Eye-catching landscaping features that pull you in from the road
Story and Photos by Rebecca Stoner Kirts
Have you ever been driving around and spied that house, the one that makes you want to go in and see more right from the street? It is not really what is up by the house, it is the landscape and hardscape visible from the road. I call this “street appeal.”
A similar term, “curb appeal” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “The attractiveness of a property and its surroundings when viewed from the street.” When I say “street appeal,” I am referring to eye-catching landscaping features that pull you in from the road. It is the look of the front yard combined with striking features by the road or along the house’s sidewalk. It is certainly much more than just some beautiful flowerbeds in the front yard. The “street appeal” I am talking about is when you see it you are struck by it uniqueness, the splendor of its design, that you immediately deem it worthy of a second, or maybe even a third drive-by.
There are a number of very effective ways to achieve “drive-by pop” but my favorite has always been to plant a beautiful flowerbed around the mailbox. I live in a small town, where the mailboxes are along the street, right in front of the houses. I have long been intrigued by the time and effort people put into their mailbox gardens, but I also completely understand it. It is the gateway to your property and visitors’ first impression.
It all sounds lovely, but there are a few challenges that need to be addressed. If you live where ice and snow is an issue, road salt splashed up by passing cars can be a big problem. One solution is to apply a barrier of mulch between the road and the garden.
Another potential problem is neighbors walking their pets. The mailbox seems to be favored spot for the doggies. I am not sure how you completely resolve this issue, but I have applied a natural concoction to this area, that has proven to somewhat discourage canine pit stops. In a 32-ounce spray bottle, combine 4 tablespoons cayenne pepper, 4 cups warm water, and ½ teaspoon of Dawn soap. Spray the area liberally. This works well for dogs but does absolutely nothing for the mailman who cannot seem to drive straight!
Lastly, at least in my case, the mailbox is often quite a distance from a watering source. I always try to plant classics that can endure the heat and extended periods of time with no rain. I love to change out the flowers seasonally and add festive decor as well.
Some of my favorite seasonal plants for this area include:
Spring: Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana), Dianthus, snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Summer: Hydrangea, climbing hydrangea (H. petiolaris), Clematis for height, blue wild indigo (Baptisia australis), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Fall: Ornamental grasses, Aster, Chrysanthemum, pansies, Dianthus, gourds and pumpkins for interest
Winter: Flowing kale and cabbage, evergreens layered with berries and pinecones
I love a gate that invites you to open it up and walk into the property, making visitors feel welcome. To achieve this, you could add a flower box to your gate or attach a welcome sign. Work with the style of your house and the color scheme of the flowerbeds near the house so it pulls visitors in, rather than looking like a random add-on. From there you could have a path or an interesting sidewalk that invites on to come on in and view the gardens.
A flower-covered trellis or arbor could be a statement-making part of an eye-catching streetscape. Grow some beautiful old-fashion roses (Rosa spp., cvs.) over the arch, such as ‘Cecile Brunner’ or ‘Iceberg’. I also enjoy combining different vining annuals that complement each other, as well as the house. Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus cvs.), morning glory (Ipomoea spp.), cardinal climber (Ipomoea xmultifida), hyacinth bean vine (Lablab purpureus), and black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) are some of my favorites. All of these are great annual plants that may reseed and provide a vivid, colorful view from the street.
Large containers filled to the brim with colorful plants that are changed out with the seasons are another way to accent the entrance to your house. I am also particularly fond of antique statuary. I have two cement lions that guard my front steps and majestically welcome visitors. My antique chimney pots are filled with seasonally appropriate plants and can be seen from the front road.
I hope this inspires you to creatively enhance the “street appeal” of your property. Street appeal can be achieved in countless ways, but it has one purpose: It creates a desire for both visitors and passersby alike to come take a closer look at your property to see what other visual garden delights await.
If you want to really improve your street appeal, take control of the no-man’s land between your sidewalk and the street. These areas are referred to as “hellstrip gardens” or “belts of blackness.” If you struggle with such a spot, here are some ideas:
1. Choose strong, draught-tolerant plants or figure out a way to regularly water plants in that area.
2. Make sure you take some action to prevent this from becoming favorite “pit stop” for neighborhood dogs.
3. If it is a shared space, ensure all neighbors are on board.
4. Think about creating a barrier for salt and slush from the road.
(My brother lives on a bike pathway and used his space to develop a monarch way station and it is amazing.)