Create a Tuscan-Inspired Front Yard
See how a few simple steps turn this boring, suburban front yard into a Tuscan-inspired landscape.
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If you're in need of a low-maintenance front yard with big curb appeal, Michael Glassman and master gardener Paul James discuss simple steps to a Tuscan-inspired transformation. Learn how to turn boring into bravo.
Many suburban yards have this same look one tree in the middle of the lawn. However, the first step to shaking up your landscape can begin by removing the grass. In small yards, diminutive doesn't have to mean dull.
Michael begins the yard transformation by removing all the grass. Next, he uses a rototiller to break up the soil. What if you rototill the soil and the blades bounce off? You may have to use a pick and shovel to crack the surface. While Michael digs, the homeowners install drainage and drip irrigation systems.
Michael recommends establishing a welcoming walkway. "In technical terms, you want to separate the modes of transportation," he says. In this project, that means creating a walkway that's separate from the driveway. According to Michael, it's bad design to walk up the driveway, and besides, who wants to look at an ugly garage door? Several staggered slabs of Arizona flagstone form a beautiful pathway to the front porch (figure C). Stay away from straight lines whenever possible; bends and curves are more aesthetically pleasing.
In honor of the home's Tuscan theme, Michael plants an olive tree and crape myrtles. Larger shrubs and trees provide structure for the landscape (figure G). Once the plants are in the ground, design around them with smaller plants and groundcovers. "I like to use lots of different perennials and ornamental grasses to add splashes of color and texture throughout the yard," he says. Get the plants into the yard, then provide a good soaking of water.
Another way to set your yard apart from the neighbors' is to use river rock as mulch instead of bark. Rocks give the landscape a more natural look, plus they help keep weeds out and the moisture in. Gravel adds texture and won't require replacing season after season. Consider laying landscape fabric down before laying the rock.
To make your yard really rock, think boulder. The addition of large rocks enhance the landscape, but make sure to partially embed their bottoms into the soil so the rocks don't look out of place (figure H). Then backfill the rock with soil and put some smaller rocks around it.
Getting heavy rocks into place is no easy task. "I strongly recommend hiring a professional to lift and place the boulders. Check around for the best prices," Michael says. "And keep in mind, big rocks also create microclimates where the sun either reflects heat or creates cool shadows, so watch nearby plants to make sure they're compatible with the locations."
For the finishing touches, Michael adds hanging planters. Vines and climbing roses planted along the railing will create a stunning look.
And don't forget about the porch. Acid staining is a very inexpensive way to jazz up the entryway (figure K). Be sure to add a potted plant or two.
"Getting rid of your lawn will have a pretty dramatic affect on your water bill as well," Paul says. "It's estimated that nearly half of a household's water supply is used for watering the lawn." Beautiful can be beneficial too.
After the pathway is laid out, stabilize the flagstone. Just remove a few stones at a time, so you don't lose the entire pattern. Remove 4 to 5 inches of soil beneath each stone. A thin layer of gravel provides stability beneath the flagstone. Check the level between the stones to make sure they're even. For a change in elevation, create a 6-inch step by inserting round stones. Level the step once more, and fill in the gaps with gravel for a nice, tight fill. After the walkway is done, go back and sweep gravel over the stones to hold them in place (figure F).
Kim Calhane's background as an elementary school art teacher lends itself well to her fun and festive front yard decorations,...