After overhauling our front yard for months, it is finally planted!
Landscaping the front yard was never on our 2018 to-do list. But summer rolled around and our front lawn started to look really, really bad. We booked a landscape consultation to get some ideas on how to rejuvenate the front yard, which led to the decision to replace 600-sqft of tuft with a perennial garden. Once we had the idea, we just couldn’t shake it off and had to put it in action right away.
Following professional advice, we removed the turf of the northwest corner of our front yard and amended the soil. We also built a retaining wall and a dry creek to help to keep the topsoil and precious water in our yard. We are new to landscaping and needless to say, there was a lot uncertainty and self-doubt. Did we add enough compost? What about PH? Is the retaining wall tall enough? What curvature should the dry creek have? Which color of mulch looks the best? And most importantly, what plants should we get for the front yard?
The last question probably took the longest time to research. We wanted flowering perennials that look good but low-maintenance, pollinator friendly and diverse, strong yet xeriscape, and we want as many native and edible plants as possible. There is a high bar to meet.
Fortunately, Colorado has a long tradition of urban permaculture and lots of helpful resources. We have been attending water-wise seminars and visiting garden centers/exhibitions full of native plants. The “bee heaven” garden-in-a-box kit we have been growing since Spring boosted our confidence. And the free (!) landscaping consultation we received from Resource Central provided a long list of plants we could choose from in order to assemble a successful high country garden.
Most of the plants arrived last Saturday and we got busy at planting.
In total we packed 64 perennials into this 600 sqft space, including evergreens, large flowering shrubs, berry-bearing shrubs, grasses, flowering perennials, ground covers, and irises.
Six evergreens (North Pole Arborvitae) functions as windbreakers along the north edge of the front yard. They should grow into a 10~15 feet tall privacy hedge between our yard and our neighbor’s driveway.
In addition to the arborvitaes, we planted a dwarf mugo pine in the middle of the landscaping. I love the color and the low mount growing habit of this pine. Colorado has long winters and most of the trees in our yard are deciduous. We could always use more evergreens for winter interest.
Speaking of winter interest, I want more color on top of evergreens. So we chose to plant 4 Berry Poppins (one being male). The three female shrubs should bear bright red berries next winter once they put on more growth, which not only look great against snow, but also provide food for hungry birds in winter.
Another fruit-bearing shrub we planted here is a western native Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry. This shrub produces edible berries in summer which are delicious. It also has a mahogany-red foliage in the fall.
To create a mixed and soft-looking hedge, we planted a mock orange tree called “Snow White Sensation” at the northwest corner of our yard. It should grow to be 6’~8′ tall and mask the street light pole behind. It will carry some height to the corner, provide some shade and privacy, without being too tall while being right next the sidewalk. It also has a softer look compared to the arborvitaes – it has multi-stems that arch gracefully and will bloom white flowers in Spring and early summer.
Mock orange, at the lower left corner:
Little dog sign hopefully prohibits neighbor’s dogs to poop in our yard…
I used 14 irises (white and purple) to align the dry creek, and ground covers along the retaining wall.
On the slope, in between the house and the street, we planted xeriscape perennial grasses and flowers. These plants came from another garden-in-a-box kit called “Cool Connection” from Resource Central, which has a color palette of pink, white, purple, and burgundy which I adore. I am really happy with the quality of the plants from our last garden-in-a-box purchase, and I think the selection of native, drought-resistant plants really sets the garden for success. All the perennials included are either native to Colorado or have been shown to do well with little water in our weather.
This is how the garden-in-a-box plants supposed to look like on their third year – with our experience with the Spring garden, I expect most of the plants to reach their mature sizes in their second summer!
Before we put down mulch, Slav and I put in drip irrigation for the entire garden bed. We divided the whole planting bed into two zones according to the water need – one for the arborvitaes, and the other one for all the other perennials.
We then put down 4″ of wood chips to cover every inch of the bare soil. (We get our mulch for free from our city park service), then top dressed the planting bed with additional 1″ of black mulch. Slav and I both love the look of green plants again black mulch. However, we want to use as little dye as possible, even though it is advertised as a natural, non-toxic high quality dye . So top dressing is the best solution for us.
With >4″ of mulch, we only need to water once a week to keep the soil damp and cool. Mulch also allows everything in this flower bed to naturalize and spread. We only used landscape fabric under the arborvitaes and at the bottom of the dry creek, since we do not want anything (else) to grow there.
Here is our finished flower bed. 🙂
Cherry on top, I made a fall wreath for the front door and Slav replaced the rusty and old hose hanger with a brand new Eley hose reel.
Remember the sad before?
And this is the happy “after” after we replace the 600-sqft of tired grass and weeds…
We. Love. It! We will be keeping an close eye on all the tiny plants and baby them over their first winter. I think it might be time for another video walkthrough of the yard, don’t you think?
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