Exterior & Garden The Victorian House

The Front Garden’s New Layout

This is the second of two posts sponsored by RISE’s AND not OR home and garden program. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Front Yard, Newly Planted

I’ve been out in the garden each sunny day since I last told you about my plans for the front! Before we talk about the rest, let’s pretend that bare dirt has nice green grass in it, yeah? I’ve never purchased sod before, and I’ve had the hardest time finding any for sale this year! I remember seeing a ton of it at garden centers before, but no luck so far. We may spread seed instead. (Here’s link with a handy list of grass types for the midwest at the end.)

There’s an antique iron fence around the front yard (which I like and want to keep), but if we planted grass up to the sidewalk, cleaning up the edges with a string trimmer would cause damage. We could either place pavers or bricks against the sidewalk and then grow grass up to the new edge, or we could soften the perimeter with a planting area. I chose to go with plants, which was a driving factor in adding another hedge row to mimic the others flanking the walk up to the front door.

Side View, Front Yard with Antique Iron Victorian Fence

I like certain garden tasks more than others. Pruning, trimming, and shaping? Love it! Weeding, deadheading, and tidying perennial borders? Not so much my thing. That’s what I was so drawn to with the AND not OR concept from RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)® — taking into account your preferred level of maintenance while planning for a balanced approach. Some people (like the previous owners of our house) love to spend their days caring for a garden, some want it to be as easy and carefree as possible, and others (like me) fall somewhere in the middle.

I like neat and tidy hedges and am willing to work to keep them that way, and then we’re adding grass, which increases our weekly mowing just a bit. I’ve also added a few other bushes rather than perennials for ease of care, and I’m selecting hardy varieties. We already have a Dwarf Alberta Spruce, for example, that needs spraying to control spider mites. It’s mature and I will care for it, but knowing its needs I’m not planting more.

Here’s a sketch I made while I was planning everything.

Front Garden Sketch

A few things have changed, but that’s the general idea! I planted yews as foundation hedges to soften the front of the house, and added hydrangeas in front. I was torn between smaller, more upright panicle Bobo Hydrangeas (like in the sketch) and big mophead Annabelle Hydrangea. Both are exceptionally cold-hardy and bloom reliably, but I chose Annabelle because I like the fluffball explosion of flowers it produces. I also added two Yuki Cherry Blossom Deutzia (a new dwarf pink variety) between the fence and the new hydrangeas.

Plants for the Front Garden | Making it Lovely

As the established boxwoods are rejuvenated and reduced in size over time, the newly planted hedge will catch up. I want them to be about 32″ high, and I’m guessing it will take at least four or five years before they match? Executing a garden plan is an exercise in patience! Once the center area has filled in with grass it will look far better, but all of the little bushes need to grow for the yard to really look like I want it to.

Front Garden Before
Front Garden After

I cleaned up the yard a lot. There were two rose bushes: one with red roses that I removed, and another with pink blooms that I’d like to relocate. There’s a perfect sunny spot for it on the side of the house, tucked behind another boxwood hedge next to a climbing rose, alliums, and peonies — too bad I didn’t think of it until now! It’s far better to move roses when they’re dormant, so it will have to wait. I’ll do more along the front edge next spring when I have more of a blank slate there.

I’m not totally sure what I want to plant in that spot yet anyway. It should be something that would be pretty peeking out from the fence for passers-by, but it’s also a main part of our view from the front porch. My sketch had a couple of peonies. Maybe I would line the front with a whole bunch of them? They’re so lovely in bloom… for like, five days. (But it would be a glorious five days!)

Front Porch, Looking Out

I laid landscaping fabric around the yews before adding mulch and repurposing some of the flagstone we had as stepping stones. I’m hoping that preventative step will mean less weeding over time, but the stone path will make it a little easier to get back there when I need to.

RISE has been sharing more AND not OR tips for yard maintenance on their Facebook page or Twitter channel. By embracing AND, not letting OR limit the ways you can care for your garden, you can choose from all of the solutions you need for your family, home, and lawn.

Front Yard, Looking Down from the Porch

I’m looking forward to seeing how everything matures! The bones of the garden are in place, and I like that there’s still room for experimentation and changes over time.

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  • Lora
    May 25, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    I’m enjoying watching the transformation of your garden…thanks for sharing it! As for sod, in my experience, you need to show up at the garden center quite early on a Saturday morning to get it. It seems to be delivered later in the week and then everyone rushes to get it on the weekends.

    • Making it Lovely
      May 26, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Ah, that makes sense! Most people would have the time to lay sod on the weekends, and I know you’re not really supposed to buy it and then let it sit around. Thanks!

  • Celeste
    May 26, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I am also loving these peeks into your yard! Starting my own yard project and it’s fun to see what you’re doing and how you’re planning. Though I’m in Utah where drought is a concern, so that’s a learning curve I have to navigate on my own! Thanks for sharing your plans. It’s encouraging to see the (slow but sure) progress!

    • Making it Lovely
      May 26, 2017 at 11:42 am

      Thank you! I hope it all grows and fills in as well as I imagine it will. Good luck with your yard, too!

  • Sara
    May 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I’ve been trying to get grass to grow at our “new to us” house, and I just keep buying seed and adding more. It’s a long process, but as I’m sure you know, cheaper than sod. Our Home Depot has a huge sign that reads, “Sod now here,” and I assume Chicago-land must have some too. Thanks for sharing the in progress photos- yard work is such hard work and it’s hard to see that work until a few year have past.

  • Cynthia
    May 26, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Coming along nicely! Peonies are wonderful and I have my fair share but as you stated, they are so short-lived. They can require some staking too until they are years old. What about something like blueberries? They are a low-maintenance shrub, have lovely fall color, and your children would love picking them. I think a row at the front of your fence line would be lovely.

  • Nicole S.
    May 26, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    We live in FL so it may not work the same but we planted boxwoods last year from gallon containers and used Jobe fertilizing sticks throughout the year and they doubled in height in no time.

    Good luck, I’m jealous of your ability to grow hydrangeas – it’s too hot down here for them. Love the house too, great work!

  • Emily
    May 31, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Wow, its really coming along very nicely. Looking forward to get to see how your garden is evolving. Thank you for sharing it with us! A garden usually requires more work than one expects but like everything important it will give it fruits giving it time and care. I am sure it will work with all the suggestions and help you are getting from Rise’s And not Or.

  • DD
    June 2, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    May I encourage you away from landscape cloth? It doesn’t work for long, and it is a pain to remove after the weeds have inevitably spun a thick mesh of roots through the fabric. I use 6-8 layers of biodegradable newspaper (soy ink), which last at least 5-6 years under the mulch, longer in shade. Win win!

    • Raquel
      June 8, 2017 at 8:31 am

      What a great idea! I avoid landscape cloth—damages the soil beneath with chemicals used to make the cloth. And it compacts the soil so that the weeds that come through are awful to get out. I don’t normally use anything under mulch, but I love the newspaper idea! Thanks!

  • Jessica
    June 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Annabelle hydrangeas tend to be a bit floppy, as are many Hydrangea arborescens cultivars. I’d go with ‘Limelight’ or ‘Little Lime’ instead. They’re really strong performers.

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