Creating Some Curb Appeal

Christmas has come early this year, and Santa delivered the goods on a flatbed.

Our local garden center is close to giving away inventory as it switches to a new computer system, so last week we picked out four Centennial Girl hollies and three Green Velvet boxwoods. Hours before the truck came, we upped the order to a fifth holly.

Our plan for the front yard continues to evolve to some degree, but we’ve been set on a few basic elements. In the spring we’ll be demoing the concrete walk and installing pavers of some type in a wide curve that broadens at the end as it flows to the driveway. The front yard is massive and has next to no design element, so we’re focusing on creating a massive semi-circle bed against the front of the house. Although those plantings are largely dependent on the walk coming up, cutting down the holly this spring freed up a small area for planting now, and fall is my favorite time to plan since it gives roots a season to get established without need for frequent watering. Well, with boxwoods being sold for a song, even Chris couldn’t resist the urge to get his hands dirty.

We finally settled on the Green Velvet – which the tag assured us would keep a mounding shape at a top height of about 3 feet someday – because I liked the softer feel of its leaves compared to other boxwoods and Chris liked the smell. He assures me this is a crucial factor in his love of boxwoods (the great debate over whether boxwoods do in fact have a fragrance is an entirely different post).  My vision is to have a background of tidy boxwoods against the house foundation, with a front border of low-trimmed dwarf boxwoods, leaving an inner explosion of more naturally shaped color. I’m leaving a Drift Rose on either side of the walkway, but am researching my options for inserting additional color into this boxwood frame.

My first consideration was a burgundy barberry, but I’ve found the only non-invasive options in my state will reach closer to 5 feet and up, and I’m really shooting for low maintenance in the pruning department. I’m now looking at Midnight Wine weigela, which is a low grower with some brilliant purple foliage.

Then of course there are the five hollies. We selected Centennial Girl because it should reach around 8 feet high and 3-4 feet wide, retaining a compact pyramidal shape. Chris has been scared off by the massive Nellie Stevens and gangly American Hollies growing all over the property, so I’ve been researching comparatively low growers that would still screen the backyard.

The goal for me was to create a screen between the street and backyard, and these hollies certainly achieve that. But a new element snuck into our design plans after Halloween. That’s our annual “drag the fire pit out to the front” and “why don’t we do this more often” event. We’ve been trying to agree on a location for an in-ground fire pit for years, but when Chris suggested a small patio and fire pit in the front, everything clicked. We shared a vision of the neighbors joining us for hot chocolate, or watching the kids on their bikes in the cul-de-sac as we snuggle by the fire. Not to mention it expands the hardscaping, thereby lowering plant maintenance and further integrating the walkway paver elements into the entire yard. Today’s challenge then is positioning the hollies for a patio we can’t yet afford but are determined to install someday.


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