David Morello hasn't been led away in cuffs by the neighborhood lawn police, but it’s only a matter of time. Flouting the holiest convention of accepted suburban landscape design, he ripped out the grass in front of his Houston bungalow and filled the 40- by 60-foot space with waves of flowers and shrubs. If you’ve ever thought about converting your front lawn into a garden but aren’t quite ready to go in whole hog, he offers these tips for moving ahead one step at a time.
Start with Structure Lots of different flowers in a small area can look chaotic. Border them with evergreens and paths to define planting beds and keep things organized. Boxwoods, dwarf yaupons, and clipped ivy do the job here. “Evergreens make display beds that change from season to season more manageable,” he explains. “They also add another layer of interest. The nooks and crannies they create can be the best spaces in a garden.”
This little garden has three. A circular landing in the front walk near the street provides a great overall view. (He covered the old concrete walk with stone.) Adirondack chairs on the west side enjoy the shade of a Southern magnolia. Opposite them on the east side rests a bench ideal for sitting and watching the sunset. The east-west orientation “stretches” the garden and makes it feel larger.
Morello covered the original concrete walkway with local stone.
Morello used a dark gray, sharp-edged gravel for his driveway and garden paths. The gravel reduces glare, never commands attention, and allows rain to penetrate and water his plants. It also crunches underfoot, “so no one can sneak up on me,” he says. Many kinds of gravel are available, but don’t use rounded pea gravel. It won’t compact and will get kicked out all over the garden.
Every change out of flowers brings a new color medley. The spring scheme shown here depends largely on four colors—yellow, white, silver, and blue. A good mix for three colors, says Morello, is magenta, lavender, and chartreuse. “An easy way to combine two colors is by using the color wheel,” he adds. (Google it.) “Just pick colors that are opposite each other on the wheel, like orange and blue.” Why? Opposite colors intensify each other. “My summer color scheme is usually the polar opposite of spring’s to keep things interesting,” says Morello.
Flowers include blue salvia, yellow bush daisy, bluebonnets, and white candytuft.
To bridge gaps in color from perennials, Morello plants cool-weather flowers such as pansies, violas, and snapdragons in early fall. When they begin fading as the weather warms up in spring, he replaces them with heat-loving stalwarts such as zinnias, lantanas, and salvias for blooms all summer. Remember, it’s really important to get them well established before the weather turns hot.
Pink snapdragons and blue pansies make a great combination of colors and forms.