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Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

I have a bit if a design dilemma. I live in a 120 year old East Lake Victorian that has no front door or front porch. Inside, they took a nod to the idea of a portico and put the front door on the side. Historical research found that the house never had a front door.

So then there is the front yard. The space is north facing and shaded on the west by a 15-foot weeping cherry tree and behind that is a 35-foot blue spruce. (Both which I would like to keep). Over the past several years I have tried several design patterns, but I keep getting hung up on the massive scale of the house, especially the center being that it does not have any windows. The entire space is about 45 feet wide and about 20 feet deep. I also do have to use a little caution as the gas and water lines run in this area too.

This spring, I have been thinking about tearing all the plants out and reusing the hydrangeas, a small Japanese maple, hostas, columbine, ferns, and two small rhododendrons. For layout, I was thinking about having more of the space along the driveway to be part of the garden bed, then tapering back to the house a little way for a front lawn, then picking up the outer boundaries of the weeping cherry tree and the blue spruce on the other side of the house.

We also will be painting the house a beige/brown/white/red before we do the landscaping.

What would you do? Here is a photo:

Re: Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

Hi, your house is beautiful, and I applaud your desire to highlight its best features without making it something it is not! It looks like there is a porch on both sides? Have you considered making a little walkway to the porch on the far right of the photo, across the front yard? Also, I like the bay of windows on the right, and the basement (?) window with the arch. I would try and make that a focal point of the front, especially since you have that stunning spruce. Maybe adding a couple of colorful conifers, being aware of the scale of the house, and maybe something taller in the space btwn the windows, another conical shaped pine maybe? (I'm not a landscaper, just a gardener and house lover! With the house brown and white, I think evergreens, especially the blues and ashy-****s would be stunning against that stone. I honestly don't think your house needs much, it has a pretty foundation, and I'd be careful of adding too much at one - I've had to remove plants that outgrew their space too quickly. Good luck, and please post what you do!

Re: Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

I don't know why it wouldn't let me use the word **** - maybe I can say yellow? And as for conifers, I don't mean those rangy-looking junipers. There are some lovely graceful weeping varieties, and blue star junipers, and some great choices. Ed at Amazing World of Conifers has been helpful to us, if you decide to go that route. Also, I just thought of how pretty rhododendrons would look there, if you have the right soil! sorry, I'm getting carried away now! At any rate, I'd stick with a naturalistic look. Just my opinion.

Re: Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

Here's a little idea:

Add rectangular flower pots under the windows (at lease the second floor windows). This will add colors.

Re: Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

Thank you both for your ideas! You are correct in that we have porches on both sides of the house, however the one on the opposite side of the driveway is only accessible from the back yard. We do have a good sized side yard with several flowering shrubs and trees, but there is no way to tie the existing walkway into the front yard on this side of the spruce.

Agree with the natural look and I think I might try to see about doing something to highlight that basement window arch. It is also a yellow stained glass window (the only in the house) but it is difficult to see for some reason.

Re: Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

How about a substantial verticle 2 story wooden trellis painted with the trim colors on the house. I would build it to stand off the wall at least a foot, so as not to interfer with maintenance access to the siding or creating too much dampness close to the siding.

I would make it of 2x2's ripped from pressure treated wood. Fasten it to the wall for stablilization, but have most of the weight supported by posts from the ground. Uprights could be pressure treated 2x4's or 4x4's.

There are many plants that would look good climbing on it, such as honeysuckle or wisteria.

victoria stiles
Re: Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

Landscaping your front yard can add curb appeal, a sense of invitation, increases the value of the property and acts as framing for your house.

Re: Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

To use a metaphor, the center of your front wall is a canvas waiting to be painted.

I was thinking some ornamental deciduous tree with a mature height and width that fits the dimensions of the space, but I like the trellis idea, too.

You don't say where you live, but if you're in the Northeast/New England states, it looks like a good candidate for Ask This Old House to send Roger Cook out to.

P.S. -- Looked at your blog, and I see it's Michigan. Probably a little too far out for ATOH, but you never know.

Re: Front yard landscape... but without a front door to highlight?

Looking at the historic photo on your blog, the porch on the right side looks like it was designed to be the main entrance. It may be that the house to the west wasn't there when your house was built, which allowed the west porch to be the focus.

With the large spruce on that corner of the house, it effectively hides what should be highlighted, directing the eye to the large, blank wall. I think the spruce needs to go. Then you would be able to highlight this grand entrance. Display some ornamental vertical vegetation on the front wall.

The weeping cherry is overgrown. I think it should be no more than about 7' high; the branches should be arching from the graft. The ones shooting straight up are suckers that need to be removed. (I'm just going on my limited experience and a barely discernible view of the tree, so please get a second opinion from someone more qualified than I.)

Depending on local historical regulations, you may be able to construct a set of steps from the front walk to the west porch, making that porch accessible from the front. The east porch looks so much like a service entrance, not a place to receive visitors. (Of course, I don't know how your floor plan is laid out, so I could be totally off-base.)

Have fun!

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