Create a Welcoming Landscape
Make your front porch, walkway and front yard beautiful for visitors and passers-by.
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You may have a welcome mat on your front porch, but is it enough? Is it inviting? Put another way, if you didn't live there, would you want to walk up to your front door?
Let's think about it and then come up with some things you can do to add some zip-a-dee-do-dah to your front porch, walkway and front yard area. Fixing up a bit while using a creative eye can add personality to your digs and give visitors a wink that says "Welcome," whether or not you have a mat.
Landscape architect Robert Boro of Fresno, Calif., says this area, or streetscape, as he calls it, is a visitor's first and last impression of your home. There should be a sequence as visitors walk to the front door: a foreground, middle ground and background.
The foreground is the arrival area with flower beds, the middle ground is where the flowering trees and shrubs are and the background is the porch area that leads into the interior entry. Robert does not recommend plants on the front porch unless they have an automatic watering system.
"It's too hot here and the plants will die if they do not get enough water," he says.
So, what should you do with a front porch? Robert says, depending on the size of the porch, use benches, chairs, narrow console tables, concrete sculptures and other garden art, and topiary forms made from metal or wood and covered with sphagnum moss.
He also likes the use of arbors, especially ones of tubular steel that span garage doors and direct the eye to the climbing vines rather than to the doors.
He says homeowners might consider painting their front doors a bright color to add visual interest. "You should be able to see the front door from the arrival area, but if you have nothing but an open space, it lacks depth. It's like walking into a living room where all of the furniture is pushed against the walls."
When considering shrubs and trees near walkways, homeowners should not plant material that will drop leaves that could become slippery when wet. He likes using citrus trees, dwarf or regular, depending on available space. They are green, produce colorful fruit and have fragrant blossoms.
Robert says walkways can be an important feature, too. Walkways are made of plain concrete, colored concrete, stamped or imprinted concrete, exposed aggregate and pavers or stone and can be straight or curved.
"Above all, they should be easy and safe to walk on," he says. The idea is to make a positive first impression, which is what the entry to Lester and Helen Hirasuna's 1918 Fresno home does. Since they bought the house 30 years ago, the Hirasunas have renovated the front, back and side yards. She buys idea books and then, joined by her husband and a gardener, hauls in soil, boulders, trees and shrubs.
The tiled, terraced front walkway was copied from a book. Wrought-iron gates and fencing went up when they returned from a visit to New Orleans, where they fell in love with iron grillwork.
They planted each of the oak, Japanese maple, crape myrtle and orange trees.
An iron gazebo is the king of the "hill" they built on the west side of their front yard. A meandering dry stream of river rock embedded in concrete is another feature of the area.
"We brought in a lot of dirt to give our yard a hilly effect," Helen Hirasuna says. "We didn't want a plain, flat yard. We make mistakes and have planted, removed and replanted trees and shrubs over the years, but we enjoy our yard and hope others do, too."
When Vikki and Chip Brewton bought their Madera, Calif., home a year ago, they wanted to do something to enhance the entry to their home. "We wanted a water feature," Vikki Brewton says. While shopping at a nursery in nearby Clovis one day, she saw some fountains made by Madera artist Donna Eddings. "Her work is distinctive, unique," Vikki says.
Donna casts her fountain pieces out of concrete and uses leaves from various plants to make impressions in the concrete. The Brewtons' custom three-tier fountain, which cost $800, is fashioned from the leaves of rice paper plants grown in Eddings' yard. Water in the fountain cascades into a pond filled with river rocks that is surrounded with baby tears.
"Often people driving by will stop and come look at the fountain," Vikki says. "It's very eye-catching. It adds so much visual interest and the sound and sight of the water is calming."
Maybe not as calming a part of the tableau, but a conversation piece nevertheless, is a concrete alligator. Why? Because Chip Brewton is a native of Florida and the 'gator reminds him of home.
A gazebo adds interest to the front yard of William and Lena Bowen, who live in a Victorian-style house in Fresno that they had built five years ago. A wooden bridge over a dry creek bed is another feature.
"What you have in front of the house is just as important as the house," figures Lena Bowen, who describes herself as a "yard person." "It gives an impression to people going by. People like to stop and look at our yard."
The Bowens have red maple and dogwood trees in their professionally landscaped yard as well as manzanita bushes, azaleas and camellias. A curved sidewalk leads to the front door.
OK. Now, you have some ideas for your entry, but whether you rent or own, you also have inspiration to make the entry more inviting. You don't have to plant anything or pay big bucks to pour a sidewalk, either.
Maybe all your entry needs is some sprucing up. You could wash your front door and porch. Spiderwebs aren't cute until Halloween. And Halloween pumpkins really should go into the compost before the angular faces carved into them go wrinkly and soft.
Try a wreath on the door or an American flag in a bracket on the porch.
Whatever you do, make it something that says you feel great to be living in a house.
Some folks are not so fortunate.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)
Master gardener Paul James discusses the how to of constructing a water feature in your landscape.