Small Space, Big Garden

Homeowners Doug Mearns and Tom Mannion prove you don't need a big yard to make a big difference. They transformed their 30-by-100-foot front yard in Arlington, Virginia, into a gardener's dream. Granted, they had an advantage—Mannion is a professional landscape designer.

Challenge: "Our yard felt like it belonged to the street, not the house," says Mannion. That's what happens when the lawn bleeds into the street and neighboring yards, he explains.

The primary goals of their redesign were to reclaim the yard and make it welcoming to visitors. "We wanted a little privacy and a fun place to garden," Mannion says.

Solution: For the first order of business, they laid the new framework for the yard. They tore up the narrow stone path and created a 6-foot-wide walkway that gently curves from a new, matching stoop to the driveway. "I believe in wide walks," says Mannion. "They are more welcoming and people can walk side by side instead of single file."

The new paving is exposed aggregate concrete with a pea-gravel finish. Both the walk and stoop are edged with the same type of stone used on the house. "It's important to pick up something from the house and repeat it in the landscape," says Mannion. This unifies the house and garden.

Just as Mannion advises his clients, he shaped the lawn first and then formed the surrounding planting beds. "Don't simply plant in the lawn," he says, "or it loses its shape and becomes nothing more than strips of connecting greenery."

A small garden bed featuring azaleas, spring-blooming doublefile viburnums, and winter-blooming hellebores separates the lawn and the street. The plants screen the yard while offering people walking by a site to enjoy.

Mannion planted a number of colorful annual flowers and bulbs at the doorway to greet visitors as they arrive. "Replanting this limited area in spring and fall is a seasonal gardening chore that I enjoy, but I kept it small," Mannion explains. "An area that's too large would be too much work."

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