When lawn demands too much water, it's time to rethink the front yard. This beautiful Spanish style home illustrates the value of large stone slabs that allow spaces in between for planting. The irregular edges integrate drought resistant plants to provide a dry, naturalistic front yard. It is equally valued for curb appeal and doubles as a sun drenched space suited to furniture and umbrella shade. Combining color and varying foliage offers relaxed diversity with the sound of falling water. The simple white facade of this delightful home becomes a perfectly framed gem that will look equally good in wet years and in drought.
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Homes on steep view lots can lack a powerful entry if the designer is not up to the challenge. All too often this kind of extreme slope is treated as an erosion control application, with ordinary highway planting schemes and hydroseeding. Here the slope is designed to be integral with the structure, serving as its visual foundation. Large boulders help to anchor the soil and provide an opportunity to capture and hold moisture for plants. Species are selected for deep rooting and drought resistance with diverse foliage colors and seasonal blooms. With so much variety in the planting scheme, the entry look and feel will change with the arrival of each new season.
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It's difficult to create a compelling landscape when the front yard is on a straight slope down to the back of curb. Grading smoothly might work for lawn, but today's modern landscapes offer new opportunities. Here the series of benches graded into the slope would be rather ordinary if it wasn't for the low walls that offer more options in the layout. They allow grade to be taken up more abruptly in some spots, and thereby creating level terraces and linear pockets for planting. The grey walls also provide a really dramatic background for simple massed plantings where the texture and color are sure to stand out day and night A straight set of stairs begs symmetry, but here the offset entry walk with its integrated riser lighting makes it clear where to go without the clutter or dated look of freestanding walk light fixtures.
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Landscapes for plant lovers offer opportunities to grow favorite species front and center. This walled front yard is ideal for creating more outdoor space for living and gardens. Where space is a premium, vertical wall planting systems allow a planted border to go up rather than out, demanding little ground space for such an incredible display. A simple entry is dominated by this wall of exotic plants to augment the subtle Asian design with its beautiful gate and horizontal stepping slabs. Put your best foot forward so your guests can share your own plant passions by creating a very green experience in a modest front entry garden.
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The facade of this rambling southwestern home is broad and sun drenched, but the location of the front door may be ambiguous to some. Arizona flagstone paving extends from the front porch to the street, growing wider as it goes to meet the driveway where guests park. This provides lots of surface paving for decor and pots. It also carries the same style as the interior and front porch through to the parking area. Drought and heat resistant species along the edges of this walk helps to blend the earth tone hardscape into the fine surface gravel that extends throughout the planted areas for a feeling of space much larger than it actually is.
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For many homes that lack sufficient space or a comfortable exposure for outdoor living in the back yard, reclaiming front yard as a fresh living space is the ideal solution. Here a semi-transparent grid lattice fence draped in cooling green vines creates a sense of mystery for the visitor who longs to enter a secret entry garden. When they step inside the bright day is softened and the spaces are inviting. The designer set this seating area off to the side so that the view and path from the gateway to the front door remains the primary experience while the living space is secondary.
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This front yard is the ideal frame for a contemporary colonial style home with its clapboard siding and porches. What makes this space so ideal is that it does not compete with the architecture. Instead, it lays low with no plants above about three feet to allow the facade to be seen without interruption. The ground plane becomes a diverse collection of evergreens without constraining the overall sense of openness so well suited to this large homesite. These shrubs and hedges become the foundation of the front yard after snow falls in winter to reveal their simple, geometric form. When you're dealing with truly stellar architecture, the garden is often secondary to the building. Seek a disciplined design that complements the home's traditional lines and muted hues without calling attention to itself.
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Maureen Gilmer, contributing writer for Landscaping Network, author and syndicated columnist