this valuable real estate is all about location, location, location. 

Foundation plantings are all too often the emphasis of landscape designs when there are many other – and better – ways to improve a home’s appeal. One often overlooked area that should be a strong component of any landscape is the front yard, as well as the areas along the road and sidewalk, and flanking the driveway’s entrance. 

Bee balm (Monarda spp.) delights the eye and pollinators alike at the front of this home. The mass planting’s rosy hue echoes the metal roofing.

Plantings near the road can guide the eye and with thoughtful plant selection, enhance the path to the entrance. The brilliant red of scarlet sage (Salvia splendens), for example, and the rich tones of fall Chrysanthemum can be used to guide visitors along a desired route to the door or other location. The sage and mums can be replaced seasonally to provide a four-season guide.

A thoughtfully planned and installed front yard landscape will not only increase your landscape and gardening knowledge, it will also add valuable curb appeal and go a long way toward improving guests’ all-important first impression.

Selecting plants that accent or complement the colors of your home is a smart move that results in a pulled-together look. Examine the color of your front door, the shutters, the siding or brick, and even the walkway. Being very attentive to all of these colors and incorporating them into the design can create a breathtaking display. Landscape designers recommend limiting the color palette of beds to three or fewer colors, and complementary shades and hues can be pleasing.

Hosta, ferns, balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), Pulmonaria, and pavers and brick interplanted with Chocolate Chip bugleweed (Ajuga reptans ‘Valfredda’) fill this vibrant front bed.

Another principle to keep in mind is ensuring that the size of plants (the mature size) and flowerbeds are correctly scaled and in correctly proportioned in order to best frame the view of your home. To accomplish this consider your home’s formality and symmetry (or lack thereof). A bungalow, for example, invites informal, massed plantings. The horizontal, linear lines of midcentury architecture suggest minimal plantings with a limited color palette. Another point to remember is to keep the view of your door unobstructed. 

A major – and often forgotten – aspect of any potential design is how much time and effort you will be able to invest in maintenance. Many of us want trees, shrubs, and low-growing plants, even flowers, to be as carefree as possible. As far as irrigation and weeds, mulch helps conserve water in the soil while also suppressing weeds, not to mention giving the beds a clean, tidy appearance. Another way to reduce time spent on maintenance is to select plants that need little, if any, pruning. 

At this entrance, a lush array of false cypress (Chamaecyparis spp.), blackberry lilies (Belamcanda chinensis), and other shrubs and perennials beckon the eye. The plantings soften the walkway and stone pillars.

Of course beds can include elements other than plants. What about garden art? Whether statuary, a water feature, or other decorative objects, your personality can shine through, giving visitors an idea of what they may encounter beyond the street. Use decorative objects sparingly and place them thoughtfully, helping guide visitors to the desired destination.

In many parts of Tennessee, retaining walls are quite common. These should also be incorporated into any landscape design. Walls made of irregularly shaped or stacked stone are perfect for plants that tumble down and accentuate the wall’s textures, while also softening the look. If you have brick retaining walls, consider planting ornamental grasses along the front that will flow in the slightest breeze. 

If your landscape includes a sidewalk along the street, consider fragrance for passersby to enjoy. If you have a pathway made of stepping-stones or similar design, use plants that release delightful fragrances when crushed underfoot. Plant creeping cultivars of plants such as thyme (Thymus praecox, syn. T. serpyllum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’), sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis), and many, many others.

Loose, cottage-style plantings welcome visitors to this Victorian house.

Lighting adds drama after the sun goes down. Uplights showcase the architecture of a tree, particularly one with a weeping habit, creating a living sculpture beautiful in every season. Solar lighting is especially perfect for walkways, not only for aesthetics, but safety as well.

A thoughtfully planned and installed front yard landscape will not only increase your landscape and gardening knowledge, it will also add valuable curb appeal and go a long way toward improving guests’ all-important first impression. By selecting plants and designs with care, you can create a low-maintenance, high-impact landscape.




• Select plants that will thrive in your soil type and available light.
• Consider water needs and how to meet them.
• Avoid plants that require a lot of pruning or clean up.
• Feature seasonal interest and colors when possible.
• Consider hardscaping and accents such as decorative accessories and water features.
• Design for multiple senses: movement, textures, fragrance, sound.
• Make sure the front door is fully visible.

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