Greet Guests with Flowers
Flowers always make a home seem more welcoming. Adorn your entrance with assorted annuals and perennials to keep your home awash with color all year long. Petunia, Snapdragon, Lily-of-the-Nile, and ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ roses are great additions to your entry mise-en-scene. Also, if you have only a small space between your house and the street, try constructing a low fence out in front of the yard. This little trick gives the illusion that your house is farther from the street than it really is, and it also makes a great space for planting flowers and vines. Perhaps there’s something to that “white picket fence” idea after all.
Plant Rambling Vines
Another way to make the most of your yard landscape is by planting lovely rambling vines. There’s nothing more stately or romantic than deep green tendrils winding around fences and columns, especially when you’ve chosen a delicate, flowering vine species. Clematis is one of the showiest vines. It offers blossoms of blue, purple, red, pink, or white. We recommend growing this versatile vine on a fence, on a trellis, or in a container. Or, for a more laissez-faire gardening style, let the vines ramble and scramble over your shrubs and perennials.
Plant clematis during the cooler weather of fall and spring in fertile, loose, well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. It likes cool roots, so plant where the leaves get sun but roots are shaded. Feed monthly in spring and summer with an organic fertilizer labeled for roses or tomatoes. Local garden centers have lots of choices in spring. A good mail-order source is Brushwood Nursery.
Dress Up Your Driveway
By carefully sculpting the landscape and choosing the right plants and materials, you can hide an unattractive driveway. With only a few steps, that less-than-picture perfect portion of your home can be transformed into a gardener’s paradise. Start by creating a slightly raised island of lawn in the center of the drive. Then add a low boxwood hedge toward the back of the island with roses, annuals, and perennials rising above the hedge in the front. Blend a variety of colors, textures, and heights for a great look. Try ‘Crystal Fairy’ rose for height, lamb’s ears for texture, and ‘Butterfly Deep Rose’ pentas for color.
Plant No-Fuss Lilies
When we talk about a rough-and-tumble, resilient plant, this is what we’re thinking of. Crinums laugh at drought, don’t need fertilizer, and welcome hot, humid summers with lily-like flowers that perfume the air. Because they grow into huge bulbs over time, these low-fuss lilies are practically indestructible. Fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers in a rainbow of colors appear in spring, summer, or fall. These plants like sun, so give them at least five hours a day, and they don’t care much about the sort of soil in which you plant them. We wish more plants were this low-maintenance. Most do best in the Lower, Coastal, and Tropical South (zones 8-10). Some, such as Crinum x powellii ‘Alba’ and ‘Ellen Bosanquet,’ are hardy farther north. Order from Jenks Farmer or Plant Delights Nursery.
Deer-Proof Your Garden
To keep your flowers from being gobbled up by deer—one of the most heartbreaking of all garden misfortunes—choose flowers that people find glorious and deer find disgusting. It’s not as hard a chore as you might imagine. We recommend that you choose deer-averse perennials like butterfly weed, globe thistle, ‘Royal Red’ butterfly bush, or even purple coneflower. Deer won’t touch them, and, at the end of the day, you’ll still have a flowerbed full of gorgeous leaves and blooms. You can find any of these varieties at garden centers, but be sure that you plant them in well-drained soil.
Add Height with Planters and Baskets
You don’t want a one-dimensional home, so why would you want one-dimensional landscape design? Add lovely, eye-catching layers to your yard with elevated planters and hanging baskets. This strategy creates visual interest with minimal effort. Adding elevated planters and hanging baskets also creates a sea of beautiful color from high to low, and the visual effect gives the impression of waves of blossoms rising and falling all across your yard. If you want to create an immersive escape, this is a foolproof way to get started. As an added bonus, plants love the good drainage and aeration that raised planters provide.
Each basket should contain three types of plants—a “spiller” (something that hangs down over the edges) like begonias and variegated sage, a “filler” (something that mounds and fills in) like Kong coleus, and a “thriller” (something that is tall and eye-catching for the center) like purple cordyline.
Grow Blooming Shrubs
If you ask anyone what the easiest way to transform the look of your home landscape is, they’ll definitely tell you: blooms. Blossoming flowers, shrubs, and trees make an incredible impact across a yard, and you can add color in just one lasting step. For major impact, we recommend Chinese snowball, which we think is one of spring’s showiest shrubs. White flower clusters—that grow 6 to 8 inches across—festoon its branches in late spring. It’s a thrill to behold. The plant gets big; we’ve seen them grow from 12 to 20 feet tall and wide. Find a prominent spot where it will have room to grow. Give it full to partial sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Prune, if necessary, just after it finishes flowering in spring. And by the way, though it looks like a hydrangea, it’s actually a viburnum.
Hide Outdoor Structures
Sheds, garages, and outdoor workspaces are not always the most attractive accents to your carefully constructed yardscape. Simultaneously hide these structures and make the most of these spaces by using them as a setting for a beautiful display of plants and flowers. Try adding brackets and a wooden plank to create a shelf on the exterior of a structure above the entrance or windows. Then set lightweight fiberglass planters filled with flowers atop it to hide the structure and also add natural ambience to the entryway. Potted ferns are great additions for the base of the structure and they give an earthy accent to the threshold. Bringing plants both nearer and actually onto the walls of the structure will make it seem like a seamless complement to the greenspace.
Plan a Garden Surprise
Create a garden paradise, an escape, an oasis in your yard by constructing intersecting trails, meandering streams, inspiring vistas, and hidden rooms. Design small hideaways where people can gather for drinks and try mixing formal with informal for stimulating visual tension. Each turn of the pathway brings its own lovely garden vignette. You can also get creative and save the biggest garden surprise—a wall of plants, a fountain, a statue, a bench, or a special flower display—for the farthest spot in your yard instead of putting it directly next to the house. You’ll create your own secret garden just moments from your front door.
Enjoy Color Year-Round
The moment when flowers burst forth with their vibrant blooms is one of the most exciting times for gardeners—or anyone with a yard or passing by said yard. A great thing about gardening in the South is that we get treated to colorful flowers, leaves, or berries in every season. We cultivate plants that love our hot summers, our mild winters, and that look great all year. They are fantastic additions to our flowerbeds, and we love the accent that they offer to our front porches, our mailboxes, and our backyards. Look for these plants each season:
Spring: azalea, daffodil, forsythia mandevilla, dogwood, wisteria, bearded iris (pictured), peony
Summer: hydrangea, daylily, gardenia, crinum, lantana, crepe myrtle, impatiens, zinnia
Fall: pansy, aster, sugar maple, beautyberry, ginger lily sasanqua camellia, holly, autumn crocus, mum
Winter: winterberry, Colorado blue spruce, amaryllis, Lenten rose, rosemary, saucer magnolia, flowering quince, crocus
Keep It Neat
For any landscaping you have, the key is to keep it neat. A house can feel overtaken by overgrown plants, especially in a small yard. Don’t let bushes grow taller than the windows. Trim borders and vines to keep them tidy and under control. Keep flowerbed sizes small and maintainable. Even less contained areas spilling with flowers from every nook need control with a trim or thinning out every now and then.
Don’t Overdo It
While it may be tempting to add lots of lush landscaping, it still has to be maintained. Consider the amount of upkeep that’s reasonable for you. Limit the variety of plants you buy and choose low-maintenance ones. If keeping your lawn beautifully green is too much, put the mower away and embrace ground cover. A sloped yard can be just as lovely covered in simple ground cover than higher maintenance raised beds or terraces. Mondo grass gives the look of green grass without the upkeep. It stays green year-round and is deer-resistant. Creeping phlox provides a burst of color in spring with purple, pink, or white flowers.
Add a Garden Path
Whether stepping-stones, mulch, or pebbles, a garden path is more than just a pretty walkway. It connects parts of your garden while defining boundaries of those areas. A designated path also keeps feet clean and grass or tender plants from getting trampled. Aim for three to four feet of width to allow for plants growing along the edges to spill over onto the walkway. Use stone edging to keep any mulch or gravel on the path.
Use Potted Plants
If permanent landscaping makes you uneasy, use potted plants to add color, height, and texture to your landscape. Add containers to your walkway, porch, or patio, and move them when you want to refresh the look. Possibilities are endless as the seasons change. Try topiaries or potted hydrangeas for a dramatic entry.
Define a Seating Area
Designing an outdoor space doesn’t have to focus solely on the lawn. Create an outdoor space where you can relax, enjoy a meal, or escape for an afternoon nap. Even the smallest yards have room. Tuck a table for two in a private corner, or add cushioned chairs around a fire pit. With hanging baskets, potted plants, and colorful borders, this outdoor space just may become your favorite room.
Grow A Natural Wonderland
When planting your outdoor oasis, think about all of your senses and what you want your home to look like. Garden Designer Jay Sifford had a specific plan in mind when creating his mountain escape. Sifford painted the house black so it recedes from focus in the summer and gives the garden center stage. When plants are dormant in winter, the structure shines. “My goal was to create an immersive space set apart from the world at large,” he explains. “The choreographed, Technicolor experience is sensory and sensual, refreshing your mind and spirit. It’s a place to both find and lose yourself.” As visitors wind slowly along the paths and pass blue, purple, yellow, pink, burgundy, white, and biscuit brown plants that are ankle to chest high, they forget their troubles—immediate and distant— and replace them with colors, sounds, touches, and smells.