Boost home’s curb appeal while saving water with landscaping tips
The front yard and entrance to your home are the first impressions you give to visitors. It’s also the first thing you see when you get home from a long day. We all want our front yard to be inviting and attractive. We want it to have the pull of the curb.
And as responsible gardeners, we want our Florida landscaping to be environmentally friendly, using environmentally friendly design and maintenance techniques and principles.
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Here are some tips on how to make your home more attractive while saving water, lowering maintenance, and reducing the risk of overuse of pesticides and fertilizers:
Create a focus for the entrance
Visitors should be able to find your front door easily. Therefore, use plants that draw the eye in this direction. Use plants around the sidewalk that are low-growing, compact, maintain their shape year-round, and require minimal cutting. Avoid plants that attract stinging insects.
Don’t hide your house
If you don’t hide from the law, there is no reason for bushes and trees to obscure the front of your home, including your windows. Create privacy inside by using blinds, drapes or blinds. Keep the size of the plants proportional to the house and spaces in the yard. You want to focus on making your home inviting, and that’s difficult when it’s dwarfed or hidden by vegetation.
Plant shrubs that don’t need constant pruning to stay at the desired heights. Many bushes that you might love come in dwarf varieties that are better suited for the front of your home. For example, a dwarf variety of Loropetalum is a better choice than a tall one if you want a 3-foot hedge. Some plants are inherently low breeders, including Carissa Holly and various strains of Distylium. When choosing, always take into account the mature size of the plants.
Ground plantings do not need to contain hedges
Your home can be of a style in which the formal look of tightly cut hedges is appropriate. But many of us live in homes where a more casual style is desirable and certainly more interesting. Driving in some of the older neighborhoods vividly shows how the tastes of landscaping change over time.
Homes built in the 1950s and earlier may have hedges of large Formosa azaleas and box trees and little else, reflecting not only the prevailing tastes of the time but the lack of variety in nurseries when the landscapes were laid out .
Today our local nurseries have an incredible variety of plant materials. Take advantage of this premium and get a wide variety of plants in your basic plantings.
Plant for variety or for cohesion
Repetition is a hallmark of good landscaping. So, consider repeating plant materials for a consistent and cohesive appearance. Cohesion can also be provided using a related color palette. But also remember to generate interest by using plants of different sizes and heights, with different textures, or with particularly interesting shapes.
You can also add variety with color, but avoid annoying color contrasts between your plants. A plant with bright yellow leaves like golden euonymus right next to a purple-leaved Loropetalum may not be what you’re looking for. Also, consider the color of the exterior of your home as a backdrop for your plantings.
Provide access to your landscaping
Your landscaping should be both beautiful and functional. So incorporate paving stones and mulch areas to find paths and define your garden beds.
Workers coming into your yard may need access to electricity meters or to clean your gutters. And keep your home’s health in mind when you put plants around it. There should be at least three feet of space between the plants and the walls of your home to increase airflow, reduce water retention and rot, and keep insect pests from using plants as entrances into your home.
Composition is key
Group and arrange plants in overlapping masses based on size, shape, color and growing needs. Use “anchoring plants” that are consistent in shape and color throughout the year. Evergreens are great for this function.
Create focal points in your front yard with interesting and beautiful plants like a Taiwan cherry for dramatic spring interest or a colorful Japanese maple to brighten up the fall.
Consider the ecology of your yard
Adjust the plants to suit the type of soil you have, the moisture content of your planting areas, and the sun / shade properties of your garden. A soil test can tell you the pH of your soil and what changes may be needed for optimal plant growth.
Plant native plants whenever possible, but determining the right plants for your soil, moisture, and lighting conditions is key. There is nothing wrong with using our popular exotic azaleas and camellias if they are compatible with the conditions in your garden.
Consult with sources that focus on Florida-friendly landscaping
The suggestions in this limited space are only concerned with what makes your curb the best it can be. These three UF Florida Friendly Landscaping Program Office publications are great places to find additional information and can be viewed and downloaded from their websites:
The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection and Landscaping
The Florida-friendly pattern book for zones 8a and 8b
Susan Barnes is a volunteer master gardener with UF / IFAS Extension Leon County, an equal opportunity organization. If you have any questions about gardening, send an email to the extension office at AskAMasterGardener@ifas.ufl.edu.
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