Friday, May 7, 2010
Houses in My Neighborhood: Plants and Flowers
In my last post, I wrote about houses in my neighborhood and what goes into creating "curb appeal" by choosing the right exterior paint colors. I'm not a decorator or landscape designer. I'm simply an interested observer who walks my neighborhood twice a day, for up to an hour at a time. And I've come to some conclusions about what works and what doesn't when it comes to making an attractive front yard.
Now I want to look at plantings:
We're blessed in Southern California with a mild climate that makes it possible to grow a huge variety of plants, from palms to cacti to orchids to lilac bushes. If you have no idea what you want to grow in your front yard, take a walk around your neighborhood and notice what's thriving. Chances are it'll do well in your yard, too.
Take a moment to identify what kind of house you've got. A garden that thematically relates to the house is a lot more attractive than one that seems to be at odds with the structure.
The disharmony between house and garden can be downright distressing. Look at this charming, Tudor-style cottage:
It has a wonderful curved brick archway and facade. It has leaded-glass windows:
And a bright, British-phone-booth red front door:
But it suffers from a yard that's better suited to a tropical cabana:
In this one photo alone, I see several kinds of palm, canna lilies, and Lilies of the Nile. Elsewhere the yard is quivering with papyrus and Birds of Paradise.
Those plants don't play well with English, Tudor, or cottage! This yard would be sooooo much sweeter planted with traditional English-countryside plants, like foxgloves, snapdragons, pansies, boxwood, hydrangeas, and roses. Gobs and gobs of roses!
Or look at this house. Well, look past the scary paint job (I dissed that in my last post), and notice that it's more or less a traditional, two-story East Coast home (except for the prominent placement of the garage out front, which is more West Coast):
The porch railings and pilasters flanking the front door are very typical of East Coast style:
The psychotic break happens between the house and the front curb:
Egad! I see deciduous trees and cacti, random flagstones, and two inexplicable blue ceramic balls:
What do these elements have to do with each other, and what are cacti doing in front of a traditional, East-Coast home?
I sure don't know. If this were my home, I'd replant it with birch and maple trees, evergreen hedges, and roses. Maybe even some matching topiaries flanking the door.
People! If your house has a certain "look," whether it be Southwestern hacienda or Italian villa or beach shack, be aware of it! Okay, maybe you can't take out the 40-foot shade tree that's not the perfect match. But if you're going to the nursery, don't choose petunias when prickly pears are more in keeping with your adobe ranch. Don't stuff the yard with cacti and creosote bushes if you've got a little stone cottage.
Here are some front yards and houses that get it right:
Traditional houses always look wonderful with garden gates and climbing, flowering bushes:
Stone or brick pathways look terrific when lined with something soft and floppy, like pansies...
or with ageratum and dianthus (a.k.a. Sweet William):
Houses that are French or Norman in feeling are perfect candidates for a formal little potager (kitchen garden) or rose garden, surrounded by a boxwood border:
And cottages, white picket fences, and roses all go together like bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Like red, white, and blue. Like...well, you get the picture:
Tomorrow, I take on outdoor furniture and porches.
So check your bloggy mailbox!