Gardening guru Linda Vater loves challenging renovation projects, so when her neighbor’s house across the street received new homeowners, together they dreamed up an exciting new vision to transform the property’s overgrown landscaping. Southern Living Plant Collection donated plants and worked with Linda and horticulturist Kim Toscano to plan and execute the entire project from start to finish.
Making the Plan: Setting Goals
For this project, Linda and Kim worked with the homeowners to outline goals for the new garden. The area being renovated spanned the entire front yard, from the homeowner’s driveway to the neighbor’s mixed border. The stately two-story home in Linda’s historic neighborhood had a strong, symmetrical line in place, but its large flowerbeds had been overtaken by cattails and it lacked a fresh, verdant design.
When identifying goals for the planting, the team considered aesthetic characteristics, functional aspects, and long-term maintenance. A good design is grounded in its surroundings, responding to man-made and natural elements.
The following design goals guided project development:
- Compliment the home’s formal architecture.
- Enhance the entryway and frame the house.
- Provide year-long interest.
- Incorporate seasonal blooms and accents.
- Implement a low-maintenance design for a busy family.
- Enhance curb appeal.
Know Where You Grow: Understanding Your Space
The specific conditions of a planting site or landscape can significantly impact design decisions. Environmental characteristics, including sun, wind, and drainage, affect how plants grow and thrive. Topography plays a role in shaping and arranging garden beds.
Through their assessment of the planting site, Linda and Kim identified design challenges and opportunities for this garden renovation. The north-facing garden is heavily shaded, impacting plant selection while offering protection from Oklahoma’s intense summer sun. The existing beds have a well-defined brick edge that complements the formal design. Kim and Linda decided to keep the existing bed lines and brickwork in the final design. Views to the street and driveway were also left open as the homeowners wished to maintain these views for safety and curb appeal.
While getting to know site conditions, Linda and Kim added several more goals to the project:
- Add height to better connect the landscape with the tall, two-story home.
- Plant evergreens along the porch to hide the foundation.
- Complement the existing brick border with a boxwood hedge.
- Use shade-loving flowering shrubs and colorful foliage for color rather than annual flowers.
Selecting the Perfect Design Style: Symmetry, Formality, and Balance in the Garden
For this project, the architecture of the house and existing brickwork called for a formal aesthetic, while the tall trees and historic neighborhood carried a more relaxed ambiance. Drawing inspiration from English and French formal gardens and adding a heavy dose of Southern sentimentality, Linda and Kim dubbed the project’s style: “Formal Style Meets Southern Charm.”
Elements borrowed from the formal tradition included an emphasis on balance and proportion and evergreen borders. Meanwhile, dreamy drifts of hydrangeas and azaleas echoed the botanical romance of a Southern garden. Both design styles emphasize symmetry and geometric forms, complementing the home’s classic architecture.
Formal gardens have an orderly feel, often featuring these hallmarks:
- Symmetry in landscaping and hardscaping.
- Strong geometrical forms emphasizing right angles and rectangles.
- Carefully clipped hedges, stately lawns, and level planting beds
- A limited plant palette to create calm consistency, with repeated design elements playing up the garden’s geometry and tidy organization.
Elements of formal design can be infused into more casual gardens to lend balance and neatness to the space’s composition. Try using structural components to organize space and direct movement. For a less formal look, use curves and sweeps instead of hard angles and straightaways, and play with symmetry: An asymmetrical design generally feels more relaxed.
Love the look? Try it at home!
If you love the gorgeous “Formal Style Meets Southern Charm” aesthetic of this stately landscape, why not try it in your space? Below, we’ve included the landscape plan and the plant list you need to get started! With a little creativity, a spark of inspiration, and some gorgeous Southern Living Plants, you’ll be on your way to your own front yard transformation!