We Share our Front Yards with Our Neighbors.

From my home office, I have a great view to the backyard and can hear the fountain gurgling away. Even though I spend more time and effort on the backyard than the front yard, it is the front yard that I think serves a greater purpose. The front yard serves as the transition from the public world (our car or the sidewalk) to the private world of our houses. However, it serves our neighborhood as well.  We create and maintain the front yard for the neighborhood and the backyard for ourselves. One is the public garden and one is the private.

If the front yard is so important, how do we make it great?

Finding the Front Door:  Sometimes this is a challenge. I once visited a home in 4S Ranch where I had to bend down to avoid getting hit in the head by a giant banana tree while searching for the doorbell. I did not feel welcome.  Another poor design is a walkway leading to the front door that is lined with bee-loving shrubs like lavender.  I had to walk on the lawn to avoid the bees. The solution:  make the front door accessible with well-trimmed shrubs and trees and also with the right kind of plants.  Also, does the visitor need to walk along the driveway to get to the front door? I prefer to create a walkway from the sidewalk to the front door. This is an opportunity for nicely-designed steps or entry courtyard.  A separate walkway is nicer than asking your visitor to squeeze by your parked car in the driveway.

Driveways and Garages:  For many, the driveway is used only seconds a day as we traverse it in our cars to get to and from the garage. In this case, we only see the front yard from our cars as we go in and out of the garage.  If you have an alley garage, the front yard is experienced even less. Thus, visitors to your house are the prime users of the front yard.

 If you park your car on the street or in the driveway, pedestrian circulation should allow for an easy transition to your front door.  It is up to you how well and enjoyable that transition will be. Do you have to squeeze by your car that is parked in your driveway; trying not to get your clothes dirty as you brush by the overgrown shrubs; dodging lawn toys and potted plants to eventually find your front door?  Alternatively, as a solution, you could have a meandering path that guides you along a nicely-planted sidewalk with a fountain or specimen tree to catch your gaze?

Front Stoop: The front stoop is the last place your guest will be before entering your house. Make it comfortable. Stand outside your front door with a couple other people and ask yourself:  Do you feel crowded? Are you worrying about stepping on a plant or knocking over a potted plant? Is there a cover over your head? Is the stoop well-lit? If it’s raining, will your guest be protected from the rain? How does the stoop feel on a hot day? A well-positioned tree can help make the stoop shady and comfortable.

Pleasant view from the street:  Another characteristic of a well-designed front yard is the view from the street. Since we share our front yards with our neighbors, ask:  How does your front yard look from the other side of the street? You probably can’t see the tiny weeds that might bother you as you walk to your front yard, but you might notice larger scale items like an unbalanced pruning job on a tree.  General tidiness, or lack thereof, can be noticed from that distance.  The front yards in 4S Ranch and Del Sur are typically small.  As a general rule, small spaces are more pleasing to the eye when they are simple.  Some simple design ideas are a hedge that follows the walkway to the front door, a few trees for scale and shade, and perennials and annuals for seasonal color. When choosing flower colors, stick to 2 or 3 because too many colors in a front yard can ultimately look messy. There are many variations on this design idea, but just remember the simpler the better.

To sum up, it might feel like you are holding back your creativity in your design of your front yard. Save that for the backyard – where you can really express yourself.