Don’t settle for boring flowerbeds or leave your style to a lawn gnome.Here are some common landscaping errors and how to avoid them.

Don’t settle for boring flowerbeds or leave your style to a lawn gnome. Here are some common landscaping errors and how to avoid them

I used to hate my front yard – it was boring, scruffy and needed pizzazz. I spent months trying to figure out why my yard was a dud and several more months analyzing what makes a “successful” yard. My husband and I finally redesigned our front and back yards, based on the landscaping “do’s and don’ts” that I uncovered in my quest to create our ideal garden. Our work not only increased the value of our home and pleased our neighbors, but it also gave us many hours of enjoyment.

If you want an attractive front yard that enhances your home and reflects your creativity, avoid these common landscaping errors:

• Straight walkways and planting beds. A ruler-straight walkway to your front door with planting beds running parallel to your home’s foundation is just plain boring! A curving walkway provides more visual interest and softens the boxy shape of your home and property. Planting beds with curved borders gently guide the eye around the yard and look more natural and inviting.

• No theme. Don’t plunk plants in the ground without consideration for how they will look next to each other or for the soil and lighting environment they prefer – doing so guarantees your garden a choppy look and plants that will not thrive. One of the least-attractive yards I’ve seen had tall palm trees planted next to several pine trees and a handful of rose bushes – yikes! It helps to pick a theme (i.e., Mediterranean, tropical, alpine, herbs, butterfly attracters, etc.) that suits the architecture of your home and the sun exposure of your yard. When you select plants at the nursery, place them next to each other for visually compatibility, and carefully read the space and lighting requirements on the tags.

• No color scheme. Color can be complicated – some color combinations clash, too many colors can give your yard a cluttered look and not having enough blooming color can make your yard boring. Stick to tried-and-true color schemes: To go monochromatic, select one color and its variations. For example, choose purple and blend lilac, pale purple and eggplant-colored flowers together. An analogous scheme is one in which you plant related colors, such as yellows, golds, oranges and reds. It will give your yard a harmonious feel. A complementary scheme – where you select colors opposite from each other on the color wheel, such as purple and yellow, or blue and orange – will give your yard a more dynamic look. Remember to select colors that harmonize with your home’s paint color. Choose plants so that you will have some blooming color during each season.

• Hanging on to scraggly, unhealthy or overgrown plants. Most everyone I know cannot bring himself or herself to release plants that need to be put out of their misery. Brown leaves, misshapen limbs and sparse foliage do not add beauty to your landscape. Overgrown junipers and yews planted 35 years ago can dominate your yard and give it a dated look. Remove offenders and replace with appropriate plantings.

• Plants lined up in a row. Bushes planted in military-like lineups look unnatural and rigid. Group or cluster plants with the tallest toward the rear and those of lesser height in front. Leave a little space between groupings, and plant a ground cover to unite them. Repeat combinations throughout the yard so that there is an overall cohesion. Place yard ornaments, such as birdbaths or sundials, among one or two of the groupings.

• Shrubs and trees blocking passage. Do you have to turn sideways to pass through parallel hedges on your front walk? Do you have to duck to avoid low branches on your way to your front door? Your home will look more inviting and well-maintained if you trim overgrown shrubs.

• Dangerous walkways and paths. Repair uneven sections of cement and loose bricks. You’ll make it safe for your visitors, and your yard will look well-maintained.

• A cluttered front porch. Keep your entry simple and inviting. Stash children’s toys and gardening supplies, remove spent potted plants, and make sure your welcome mat looks fresh. If you have space for furniture, use solid wood or heavy metal furnishings – keep plastic or aluminum furniture for backyard use.

• House number problems. I hate it when I can’t find a house because the numbers can’t be read from the street! Place your house numbers in one or two prominent locations. House numbers in italic type or placed in a stair-step fashion are passé. Invest in large-sized (5- to 8-inch) numbers and position them horizontally or vertically.

• No personality. A professionally designed and installed landscape can still look dull. The gardens I appreciate most have sparkle and creative touches – they express the character of the inhabitants. Display a sculpture piece or ornament, place one or two unusual plants in your yard, or arrange some antique furniture on your front porch.

• Covering vast expanses of yard with red lava or white quartz rocks. Trust me on this one. If you have this kind of material in your yard, get rid of it, and if you’re thinking of putting it in, don’t!

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