Front Garden in Winter

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It is an early March frosty morning. The sun is just peeking over the horizon. Looking out the kitchen window, the garden is glistening, calling me outside. Grabbing the camera but no coat, hat or gloves, we bound out the front door for some clicking fun. In the ongoing effort to show more long views in addition to the closeups, we go out into the street. A bird is devouring the berries on the Eastern Yahoo. The photographer startles him so he zooms to the telephone wire that feeds into the house next door. He is not the only one who can zoom! Click. What my poor eyesight thought was a robin turned out to be an Eastern bluebird gentlemen. Good morning, Sir, glad to see you partaking of the garden offerings.

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When following the street to my house, there is first a steep downhill ride then a ninety degree turn to the right, past an empty lot then past one house that used to be the identical twin to mine before we renovated, then you come upon the Fairegarden abode. This is the view you will see in late winter.

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There is no lawn. It was abolished when the first remodel of the house began in June of 2000. Planted into the existing mix of weeds and some grass were various shrubs, the yoshino cherry tree and yellow Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’. Painstakingly spread on bended knee as the clumps grew large enough to divide, it now fills in the upper level part of the front garden. On the sloping area down to street is Liriope spicata, which is mowed down low in January to better showcase the emerging daffodils and neaten up the scene. In summer, wild violets and strawberries make for a more green sheen but in the cold seasons, it is pure gold.

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In the beginning, the under shrub planting was all lambs ear, Stachys byzantina. It was not satisfactory as the lead actor, too messy after blooming and dying out in spots, but it makes a fine edging and is perfect for the mailbox/newspaper corner. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ punctuates each end of this front section and was recently cut down to allow the new growth a better chance to shine. The ferny leaf belongs to Filipendula vulgaris.

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Evergreens, including the weeping blue atlas cedar, click here for a story about it, and the colorful twig dogwood family add winter interest. My favorite of those is Cornus sanguinea ‘Arctic Sun’.

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Moving east along the street takes us to the next garden bed. Since this was once two properties with two driveways, it allowed for a semi-circle entrance and exit to be fashioned, thus creating the center island. Evergreens are heavily used here with more colored twig dogwoods and crepe myrtles.

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The red twigs struggle in our climate, but the yellows, Cornus sericea ‘Flavimarea’ excel. More Liriope was planted in line with that in front of the main house, but has been overrun with thuggish Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’. Daylilies and wildflowers add color during the growing season. Winterberry hollies offer beauty for humans and berries for wildlife in both the main and center beds.

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At the far end there are tall loblolly pine trees with larger shrubs and native trees as understory. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ has been divided and spread here to fill in with frothy fluff in summer. More Liriope continues to line the space to the curbing. The city agreed to install the curbing after we paved the driveway. Before that, the driveways were gravel and because of the steep slope, stones were always washing down into the street causing unsafe conditions for vehicles and walkers. We had to pay for the concrete only, the city provided the labor. It was a good deal for all concerned.

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Last month, the witch hazel in the Yellow/White Garden, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ was moved to the sheltered and out of the way area under the pines. He appears to like it there.

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One of the two Edgeworthia chrysanthas traded places with Arnold and is also doing well after being dug up and moved to the sunnier bed. One remains in the original planting hole near the arborvitae hedge and dwarf Buford hollies. I wonder if it might like to join its sibling up in the real garden? Hmmmmm… (Note: Moving Plants R US)

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Speaking of the real garden, here is a view from the Zen Garden looking over the Knot Garden and down the slopes to the main house on the left and addition and two story garage to the right. The tall pine trees that are at the edge of the property can also be seen. This is where the action is, in the back gardens. This is what is shown during regular blog programming. It seemed like a good idea to show the front gardens in winter for a change, something different before the garden revs up for spring.

Previous posts about the front garden:

Front Garden

No Mow

For more information about how to have a front garden instead of a front lawn, Pam of Digging has written a book, Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard, recently released. This promises to offer lots of ideas and beautiful photos to help replace a traditional lawn.


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25 Responses to Front Garden in Winter

  1. Carol says:

    Thank you. Those long views help provide the “frame” in my mind when I see your other photos of flowers and close ups. Fairegarden is quite the place!

    Hi Carol, thanks for viewing. This is not a post of pretty pictures, although I did the best I could, it is to help folks visualize the whole space and how the beds connect to each other and the house. I think doing something like this for the back might happen, too.

  2. Thanks for another lovely journey around the garden.

    Hi Green Bench, thanks for joining in the tour of the front garden. Not too much in the way of flowers right now, but soon it it will be more lively. I happen to enjoy it as is, the more subtle beauties, like the gold Acorus stand out right now.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    If you want a red twig type of dogwood maybe you could try ‘Garden Glow’ Cornus hesseyii. This was developed at the Biltmore. It might be more adapted to conditions in your garden. It has pretty chartruese (sp) leaves and the twigs are red during winter. It does very well here. Love seeing the long view in your gardens.

    Hi Lisa, thanks so much for that advice. I will definitely look for that one!

  4. Barbara H. says:

    Oh what fun to see the long views on this frosty brisk morning! It was very helpful to get a fuller sense of the gardens. Thanks for the tour, Frances.

    Hi Barbara, thanks. Going on a garden tour requires an overall view in additions to pretty macro shots, I believe. I like to see the context of the flowers in the bed and the bed to the rest of the garden and residence.

  5. Pam/Digging says:

    Thank you for the mention of Lawn Gone! Your garden is an inspiring example of such a garden. I enjoyed the late-winter/early spring tour.

    It was my pleasure, Pam. We have been lawn free for the last two houses, going back to 1997. It just seems like a waste of good garden space to have a lawn. There are ground covers that work for foot traffic that are so much more earth friendly. We do have the lawn meadow with mown pathways between the two large planting areas. It gets mowed once a year, like the liriope, etc. So easy, why would anyone want to spend all that time mowing?

  6. Christy says:

    Hi Frances! I’m so glad you gave us a tour of your garden! I really like this concept of being able to “see” a garden, where everything is, how the plants relate to one another, etc. Plus, when you “talk” about your front bed (or others), I can envision where it is and what it looks like! I’ve thought of doing this myself and probably will on a future post. I can’t wait to see all of your gardens in spring!! We have some nice weather coming up and I can’t wait to get out into my garden!!!

    Hi Christy, thanks for the kind words of support. I like to see the whole picture, too, so thought it a good idea to do so for newer readers. Spring photos will be prettier!

  7. Great tour…I really appreciated how logically and sequentially you presented it. I tend to suffer from what I call directional dyslexia and your words and pictures guided me through without getting lost…quite the accomplishment. What a great pop of color your blue bottle “tree” provides…esp. in the winter. It’s quite an eye catcher even when it’s in the distance.

    Hi Michaele, thanks for following along. I try very hard to explain things in an understandable way, sometimes that is difficult. My garden is fairly simple in the front, the back is a whole other story. The blue of the bottle tree, or the blue pots in the front that are not visible in the photos, are good focal points.

  8. Dee says:

    I enjoyed getting an overall picture Faire. I am amazed at your boxwood border. Those scallops must have been hard to make.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks. The boxwood design took over a year to implement. A cut here, a gouge there, until it decided what shape it wanted to be. HA

  9. Cindy says:

    Love that first view of the front … quite a difference from what I saw when I was there at the end of May!

    Hi Cindy, thanks. Yes, this is the bare time, after the liriope has been cut down but before anything else is growing or flowering. I kind of like the serenity of it.

  10. I struggle with the lawn dilemma. It doesn’t grow in my shady front or back, but I have two active little boys who need a space to run around. The running tramples any attempt to revive or replace the lawn so it becomes an unpleasant cycle resulting in mud or compressed clay soil. I will enjoy watching the base/basket/football games for now and someday when they leave home I will deal with the lawn!

    Hi Jill, thanks for adding in here. Your boys sound so lively, but from experience I know that they will indeed grow up and move on to other things. Then you should have a good plan in mind with what to do with the space. Unlimited possibilities!

  11. Katie D says:

    Thank you for sharing! As others have mentioned so well, it gives a context for the many beautiful close ups you’ve shared with us in past (and future).

    Hi Katie, thanks so much. Sometimes it is good to step back and just look, warts and all.

  12. pivi says:

    Nice to see your garden in its winter clothes, we’ve still much snow, quite a difference between us. And you’ve Hamamelis blooming, wonderful ! Soon we’ll have first signs of spring, too. And so nice to see again the last photo, I love particularly this place in your garden.

    Hi Pivi, thanks for visiting. It is cold here, but soon will be warm enough to feel like spring. I hope yours also comes soon! I rarely show the front gardens, and rarely do any gardening out there. I also love the knot garden, especially in spring when the tulips bloom up there. It won’t be long now!

  13. vbdb says:

    Lovely morning shots made us feel like we were there. Thanks, Frances!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Lola says:

    ‘what a lovely garden you have created. Slopes are hard.

    Thanks Lola. The slope was a challenge, that’s for sure. Still working on the erosion during winter rains that exposes the roots.

  15. Alison says:

    I very much enjoyed this post full of long views of your front garden, in the semi-bleakness of late winter. It helped so much to give me a better understanding of the overall design and underpinnings of your garden.

    Those yellow twig dogwoods are so pretty now! I have one red twig dogwood, an Arctic Fire, which is doing well. I just took some cuttings from it yesterday. Actually, I’m not sure I can really call them cuttings, they were already rooted branches that had been laying on the soil. So I limbed it up a bit around the soil line, and then potted the rooted pieces. I saw a picture on Pinterest of a red twig dogwood with black mondo grass around its base, and replicating that is my plan. I’m not sure now what I’m going to do with the new little shrubs, but I couldn’t just toss them in the compost bin, when they were trying so hard.

    Hi Alison, thanks for sharing here. You are fortunate to have pieces of the Arctic Fire, it looks like a real beauty from photos I have seen. It will be wonderful with the black mondo, too. I wonder if it would do as well as Arctic Sun does here? Hmmmm

  16. gail says:

    Frances, Your garden is beautiful…no matter which angle we view it from! I feel so fortunate to have visited it during the Spring, early summer and fall~and I thank you for this winter tour. xoxogail

    Thank you, Gail, you are sweet. I so apprecite your visits to my garden. Someday you will have to come in winter, on a warm day, to see the bones of it.

  17. Love the long views! Thank you very much!

    Hi Kathy, thanks for visiting. I am glad you liked them!

  18. Donna B. says:

    I say it all of the time – so inspiring! LOVE that dogwood hedge! It’s odd that the yellow variety do so well… hehehe! They’re on my to-do list for next year… winter interest and for the birds! ♥

    I’m actually in the process of trying to talk my boyfriend into letting me get rid of all of the grass in our front yard… I think I’ve reached an agreement where the PATHS will stay as grass, and I can rip everything else out… I think that’s hair, yes? Hehehe!
    [I think I need to show him your yard so he’ll get an idea of what I want! I don’t have the slope that you do, but it’s similar looking to what I want! :D]

    Oh! And I meant to tell you – I have started working on juicebox ‘bricks’ made with hypertufa! Although I’m a dolt and used some cement/mortar mix that had been sitting out on my front porch for a season… so the mixture isn’t holding very well… hahahah! It’s a bit on the wet side too [my mistake], but I guess that letting them cure for just a little bit longer would work still, hm?

    Hi Donna, thanks for sharing here. I am glad you have a plan in place to get rid of the lawn. There are so many other plantings that are better in every way, not to mention the lack of mowing required. As for the hypertufa, if you mixed the mortar mix with peat moss and perlite, it may never set up properly, as it has already had the Portland cement diluted with sand. If you just added water, even too much, it should harden up eventually. I know because I have done that myself. Good luck!

  19. Thanks for the tour. I’m looking forward to seeing your non-lawn in spring. I love the golden color and ribbon shape of the witchhazel.

    Hi Jason, thanks for visiting. Spring is a good time in the gardens here. There will be photos shared, I guarantee it!

  20. Love, love, love your creative box pruning. Makes me smile!

    Thanks, Marian. The boxwood hedge around the knot garden is one of my favorite features here, too. It took a year to get that shape figured out, but now it is routine trimming in June, once a year.

  21. Anni says:

    Those moments of cleaning up and preparing for the coming growing season are always exciting!

    Hi Anni, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I do enjoy the prep work for the coming of Spring. Very much so!

  22. Your late winter garden is gorgeous…I am hoping to see my garden soon as the snow is supposed to start melting to the ground this weekend.

    Hi Donna, thanks. I hope your garden appears soon, out from under the snow!

  23. steve says:

    It is so nice to see your unadorned Winter look, Frances. It is gorgeously ugly in its frostiness and sad Wintertime despair, lol. It – your garden – was therefore gracious enough to deliver huge satisfaction to someone who wonders how you can so get away with the otherwise unbelievable beauty you have made during your “good months”. I also confess that it does me good to see the larger layout. It answers some questions at my end and I thank you, because I do pay attention closely. By the way, your bird is The Man. Great leadoff picture – I loved that.

    Hi Steve, thanks for visiting. The front garden is about as low maintenance as it gets. I mow the liriope once a year. It looks good enough, but the real show is in the back. Business in the front, party in the back! The bluebirds are giving us great joy at the moment. They usually are not in view or within camera range.

  24. Love the overview and summary of the front garden. I wanted to ask if you cut back your Acorus? Mine is looking a bit ratty and I think it should be cut, but when I went to cut it yesterday I saw the flower stalks. Would really hate to cut them out.
    So the yellow stemmed dogwood is better? I have three or four red stemmed dogwood and in the growing season they get black spot.

    Hi Janet, thanks for visiting. I do not ever cut the acorus, unless it is an accident. The flower stalks are so cute, I would hate to miss them. If you only have a few plants, you could trim them with scissors, just the tips. Otherwise, just squint when you look at them. The yellow dogwoods do way better here, I don’t really know why.

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