The front yard is your showpiece. You can have your vegetable plots, the children's swing, the chickens, the barbecue, and the bicycle shed in the back yard but the front yard is not a functional area and its purpose should be to set your house off to its best advantage. It should be an area to delight the eye of passers-by and one that you can look on with pride. It should also, particularly in an urban area, be capable of absorbing rainwater. The cause of much recent urban flooding in, for example, Britain, has been attributed to large areas where the front yards have been concreted over. This has led to unusual amounts of rainwater filling the street drains, which have been unable to cope. Any landscaping in the 21st century has to be environmentally friendly.
A Sculptured Front Yard
The use of gravel gives you a maintenance free, or relatively free, front yard. There are many different types of gravel and you should choose one which blends in with the colour and materials of your house Once the gravel has been spread, you must consider what the focal points of the front yard are to be. The gravel is only the canvas on which you must now paint the picture. Rocks with good shapes, wrought iron sculptures, a Japanese maple in a tub, a pool with a fountain - the possibilities are endless. The main point is to make sure that whatever you put on the gravel, it should not look crowded.
The gravel itself should be underlaid by a breathable membrane which allows water to escape through it but does not allow weeds to grow up through the gravel. These weed suppressant membranes are now readily available. Buy the best which you can afford so that you do not have to replace it after a few years. A few weeds may grow through and you should deal with these by spraying them with a systemic weedkiller. This does no damage to the soil below or to animals or insects. Spray on a dry windless day when rain has not been forecast. Spray the leaves; the weedkiller then enters the plant's system and penetrates to the roots â this will take a couple of weeks. Note that the weedkiller only works on the leaves of the plants themselves â there is no point in spraying the gravel!
A Green Front Yard
A sweep of well tended lawn is an excellent basis for landscaping your front yard. This will go well with flower borders along the walls of the house and rose bushes lining the front path. This is quite a traditional plan and much loved by those who enjoy a tidy front garden. Too many other bushes, however, would give a crowded effect. The garden has to remain in scale with the house behind it. A rose arch over a path is a lovely thing and could equally well be done with cyclamen, wisteria, or any other climbing, flowering plant. Even with trees; there are remarkable arches, nearly a hundred years old, made from laburnum and hawthorn, so it should be possible to train almost any tree into an arch. The support arches themselves should be of wrought iron, which is strong, long lasting and requires little maintenance.
If you dislike closely mown lawns and are looking for a more natural, rural, effect, consider planting a couple of flowering trees, preferably ones that will spread into a shade. When choosing the trees for your front yard, make sure that you know how tall the trees are likely to grow; they should not be allowed to shade the front of the house. In a very small garden, plant bush trees, which only grow to about six feet. With a larger space half standard cherry or almond trees will give a wealth of blossom in the spring and can have glorious colours in autumn. Allow the grass under the trees to grow relatively long by cutting it only two or three times a year and plant both spring and autumn flowering bulbs under the trees. Alternatively sow wild flower meadow seeds. These will do well while the trees are young but will not grow when the tree casts shade.