These St. Simons Island Homeowners Focused on Their Front Yard for the Best Reason

To preserve an old live oak, homeowner Stephanie Dixon reimagined traditional outdoor living spaces for her Georgia home.

There was no doubt the tree would come first and the house would come second," says owner Stephanie Dixon, referring to the mighty Spanish moss-draped live oak in her St. Simons Island, Georgia, front yard. "It was the only thing left after the space was cleared. Saving this tree was worth giving up half a front porch. I saw this small lot as a blank canvas for building a house and gardens to fit into every available square foot." The new construction left only a tiny slice of backyard, so the outdoor living areas she envisioned would have to work in the front of the home.

St Simons front yard with patio and old live oak tree
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

"The fence and planting areas around the patio created the perfect place for entertaining," says Dixon. Her creativity resulted in a coastal cottage bursting with charm. Read on to see how this Golden Isles oasis came to life.

Garden bench surrounded by bird houses and ferns
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Keep Beds Pretty Neat

An infallible way to make the front yard attractive? A white picket fence. This classic touch plays up character while providing privacy for the outdoor living area. Plants are key too. "I prefer to grow evergreens I can cut to use in floral arrangements and tablescapes," Dixon says. She filled the beds in front of the fence with floppy holly ferns—which she says are "easy maintenance, don't spread, and won't grow too tall." She planted begonias for summer color and shade-tolerant ground covers such as pachysandras, ajugas, and inch plants (Tradescantia zebrina). Two pots of SunPatiens impatiens mark the entry to the patio. "A neat and clean yard is nice to look at, but adding flowers stirs pleasant emotions in people," she says.

Find Hidden Potential

"I love shade gardens and could see this area as a great spot for one," Dixon says of the narrow space on the side of the home. She attached free-flowing fatshedera to the fence with self-fastening strips screwed into the wood. Dixon brought it to life by hanging artwork, birdhouses, and planters. Along with fatshedera, she planted Dragon Wing begonias as well as elephant's ears behind the potting shed. In raised beds along the bottom of the fence grow inch plants, ivy, ferns, and leopard plants. "It's a private space for me to enjoy being in the moment," she says.

Window boxes with caladiums, torenias, begonias, potato vines, inch plants, impatiens, creeping Jenny, and trailing vincas
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

Warm Up Your Windows

Dixon's husband, Ben, built the white containers hanging beneath the sunroom windows. She picked caladiums, torenias, begonias, potato vines, inch plants, impatiens, creeping Jenny, and trailing vincas for the planters. "I like for my home to show how loved it is, and I want everything to feel welcoming and happy. Window boxes and containers filled with color are easy ways to achieve an inviting look when you don't have the time or energy to plant other things," she says.

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