5 Easy Ways To Banish Boring From Your Landscape

by Ben Bowen

5 Tips To Liven Up Your Garden

I have a challenge for you. Drive down your street and count all the front yards that jump out at you (for a good reason). If you tally more than 2 or 3 you live on a pretty nice street. 

Most residential landscape designs  in Portland are boring. We use the same plants, in the same ways, and spend less than an hour a week caring for them. The results are... boring.

Is it difficult to create a yard that grabs the eyes of people? That makes them go, "Oh wow, look at what they did here"? Not really. Adding just one or two key elements to your current landscape can make a huge impact.

Here are 5 of my favorite ways to wake up a slumbering landscape:

  1. A Focal Point Plant. One plant, the right plant, could change your entire yard. A contorted pine adds a bit of the coast, or a Japanese flair. A hardy palm brings a sharp edge to a soft garden. Bamboo, perhaps a nice clumping variety like Fargesia robusta 'Campbell', has straight lines and an exotic feel. The point is to find something dynamic, that brings new elements to your current plant palette, and then plant it in a prominent place.
  2. Contour Your Lawn. If lawn dominates your front yard and you don't want to remove it, then just reshape it. The lawn you have now probably has pretty lazy curves. Get some marking paint, and start experimenting. Create interesting curves, sharper than what you have now. Cut along your painted lines and then remove the excess. This leaves you with a lawn that looks purposeful, and plant beds with great lines. You also have some new space to plant, bringing us to...
  3. Mass Plant a Border. Instead of one dynamic plant, install a grouping of smaller accent plants. This can create a swath of consistent color and texture. Your old plants now rise above a sea of grasses or perennials, giving them new perspective. Consider a grass like  Hakonechloa or a perennial like Astilbe for a truly dramatic touch.
  4. Utilize Gravel or Decomposed Granite. You don't have to convert your yard to a Japanese dry garden. But adding a simple dry element can really set your landscape apart. Consider replacing a small useless lawn with decomposed granite. This "blank space" will require little, but give your landscape design so much! You could add a small gravel path or a narrow contoured strip along the sidewalk to bring this element to your landscape design in another way. 
  5. Pruning. Is your landscape full of Japanese maples, azaleas, and rhododendrons? Welcome to the club. This selection of plants has been beaten to death here in the PNW. It may seem that you have to remove some, or all, of these plants to differentiate your front yard. Not necessarily. Having your plants skillfully pruned may be all you need. What is "skillfully pruned"? It means hand pruned, by someone who understands ornamental pruning. You can learn this yourself, or hire someone, like these guys.

Bonus Tip 1: Lighting

Bonus Tip 2: Boulders

 decomposed granite in landscape
 japanese dry garden

Front yards can be boring, but your's does not have to be. In a couple of hours or a couple days you can do just 1 thing and really change your landscape.

Summer is coming.... It's time to get started!