Front Garden

It has been a struggle to get motivated to write about the front garden here, to follow the
Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop sponsored by Gardening Gone Wild, one of my favorite sites. Not wanting to let them down has been paramount in keeping this topic near the front of one’s cranium.

Time is running out, the month of April is drawing to a close and there has been no progress.

At first it was decided that when the azaleas bloomed in the front, something that usually takes place in April, good timing for the topic, there would be nice photos of the hot pink color that enhances the sort of blah palette of this garden.

Daily checking never seemed to show the vision desired. The bloomless foliage of the daffodils seem to dominate the scene. The
Yoshino Cherry tree, which was glorious this year, is wearing her green cloak now. The winterberry hollies in the center section, all eight of them, are nothing to write home about either. The rose glo barbarries are leafed out and seem almost foreboding at the far side. That is the intent, the house on that side is a rental with frequent changes in occupants.

The blue star junipers have their silvery blue new growth at the tips of the needle like foliage, that looks good. The gold barberries are beginning to brighten as the sun now hits them as it rises higher in the sky. The two butterfly Japanese maples are leafing out that stand sentry in front of the original concrete stoop at the doorway.

The view from the front door shows the lack of the dreamed about sea of hot pink, but the Japanese painted ferns that have sprouted among the blue stars have all leafed out and give that subtle color mix that soothes one’s brow.

A close up of the azalea planted en mass, Girard’s Rose, gives an idea of the carpet of color that is wished to be apparent this time each spring. Many of these bushes took a hit last year with the late frost and subsequent drought. Most had damage that killed off about half of their branches, some died outright and were replaced with new, smaller ones.

Let’s move on, the front has depressed us enough with its lack of beauty. Maybe if some time and effort was applied to its design, it would give us more pleasure. But it is so public, and there is no motivation to do much more than the occasional weeding, and very little of that. In other words, the front garden is that type of garden highly desired by many homeowners, a maintenance free zone. The center island is home to three large chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Well’s Special’. They provide an interesting form and some privacy when the garage doors are open. The dot of red is the large rugosa rose, we call him Thorny, Grootendorst Supreme. He is just beginning his display of dark red blooms. Again, nothing whatsoever is done here except the
yearly mowing of the three strips of lirope along the street.

The main reason that so little is done in the front yard is best shown by this photo of the view as we walk around the garage side. The medium sized hill behind the garage is home to the shrub farm. Now is the season for the deciduous azaleas to take center stage. They delight my senses and lighten my step as the back gardens are entered, our private wonderland. Ahhhh.
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40 Responses to Front Garden

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Oh Frances, I think your front garden is very inviitng, far from depressing.

    I can’t bring myself to show our front garden. So I know how you feel but your garden is so full of interest without blooms galore. This is a goal in most gardens, mine in particular and you have achieved it.

  2. Frances, says:

    Thanks for that Lisa, I am not happy with the way the front looks at all and posting this really brought it to my attention. I have been trying to ignore it, but will now try and fix the design somewhat, if possible, without ripping the whole thing out. At least it could get weeded. ;->

  3. Gail says:


    It is good looking and I imagine you will tweak it into a fabulous front yard with the kind of character you adore….but the maintenance free part is attractive, too. Can you have the look you want and keep it somewhat maintenance free?


  4. Carol says:

    Is any gardener happy with their front garden/yard? It is a difficult space, so public and all. I think most gardeners do their best work in the back yard, behind the fence, so to speak. The exception might be Pam/digging and her beautiful front garden.

    Anyway, Frances, I think your pictures of your front garden look very good and somewhat announce “a gardener lives here”. I bet people want to stop and see what else you have growing in your gardens!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  5. ourfriendben says:

    Geez, Frances, your front garden looks better than most people’s whole garden! You’re much too modest. I’m happy to see you too are featuring a rugosa out front. I planted a rugosa ‘Alba’ hedge along the street here after seeing how beautiful Joanna Reed’s. And I have a few pinks on the side (figuring that the neighbors would tolerate a hedge better if it bloomed!).

  6. garden girl says:

    Frances, I’d gladly trade front gardens with you! Calling the landscape in front of my home a ‘garden’ at all would be a misnomer, with it’s lava rock, overgrown yews and burning bushes, and overgrown but equally unnatractive mystery shrub. I hope to rectify things here this year. DH, who at first agreed, is getting skittish about it. You can bet I’m going to do my best to wear him down. UG-LY and overgrown is the only way to describe the landscape in front of our home.

  7. patientgardener says:

    Compared to my front garden your is like Versailles! I hate my front garden and so tend to ignore it, but I am trying to make myself address the problem.

  8. tina says:

    Great pictures of your wonderful front gardens. It is good to see all the textures and forms. Wonderful!

  9. Robin (Bumblebee) says:

    Private wonderland indeed! Your garden is beautiful!

    As for the front, I agree with Lisa that it is far from uninviting. But I know it’s easier to work in an area you find pleasing than in an area that you don’t. Mustering the energy to tackle what YOU consider a less than lovely spot isn’t easy.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  10. Frances, says:

    Gail, thanks. You have hit upon the dilemma with the front, I don’t like working out there. I am usually dressed the way I always dress to garden, swaddled head to toe in black men’s clothes in the winter, tan men’s clothes in the summer, better to avoid poison ivy, insect bites, sunburn and mud. I look ridiculous and to have to talk to passersby compounds the shyness. I try and duck down among the plants when a car goes by. Maintenance free is a must!

    Carol, thanks for the support. I need a kick in the pants to get me to fix what’s wrong in the front. It will never be as good as the back, but it can be better than it is now.

    Ellie, MFB, thanks, I am not being modest however, just honest. I had more roses planted there, several hybrid musks, that didn’t add much to the design. They were moved to the back and give much more pleasure. Thorny is a monster, if you wanted to keep burglars at bay, plant one of those under your windows, HA.

  11. Frances, says:

    Linda, HA, good luck with DH, don’t give up the cause. Your front sounds like it needs to be cleared and start over, is that your plan? That might be a hard sell though. Once you get started, with his helping you, you can say, “You know hon, maybe this bush just needs to come out”. Do that each time you start pruning, he might catch your vibe!

    Helen, Versailles it ain’t! But thanks anyway. Ignoring it is what we have done for several years, maybe that is why it looks like it does. The method for improvement here is to sit and ponder while looking at an area for a long time. Then an idea comes to us. We don’t sit out front or have a window with a chair that even looks out there, although before the renovation, the front window was the main view. We built an arbor and planted a dripping rose on it. We could watch the birds make nests and the babies fly away from that window. Now that room is the dining room, and we sit looking at to the back gardens. We need to sit and think, don’t we?

    Tina, thanks, you are way too kind about the front. These comments have started the cogs and wheels turning about what needs to be done. That is good, thanks.

    Robin, thanks. You are exactly right, I don’t enjoy what has been planted there like I should, so it doesn’t get the tending and rearranging that the back gets constantly. All these comments are a great energy boost to do something about the front. Thanks.

  12. Ewa says:

    Frances, I guess all fellow bloggers convinced you that your front garden looks very beautiful. Maybe you have something else on your mind, but this view you showed us, looks very inviting 🙂

    I love the dianthus path 🙂

  13. Pam/Digging says:

    Frances, I just can’t see the problems you’re talking about from these photos. Instead I see a textural, foliage-colorful garden that I’d like to explore. If you can’t take a bad long-shot photo of your garden, then you must be doing something right. 🙂

    In your comments, I notice you said you don’t like the public aspect of working in the front garden. I wonder if a little fence would help with that? The addition of my wood-and-wire fence, even though see-through, makes all the difference to me in a feeling of privacy and separation from the street and passersby.

  14. Sylvia says:

    Frances, if your garden is as bad as you make out then you must be a wonderful photographer! I think this illustrate how easy it is to see the faults (and weeds) in our garden instead of looking at what is lovely. And your front garden is lovely.

    As the majority of my garden is open plan, the front and side, I have to garden in the ‘open’, I have found that you get used to it! Also I can have a moan at the dog walkers letting their dogs on my garden!

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  15. Jean says:

    In my humble opinion you did a great job of beating up on yourself for no good reason as it looks great to me!

  16. Nancy J. Bond says:

    Your garden, front or back, is absolutely enchanting. I could spend an afternoon simply wandering through all that greenery and color! The tulips in the top photo are a gorgeous color!

  17. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

    I think your front is very pretty. Wait until you see mine. I’m going to photograph it and post it tomorrow I think.

    Yours looks peaceful, but I do like the shrub garden.~~Dee

  18. Phillip says:

    I think your front garden looks fantastic and very inviting. From the blogs I’ve been reading, it seems that very few gardeners are happy with their front garden. I know mine is a disaster with so many large conifers badly placed that you can’t see the house very well.

  19. brokenbeat says:

    if you are truly dissatisfied with the front yard result, i must admit that strips of lirope don’t seem to ooze you like other stuff, i suggest calling a family gathering to assist in digging, weeding, planting, replanting, so on and so forth to help you reach a desired vision. i’m sure semi, gardoctor, mashley, chickenpoet, and myself will gladly help, but only under one condition. that being you give us more plants to make our gardens more like yours. think about it. everybody wins. we’ll be in touch. much love.

  20. Nan Ondra says:

    Frances, you are *such* a gardener to find any fault with your front-yard plantings. I think you’ve hit it perfectly: it offers multi-season color and textural interest but doesn’t demand too much of your time to maintain. By anyone else’s standards, it’s a dream garden! I really appreciate you taking the time to put the post together, even if it wasn’t as fun for you as some other GBDW topics.

  21. Frances, says:

    Ewa, thanks. Everyone has been so kind, maybe the photos make it look better than it really is. I have just been out for several hours weeding along the front walk. That did help some. Thanks for visiting.

    Pam, I do greatly admire your fence, the see through privacy it offers is perfect. I really don’t know how I would like the front to look, only that it could be so much better. Thanks for the kind words, the photos don’t show the weeds, I have decided.

    Sylvia, oohh, the dog owners should be ashamed for not bringing along plastic bags to clean that up! Thanks for the kind words about the front, it does have some things going for it, but could be so much better. I planted in so long ago, just trying to find things to replace the grass that would look good all year. It does that, but the way they are placed is not good. I am working on a new plan.

    Jean, You have touched upon one of my greatest strengths, I am very hard on myself about everything. Age has helped that some though, thank goodness.I appreciate your thinking the front looks okay, thanks.

  22. Frances, says:

    Nancy J., you are welcome to come wander anytime! When the tulips are blooming, the front is lovely, same as when the cherry tree is blooming. It’s the azaleas that aren’t living up to the vision, it has been revealed to me as I have read the comments and looked at the front as I was weeding. This is really helping me see what to do. Thanks.

    Dee, I can’t wait to see your front garden. The back garden here is looking good right at the moment.

    Phillip, you are so right. Why don’t most of us like our front gardens? Because the back is more private? I was surprised too at that. Thanks for saying something nice about it, but we are on a mission now to fix it up!

  23. Frances, says:

    Brokenbeat, you know you can have all the plants you want without doing any work, but thanks for the offer. Once I figure out how it should be, you may be called upon to do some of the heavy work! Funny, the liriope is that part that satisfies me, although the straight lines are not good. That is the biggest problem, the plantings are in squares and straight line instead of sweeping curves, even though I curved the walkway to the front door. I need to follow that curve throughout. You will be contacted. love.

    Nan, I feel badly for giving the impression that this post was not as fun to write as the others. It was fun, just in a whining kind of way. I am getting lots of inspiration from the comments and I have looked at the front with new eyes. This has actually been the best topic so far to help me rethink the way I have been gardening. The container topic did the same thing, and we have put more of the things learned from those posts into the plantings that were done this year. It will be the best containers ever. Now maybe we can redo the front to make it more satisfying also. Thanks!

  24. James says:

    Thanks for the help Frances! I think we are leaning heavily to 4 O’Clocks. Great pictues also.

  25. Amy says:

    Frances you’re front garden is honestly very lovely! I wish I could somehow transport it to MY front garden 🙂

  26. Zoë says:

    Hi Frances, they are certainly frost hardy, they just hate being too wet, they are prone to botrytis is left too moist and prefer some shade too.

    I am not sure how bad your winters get, but I keep mine outside over winter. If its really cold , which is rare these days, I keep them in a cold green house outside, or place a cloche over them at night, but leave them open in the day.

    The alpine types are culivated versions of plants that originated on mountain meadows.

    The border types can be left in place like normal Primulas or Primroses, again providing they aren’t standing in too much moisture. I just find their beauty gets lost down low and I like to have them in small individual pots or maybe 3 or 4 in a shallow pan, that way I can see them up close.

    Some people even display them in what is called an Auricular Theatre; if memory serves me right there is one in the Botanical Gardens in NYC. I am off to see one in London this week, so I’ll try post a picture of that too.

    Hope that helps.

  27. Frances, says:

    James, welcome and thanks for visiting. If I was a betting person, I’m not, I would bet money on those being four o’clocks.

    Amy, thanks. Wouldn’t that be great to transport stuff? I always think that when we are on a long trip, either by car or plane, I hate to travel but like to go places. ;->

    Zoe, thanks for all of that good information. We are kind of in the mountains here, and have beds along a four foot high wall that let us view smaller plants more closely. The drainage is good also, all I need to research is the temperature requirement. Have fun in London.

  28. mss @ Zanthan Gardens says:

    I do so covet those tulips. After many failed attempts at growing tulips in the early years of my garden, I reckoned that it was cheaper to buy cut ones at the supermarket. But I never do.

    I wish you’d come back to Austin and design me such a “horrible” front yard–cuz I’d be plenty happy with the one you have instead of my patchy attempt at a lawn ringed by Spanish bayonets.

  29. Frances, says:

    MSS, my sympathies about the tulips. In Houston, when we lived there, they were sold prechilled and kept in refrigerators until planting time. I saw them used in the fancy part of town, River Oaks I think it was, very beautifully. Not a cheap proposition and probably not planted by the homeowners themselves. I thought your front garden was charming, I have a photo of the Indian Hawthorne looking wonderful, even though you said it was a bad shrub, HA. You will think of something wonderful to do in the front if you want a change. That has been the happy outcome from this topic for me. I just have to figure out what I want it to look like. Time to get those magazine photos out that have been saved in a notebook for years and years.

  30. Layanee says:

    I think you have done a great job of combining texture, color and shape to create a low maintenance yet inviting front garden. The deciduous azaleas steal the show on the side don’t they.

  31. Cinj says:

    I don’t know what you dislike about your garden, I think it is very lovely. Though like a true artist you are probably a bit more critical of your own work. I’m sure you’ll find a way to manage to make it even more amazing than it already is though!

  32. Meems says:

    Frances, I sure like the idea of maintenance free and your front garden is full of texture, color and variation any one would be happy to see upon arrival. Your entire gardens are enchanting.

    I honestly didn’t realize this was typical of gardeners. I almost have to make myself work in my front gardens always preferring to be in the back. Seems to make more sense as that is where we spend so much time otherwise.
    Tell me more about this mowing of the liriope? Did you mean this literally? Mine grows 3′ high in my front pathway and is an evergreen… does yours go dormant in winter?
    Meems @
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  33. kate smudges says:

    I’ll just add my voice to the chorus saying that your front garden looks delightful – especially to my colour-starved eyes. The Azaleas are just beautiful and add some beautiful colour to your wonderland. I’m glad that you received some rain – it always amazes me how gardens respond so much better to rain than to being watered by us.

  34. Piondröm says:

    You dont have anything to be a chame of on you front garden, I think it is beautiful almost like a Japanese garden.
    It is hapening so much in our garden now, so I have trubble to catsh up and see al the spring flowers but thats good, you cant complain.
    -I write with my head, I hope you anderstand my english ;).

  35. Frances, says:

    Layanee, thanks so much. I am feeling better about the front after all the nice things people have written. Yesterday weeding was done, more will be done out there today. Then mulch. Then I will assess.

    Cinj, thanks. I am working on a plan to make it better.

    Meems, thanks. I am not comfortable working out front for various reasons, that may be at the core of the problem. About the liriope, there is a link in the post to a detailed story about the mowing each year. Ours may be a different type than yours, it doesn’t get to more than a foot tall and while not dormant, it looks pretty ratty by the end of winter.

    Kate, glad to see you. I was excited about the color of the azaleas when they were first planted, so bright and cheerful. They took a hit from frost last year, and some had been moved for better spacing after some roses were moved to the back. That has hindered their growth and vigor. Last year’s drought also hurt them. I will try to do a better job this year of pampering them, that will help.

    Ken, Your English is very understandable. I like the idea of a Japanese garden even though the style of the house is not that. There is a weeping blue atlas cedar behind the mailbox that should be a focal point, but is barely noticed. I need to do something about that too. The front garden needs my attention to look better. Glad you are getting to work in your own beautiful garden. I love visiting yours.

  36. walk2write says:

    Frances, I see everything right with your front yard. It puts a smiling face forward for your neighbors to enjoy. Speaking of neighbors, please don’t be too hard on renters. My husband and I are currently short-term renters (in Illinois) as well as long-term homeowners (in Florida). I am trying to put a smile on my neighbors’ faces (and encourage interaction) by growing flowers and herbs in pots and maintaining a small bed of flowers by the front door. I hope my efforts work.

  37. Frances, says:

    Walk2write, I would love to have you as neighbors, or someone like you. The truth is that the house is owned by out of towners who specialize in renting to transient workmen. Several men, no furniture just mattresses come and go every few weeks. They seem harmless, and I wish them well, but they are not the wished for family we would like to see there. Your neighbors are probably tickled pink to have you near them, as I would be.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I will gladly “WORK FOR FLOWERS”. I see bare feet under and around the arbour. Much Love, CP

  39. Frances, says:

    Hi Chickenpoet, this is a promising proposal, all the offspring here digging in the garden. I can’t wait! love.

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