Guest Editorials

‘Stop the car!’ Fall is time for planting

by Dean Anesi
The Urban Garden Co.

After a record breaking heat wave this summer, it’s time to start planting again. Fall is the time of year when we push the proverbial restart button and design our garden failures into success stories for next spring. Success and failure in a garden are relative terms, but two of the most frequent complaints that we hear from our clients are:

  • The front of my home looks weedy.
  • My home doesn’t have curb appeal.

If you can relate to these problems, don’t despair. Landscapes are always a work in progress and can be improved with thoughtful editing.

When selecting new plant materials, treat perennials and smaller shrubs like they are tenants and you are the landlord. These organic tenants are only paying rent when they are beautiful, and otherwise they are freeloaders. Most freeloaders should not be allowed to live in the prime real estate of our front entry gardens; they should be subjugated to less visible areas. Some plants that only pay rent for a short time are garden must-haves and can still be placed in the front, but in less prominent locations such as behind a tree, bush or rock, so that they are not impacting the look of the landscape when they go dormant. These plants include bleeding hearts, peonies, poppies and other beautiful perennials that have a short bloom time.

If your garden looks weedy but there are few actual weeds, you are a candidate for editing. A weedy look is often the result of using too many plants with similar characteristics, such as height, leaf color, leaf shape and growth habit (shape). The front landscape should have dynamic colors, textures and sizes that fit the scale and architecture of your home. Keep the best tenants and replace the others, possibly by moving them to a new, less prominent home. For instance, if there are two small, spherical bushes, plant a larger scale plant behind them, using a variety that has a contrasting growth habit, size and leaf shape. Then add another layer by planting a smaller perennial in front of the shrubs, something which has all-season interest and contrasts with the existing shrubs and the new larger shrub. Add a low-growing ground cover in front of this whole grouping, and by mixing these elements you will create an allure.

If your house is missing curb appeal, remember that the human eye is drawn to color. Paint your front door with a strong color that suits your esthetic and complements your home. Don’t use a color that matches the shutters or trim, as that will draw the eye away from the front door. Plant large groups of the same variety of plant, so that each block of color and texture is legible from the street. Avoid planting a collection garden with a lot of different plants and colors, which creates a look of chaos and indecisiveness. Mixed colors look like confetti, and nobody says confetti is their favorite color.

Editing a garden doesn’t mean reducing the overall number of plants. The trick is to limit our plant palette, reducing the number of varieties and restricting our choices to plants that are good tenants. Plant in large blocks that are visible from the street and draw the viewer’s eye to the front door. We don’t want someone to drive by your landscape and say “That’s nice.” Nice is a four letter word. We want them to scream “Stop the car!” Follow these suggestions and you can have a garden that stops traffic.

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