|Typical front yard with lawn and foundation plantings|
That’s certainly the standard issue in my neighborhood. Historians say that as American suburbs developed as a place for middle class people to live outside the city, it was considered selfish to fence in your lot European style. Lawns flowing into each other without boundaries were seen as a sign of good citizenship and showed that homeowners had nothing to hide.
I notice a few neighbors who really seem to cherish their front lawns. They’re out each spring carefully filling in bare patches with topsoil, compost, and grass seed. A lot of others pay landscape contractors to maintain a green, closely clipped, weed-free lawns.
|Contracting out lawn care|
That’s trading money for time, freeing up effort and focus for activities you care more about. If you just want your front yard to look acceptably neat, that’s what you’ll get from these services.
When we moved to our house in 1985, we had a small, scruffy front lawn that languished under the shade of the street trees. Those Norway maples sucked all the water and nutrients from the soil. Realizing that I couldn’t grow lush green grass in that situation, I replaced the lawn with groundcover. That worked visually because there’s only 10 feet of front yard from the sidewalk to the house. Now instead of a front lawn, we have a uniform bed of periwinkle (Vinca minor). It grows happily in the shade of those maples.
|Periwinkle has blue flowers in April|
Recently I’m fantasizing about revamping that quiet groundcover bed to be more like some front yards I’ve been admiring.
Doris Lewis, who lives a few blocks away, designed her front yard garden when she moved into a newly built house in 1998. She planted a mix of trees and shrubs: white pines, upright yews, a dogwood and a multi-stemmed shadbush, and groupings of low rhododendrons.
|Doris' lawn-free front yard|
Roses, lavender, sedum, and clumps of Siberian and bearded irises provide colorful accents. Doris used periwinkle, pachysandra, and creeping speedwell as ground covers, and they’ve filled in densely. I admire her design every time I pass the house.
Ted Chapman, whose permaculture garden I visited in 2011, also skipped the front lawn in favor of a pleasing mix of shrubs, trees and perennials. Some of his front yard plantings included a walnut, a pawpaw, dwarf evergreens, jostaberries (a cross between black currant and gooseberry), and a Korean pine with edible cones. A five-flavor vine (Schisandra chinensis) with red berries in hanging clusters like grapes grew on an arch next to the sidewalk.
|Ted included numerous food plants|
Most recently I toured Robin Wilkerson’s sustainable garden.
She too had filled her front yard with shrubs and perennials, emphasizing natives such as viburnums.