Ideas for front yard plantings - Knowledgebase Question

Blairsville, IN (Zone 6A)
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Question by danielle_g
April 14, 2005
I need ideas for plantings in my front yard. We have a large front yard that slopes considerably away from our home. At the road front we have a fairly steep bank that has grass currently growing in it. There is no transition from the road to our home, and our home is rather tall, and it just looks very bare. We would love to do something at the top of the bank, but don't know where to start. We live in southern Indiana.

Answer from NGA
April 14, 2005
There are so many great things you could do with this kind of situation. If you simply plant at the top of the bank, keep in mind it will make it look even steeper from the street. A steep slope can be difficult to mow and look imposing so one way to deal with it is to terrace it or add at least one change of level, this offers you an area for a wider entry walkway with some steps and a possibly a terrace or patio space, and provides a level area more conducive to planting. Depending on the style of your home you could use organic curves following the slope or you could go strictly formal and geometric. Another option would be to use a groundcover planting on the slope and tie that in with some lower shrubs near the top and several small flowering trees so that you have a transition visually from the area closest to the house and that near the street. Another way to handle it would be to add a bit of low decorative fencing and/or hedging parallel to the house to create a sense of a dooryard or entry garden. There are really just so many solutions to this kind of setting.

In any case, prior to selecting specific plants to use you need to come up with an overall idea of how you want to present the area and how you want to use it. Then work up a quick, rough sketch of the area with measurements and compass points, also including any underground or overhead utilities, noting any unusual aspects such as extra wet or extra dry spots, if it is especially windy, if there is road salt spray hitting the bank, and so on. A few photos can also be helpful. You may be able to do this on your own depending on how complex a plan you decide on. Some nurseries offer a free design service if you purchase plants there, or you might have a landscape architect or designer consult on site an hourly fee basis.

Then finally you need to think about what to plant. Once you have general categories such as evergreens here, small tree there, groundcover there, for example, you are ready to select specifics. This type of plan will help your local county extension and/or nursery staff consult with you as to what would grow well there and then you would select what you like best from there.

I realize this is complex but without a detailed understanding of the site and your design goals it is very tough to make specific recommendations -- there are so many plants that grow well in your area you have a wonderfully wide choice. I hope this helps you start your planning.

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