In Garden Creation/ Garden Drawing

Garden Creation: No-Lawn Front Yard

Quick Sketch of the front yard to understand layering.

Quick Sketch of the front yard to understand layering, assuming the retaining wall and lawn were gone.


This yard was basically a blank slate from a designer’s point of view. It had an unattractive concrete block retaining wall, several monotone boxwood shrubs plopped in after a contractor had flipped the house, and a struggling lawn. The retaining wall wasn’t really necessary, it only retained 18-24″ which could easily be smoothed out to a gentle slope. There was no privacy for the windows, and the owners did not want to maintain a lawn. See before photo below:

Before Photo: Front Yard with the retaining wall and lawn. Boring!

Before Photo: Front Yard with the block retaining wall and lumpy lawn. Boring!


The aim of the design was to remove the wall and lawn, and create a multi-layered garden with some privacy for the windows. In addition there would be herbs, blueberries and other edibles sprinkled throughout. The result was a lovely, colorful and welcoming front yard with gravel and pavers replacing the lawn and a low-maintenance ground cover (Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’) growing on the new slope. In the foreground, you see the variegated leaves of the shrub Cornus ‘Ivory Halo’, and along the pavers to the side, the bright chartreuse of Sedum ‘Angelina’ echoes the potted plants on the porch.  An ‘Emperor One’ Japanese Maple provides some privacy for the kitchen window, and herbs are just on the other side of the Cornus. The dark burgundy of the Maple has a companion with the Smoke Bush- Cotinus ‘Grace’, in the distance. In the sketch, I had drawn a green maple, but we changed it since the red maple had much greater contrast to the plants in front of it.


After Photo: No-Lawn Front Yard

After Photo: No-Lawn Front Yard


Design Lessons:

  • Reconsider retaining walls if they are only holding back 12-24″, they may not be necessary if they are unattractive to begin with. If ,however, they are a nice feature, they can add a level of formality to the design. If you slope the yard to make up for a removed retaining wall, be sure to plant a ground cover in at least part of it to prevent erosion.
  • Color echoing- having a color repeat in another part of the garden is a simple way to create cohesiveness and balance. It doesn’t have to be the same plant that is echoed, it can just be another plant of a similar color or tone.
  • Sketch out a view that you would see most often, in this case the owners were primarily entering the house from the driveway, so this shot is taken where they would park their car and walk in. The straight-on front view, and view from inside their windows are equally important but think about what is most regularly seen.

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