Front yards are often characterized by flat lawns or grand entrance paths. This client preferred neither a lawn nor anything ostentatious. What they did want was a yard full of ornamental grasses, low maintenance perennials, small trees and a composition that would incorporate the existing boulders. There was already some mounding from previous excavation that we used to help give some topography to the planting. See the blank slate below in the before photo:
As you can see from above it was fairly clear where the path would go. The next step was to figure out the planting, starting with the trees. I decided to reuse the existing Japanese Maple that you can see in the photo above. I almost always work in groupings of three for trees, so I added two more, diagonally offset from each other. Next in my design process is to place larger shrubs, included in this design are Hydrangea paniculata ‘Quickfire’ and Euonymous alatus compacta, good shrubs for summer and fall color. I tend to use ground covers in the foreground a lot, but in this design I didn’t just want to keep them along the lower edges of the mounds, so I had some of them (sedums) run in ‘rivers’ across the mounds, especially where there was a valley, as you can see in the above photo.
Low perennials fill in the rest of the garden, these include Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Pennisetum ‘Hamelyn’, Carex testacea, Carex ‘Bowles Golden’ and Heuchera ‘Plum Passion’. Tall Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ shoots through the lower plants in an airy display.
Yes, there are a lot of grasses, and that was part of the intention to create a meadow-like planting. In this Pacific Northwest Climate the Carex testacea is around all winter, but the other grasses will turn brown or die back, so it’s up to the homeowner to decide if they like the look of the straw colored grasses in winter. I personally do, especially if its offset by something else that is green or dark red.
A few more photos:
Lessons Learned from this Garden:
- Some of the grasses, especially the Carex testacea, may be spaced too closely, so they may look crowded in a few years.
- Chartreuse green (such as in the Carex ‘Bowles Golden’) are best offset by burgundies and reds such as the Heuchera ‘Plum Passion’.
- This garden has a lot of fall colors, so it would be nice if there was something blooming in the Spring to balance that out.
- Ground covers such as sedums are good at defining the edges of paths, so instead of installing an actual hard edging material, the more natural look is to have plants define those edges, especially along gravel (doesn’t work so well at the edge of lawn, because the mower would clip the ground covers too).