Curb Appeal

The front garden is the one thing that really brings out my exhibitionist tendencies. I want it to grab the attention of people walking or driving by.

Front garden seen from the street.
Front garden seen from the street.

Late summer is one of the times when the front garden has its greatest visual impact. Some of the blooms of mid-summer become even showier and more prolific.

A closer look at the Driveway Border.
A closer look at the Driveway Border.

Most of the excitement is generated by the Driveway and Sidewalk Borders, as well as the Front Island Bed.

Cup Plant
Cup Plant

Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), at the back of the Front Island Bed, flowers even more profusely.

Mexican Sunflower
Mexican Sunflower

The same is true for the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia).

Monarch Butterflyweed on 'Gateway' Joe Pye Weed.
Monarch Butterflyweed on ‘Gateway’ Joe Pye Weed.

While the flowers of Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) fade to a fluffy brown, the Spotted Joe Pye Weed ‘Gateway’ (Eutrochium maculatum) show off their richer pink-purple blooms. I’ve been giving ‘Gateway’ some extra drinks of water since our wet spring turned into a dry July and August. This is a plant that loves moisture, but it seems to be doing fine even though it is in a raised bed.

Yellow Coneflower
Yellow Coneflower

The Yellow Coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata) are also reaching their peak, and they are in a sufficient mass to be noticed from a distance. It is a struggle to keep them from flopping excessively, though.

A view from further back in the street shows the Orange Coneflowers blooming in the Parkway.
A view from further back in the street shows the Orange Coneflowers blooming in the Parkway.

Also at this time of year, drive-by garden observers may notice the Orange Coneflowers blooming in the East Parkway Bed. That’s a Western Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) growing in the parkway, incidentally.

DSC_0599 Monarda Bluestar

In the Sidewalk Border, the ‘Raspberry Wine’ Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) are fading but still have visual impact. It combines well with the Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana) at the bottom of the photo, which takes on a bright Chartreuse color by late summer. I cut it back by at least half when it is done blooming in June.

Northern Sea Oats with 'Raspberry Wine' Monarda.
Northern Sea Oats with ‘Raspberry Wine’ Monarda.

Another foliage plant making a significant contribution is the Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), whose dangling seed heads will soon turn from green to tan. This year, though, I plan to remove the seeds not too long after they ripen to prevent excessive self-sowing.

'Blue Adonis' Butterfly Bush grows to only 3-4'.
‘Blue Adonis’ Butterfly Bush grows to only 3-4′.

Normally I get a nice dose of blue color from Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). However, the damage from four-lined plant bugs caused this wonderful plant to bloom rather feebly this year. There is some compensation from my compact ‘Blue Adonis’ Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii). ‘Blue Adonis’ also takes up where the Orienpet hybrid lilies left off in terms of providing a sweet fragrance for sidewalk passersby to enjoy.

For next year I am thinking of planting some short, late-blooming Clematis (possibly C. integrifolia ‘Mississippi River’) to provide a backup source of blue.

There was some historic giant of landscape architecture (I forget his name – Daniel Burnham?) who dreamed of how all suburban front lawns should flow together in a sort of common sward. That vision has been mostly realized in the typical American suburb. My dream is a little different. Rather than a never-ending green carpet, wouldn’t it be wonderful if those front lawns were replaced by billowing grasses and bright flowers? That would make for a commons of much greater richness, I think.

65 Comments on “Curb Appeal”

  1. The curb appeal is brilliant and I’m sure your street is the better for it. I love the different layers and foliage colours as well as the wonderful flowers! Have any of your neighbours joined in with creating wonderful gardens, or are they still a slave to their lawns?

  2. Very beautiful, Jason. I’m not surprised you have bus tours of visitors! Your front garden has real impact – a wonderful mixture of lush foliage and flowers with gorgeous colour combinations and shapes. I’d certainly be making a detour to admire it if I lived anywhere near you! Love your house, too πŸ™‚

  3. Beautiful, Jason. Can’t help noticing most of your plants are native to the Midwest Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmstead were the first Landscape Architects to dictated that individual front lawns should all flow together along an entire street, unimpeded by hedges, fences, or walls. The cause was taken up by Frank J. Scott shortly thereafter.

  4. I am with you about how a garden should look. While mine isn’t as jammed packed as yours I try to incorporate many natives in my garden. My Dearly Beloved likes the “lawn” so I will never have a lawnless garden that I would prefer. I don’t mind the give and take of it. He cares for the lawn. Your garden is lovely. I am sure the birds and bees think this too.

  5. Curb appeal indeed! The strong colors of your summer flowers are really enhanced by your white brick house. I love the way it backs the clean yellow and orange of the Silphium and Tithonia and lets us see the subtle dusky pink of the Eutrochium. Happy high summer!

  6. At first I thought you could dispense with the lawnmower but, alas, no — there are teeny tiny patches still. Very lovely indeed. You have sure packed a lot of punch in that small space. I definitely have to add Tithonia next year — but where?

  7. I like your vision for suburban front yards much better, Jason. Your garden is beautiful! Has it inspired some of your neighbors to plant more flowers instead of grass? I’m curious about your cutting back your Amsonia–I’ve never done this during the season. Mine is getting so huge; does cutting it back help to control its size for the next season as well? What a gorgeous stand of cup plants!

  8. Holy smokes! You certainly achieved curb appeal. How lovely it is. Even if people don’t stop, I’m sure they notice and admire. And with such beauty, not only have you made the world a better place for creatures that flutter and fly, but also for those who walk on two legs.

  9. You don’t need drapes in your house! πŸ˜€ I am sure the pedestrians on your street admire your late summer display, as does the pollinators. My neighbors have difficulty with my front planting and it is half the height of what you have. They tell me they can’t see when backing out of the driveway. I think that is really not their problem, but the fact that so much is planted and no other garden looks like that.

  10. Just beautiful, it’s too bad many folks don’t spend as much time on their front beds, or even their backyards for that matter. We don’t have a blade of grass in our urban setting, but flowerbeds that keep me busy in the back and front. I see you do have some lawn.

  11. Jason – your front garden looks fantastic! I imagine you do get a lot of attention from passers-by. I agree with what Ricki said – if it were me, I’d be lurking around until I got invited to see the rest as well. In our neighborhood, it seems true that it takes one to take the first step to exchange turf for plantings, then at least a few will follow. It is nice to see – hope it happens in your neck of the woods too, before long!

  12. Your front garden is gorgeous! I plan to do something like this at our next house. We have nice landscaping at our current house, and many native plants–especially in the back. But the front garden has too much grass. Maybe I’ll put a little money into it before we move, but it’s always a balancing act for how much we want to put into a place before we move. Good to know about ‘Gateway’ Joe Pye Weed. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not a fan of that rose/brown color of the straight species. I know the butterflies like it, though.

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