Before getting married, Charles Morley was content with a little corn and patriotism.
“Corn is my favorite vegetable, and I wanted to watch it grow,” he explains. Charles’s reason for planting rows of corn in the front yard of his 173-year-old house in downtown Huntsville, Alabama, made sense--to a bachelor.
But a few years later, he married Susan, and she had different ideas. “I wanted flowers, so I thought it would be good to get a garden designer involved,” says Susan. So the next year, Charles suppressed his sowing instincts, and the couple invited garden designer Bill Nance over to provide the new vision.
An Informal Rhythm
Bill came up with an idea that draws a visitor’s eye toward the door and breaks up the hard lines of the front walk. He created a rhythm with plants that provide variations in color, height, and texture. “I was going for a cottagey, casual feel,” says Bill. “We had a lot of straight lines on the house to deal with, so I decided to use some vertical and arching forms and play with texture.”
The low-growing junipers out front creep into the path, softening the transition between the front walk and the sidewalk that runs along the street. Lamb’s ears are tucked next to the junipers to play off the dark green foliage. Their soft silver leaves also complement the house color.
Behind the lamb’s ears, Bill added clumps of daylilies. Their smooth yellow petals make a bold statement during the heat of summer. In winter, when the daylilies’ flowers and foliage disappear, the evergreen junipers keep things interesting. For flashes of color, he planted purple coneflowers in the middle of the beds.
This planting scheme is repeated twice on both sides of the walkway for an understated, soothing look.
To keep these plants looking their best, Susan and Charles don’t have to do much. “Our landscape really is user-friendly because we don’t want to spend all of our time worrying about finicky plants,” says Susan. In early spring, the Morleys add an inch of compost to the perennial bed and mulch with straw. When the foliage is up, they apply a slow-release fertilizer to the base of each plant. After the blooms are spent, they cut back the seedheads to the ground but leave the foliage to collect energy for the next season’s growth. After the first frost, they cut back the foliage and mulch the bed.
The Right Width
Ever wonder how wide to make a walkway? Bill’s advice is to give two people enough room to walk side by side without making it look like they’re sharing a secret (that’s about 4 feet). “And the older I get,” he says, “the wider my pathways seem to get.”
Rather than pour more concrete, Bill widened the Morleys’ walk with prefabricated concrete stepping-stones laid on both sides of the existing front walk. These add an extra 2 feet of width and create a more expansive feel. They also allowed Bill to use plants that would creep into the path, breaking up the straight lines without infringing on the walking space.
"Follow This Path" is from the June 2008 issue of Southern Living.