Many of us reside in houses with great front entrances, nice walks, and a cozy view of the street, which means the landscaping we choose can be that much more impactful. But that’s just the area you see at first glance. Sometimes the best places to plant are the least expected ones. So look up. If you have a flat roof over your door, perhaps a bit of an overhang, here’s an idea for you: plant it.
You’ll want a flat roof that can handle a bit of weight. Then select your plants with an eye for scale and effect. A bit of formal design works best. Work your way back from the edge. You’ll want a vine for the front because its happy cascade is what will seize attention first. We chose ivy because of its hardiness and exuberant growth. You’ll need a series of deep pots for planting. Line them up so the plants are crowded together and appear to be one continuous row. Use pots as deep as you can without them being seen from below. The volume of the pot matters because you don’t want them to dry out too often. You’re going to have to water, which means in some cases resorting to a ladder and hose or bucket. The bigger the pot, the fewer trips with water. Make sure you have deep saucers for each pot, which will further help with moisture retention.
Behind the ivy, for definition of the area, we planted a pair of boxwoods, which provide a sort of anchor and formality. A nice pair of green foundation plantings such as these cools things off and provides a bit of depth.
Directly behind the ivy is a row of white begonias. Because the flowers along the walk are white, white was required above. Remember what I always say about uniformity and simplicity of design; it’s a big deal. Use of the same color throughout just means your design is stronger. You’re not working in a large area, so one color gives you more oomph.
And speaking of what’s below, here’s how to think about this critical area flanking the walk. Mix your planting, as in use some perennials, with numerous annuals to do most of the seasonal work. It’s the annuals that will provide you with continuous color throughout the season. We made the two planting areas wide as well, so they’re that much more of a statement. Behind that stretch of color and rhythm along the walk, you’ll see we put in some arbor vitae for height and heft. They also pull the eye up, so the planting above the door instantly registers with people walking by. We also placed the shrubs farther from the door, and not in a straight line, so as to play up the width of the overall design. This front yard is fairly shallow, so the idea of width was critical for design success.
While our plantings weren’t fussy or perfectly symmetrical, they play up the architecture of the house. And the planting on the roof above the entry meant the doorway becomes a really exciting entrance to the house. And don’t all these components seem happy? Above and below, along the walk, and in front of the house. The planting above the door frames not just your entry, but also your guests as they arrive. Use simple design principles and simple plantings to reap multiple rewards. Don’t forget to amend the soil, use time-release fertilizer, and water on a regular basis. The same rules apply for your overhead plantings, too. Keep your plants happy, and your guests will marvel at your design ingenuity. And just think: all you had to do was look up.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Chris H. Olsen