Favorite outdoor spaces usually have two things in common: comfy seating and a little screening. The front yard at Leni and Fred Wiener’s lacked both. Add in heavy shade and the traffic of their New Rochelle, New York, neighborhood, and it’s no surprise the couple went decades without using the space. But when a nor’easter took out a few old trees, they seized the chance to start over.
“The yard went from total shade to full sun,” says Leni, who realized she now had a perfect site for the naturalistic garden she’d always wanted. Robert Welsch, a Tarrytown, New York–based landscape designer, pushed Leni’s vision even further. His design—a smaller lawn with a circular gravel seating area, exuberant borders, and a low fence—gave the space purpose and privacy as well as beauty.
When he suggested extending the house’s front landing to tie it into the garden, Leni was inspired to design a new portico and an art-glass transom and sidelights. A charcoal-gray roof followed, along with a darker paint palette that shows off the plantings. “The backyard is more secluded, but the front is more peaceful,” says Leni. “When we close that gate, the space becomes ours. It’s where we go to relax.”
Garden Room: The Plan
A patio with seating, shrub-based plantings, and a fence for privacy turned an uninspired front yard into an enclosed garden room.
- Installed a gravel seating area with chairs, a focal-point sculpture, and a curved stepping-stone path to the driveway.
- Traded a tired concrete walk for a rustic path of irregular flagstones.
- Reshaped the portico and extended the landing into the garden.
- Lined the reduced lawn area with beds of flowering shrubs and easy-care perennials, such as astilbe and heuchera.
- Shielded the house from the street with a natural-wood fence engulfed by rows of dogwoods, hydrangeas, and daylilies.
Matching Portico and Door Arch
The white portico echoes the arch of the new transom and pops against the gray siding. Paint (siding): Sherwin-Willliams’s Gibraltar
A glass artisan in the neighborhood handcrafted a custom transom and matching sidelights for the remodeled entryway. Art-Glass: Giacomo’s Stained Glass
Street-Facing Floral Fence
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas, Ivory Halo dogwoods, and daylilies soften the street side of the fence.
Shrubs Screen The Driveway
More shrubs screen the driveway, while the sculpture, made by a Connecticut metalworker from RF Steelwork, commands attention in the quiet space.
Pro advice: “I use three-quarter-inch crushed stone for patios and walks because it doesn’t slip underfoot.” —Robert Welsch, landscape designer, Tarrytown, N.Y.
Year-Round Yard Border
Hydrangeas and dogwoods backed by doublefile viburnum make a showy border year-round.
Carefree Garden Beauty
Shrubs give this garden its lush, carefree beauty. Here, a flowering ‘Limelight’ hydrangea mingles with the cream-rimmed foliage of an Ivory Halo dogwood.
Street Buffer Plantings
A Japanese maple underplanted with doublefile viburnum, hydrangeas, and ‘Francee’ hosta buffers the yard from the street.
Flagstone and Crushed-Stone Surfaces
Flagstone stepping-stones leading to the driveway provide an easier-to-navigate surface in a crushed-stone patio. They are also easier to keep clear of snow come winter.
Adirondack Garden Seating
This pair of Adirondack chairs serve as an invitation to enjoy the garden.
Colorful Window Dressings
Window boxes offer pockets of color and texture. In this planting, the plum foliage of ‘Silver Streak’ heuchera plays off purple petunias and red calibrachoa blooms.
Urn Turned Garden Fountain
Landscape designer Robert Welsch converted this urn into a fountain by drilling a hole in the bottom and inserting a pump inside. It runs day and night, yielding the soothing sound of flowing water.