Here’s a good article on dooryard gardens from the editors at Better Homes & Gardens.
A dooryard garden, or garden in front of the house, is the perfect way to welcome guests. This entry perennial garden features easy-care plants that will look good year-round in your front entryway.
Easy-growing plant varieties are the best choice to produce a garden in front of the house because they’re a cinch to take care of and look good in all four seasons. Long-blooming perennials such as coreopsis, daylily, and pincushion flower provide color from spring through fall, as well as attractive foliage when not in bloom. Miscanthus and yew provide color and texture into the winter when the perennials are asleep under the snow. We have just the right plan and tips for the best dooryard garden on the block. Sometimes a simple plan is the best plan. In this case, a perennial garden developed by landscape designer Kristopher Dabner uses common, easy-growing plant varieties to produce an entry garden that is a cinch to take care of and that looks good in all four seasons.
Fix Bad Soil
Before you begin placing your front door plants, check your soil for a good, crumbly texture (like chocolate cake). If you squeeze a little in your hand, it should stick together somewhat but still crumble apart. Use the guidelines below to improve your soil quality for your entrance plants.
Clay soil can be hard to work with, but never say never. Add as much organic matter—compost, composted manure, peat moss, or humus—as you want. Do not add sand alone to clay soils, or you risk creating a concrete-like substance. Mix sand with peat moss or compost first and then thoroughly mix into soil. Add organic matter to your garden in front of the house annually. You can even create your own compost for your clay soil.
Sandy or high-silt soil
Unlike clay soil, sandy and high-silt soil do not store nutrients well—it’s mainly made up of rocks. Blend topsoil with compost or peat moss and add to soil into your entryway garden. Adding compost to this soil can also help natural nutrients reach your front door plants.
Plants like clematis, poppy, morning glory, and Boston ivy love alkaline soil. If you want to plant other acidic front door plants instead, mix peat moss or oak leaf mold into planting beds to gently lower the pH; or mix soil sulfur into the ground for a faster effect. Some plants, such as rhododendrons, camellias, and blueberries, need acidic soil to thrive.
The Garden Plan
Although designed for Zone 5, most of the plants here will thrive throughout most of the United States. For best results, plant in full sun; most of the front door plants will also perform well in partial shade. To ensure good results in your area, purchase entrance plants from local garden centers, substituting similar plants for those varieties not well-suited to your Zone.
The main portion of the entryway garden plan measures approximately 28 feet across by 20 feet deep, but the dooryard garden could easily be expanded or reduced by altering the number of each type of plant.
- A. ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood
- B. Dwarf Alberta spruce
- C. ‘Crimson Pygmy’ barberry
- D. ‘Hicks’ yew
- E. Korean lilac
- F. ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia
- G. ‘Golden Fleece’ goldenrod
- H. ‘Becky’ Shasta daisy
- I. ‘Butterfly Blue’ pincushion flower
- J. Butterfly bush
- K. Coreopsis
- L. ‘Little Spire’ Russian sage
- M. Stoke’s aster
- N. ‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed Susan
- O. ‘May Night’ salvia
- P. ‘Happy Returns’ daylily
- Q. ‘Blue River II’ hibiscus
- R. ‘Purple Smoke’ baptisia
- S. ‘Gracillimus’ maidengrass
- T. Assorted annuals
More Garden Tips
For an easy-care garden, select front door plants that don’t demand daily attention. In this dooryard garden, we chose shrubs with fantastic foliage that don’t require heavy pruning, such as coreopsis and butterfly bush. Annual trimming keeps the boxwoods tidy; twice-yearly snipping holds the yews in check. Shape up the lilac stems that are flanking in the entryway garden annually; it’s best to do this right after bloom. Perennials need to be deadheaded as flowers fade; in fall or early spring, cut old growth back to a few inches from the ground.
Stage the Seasons
Need some tips for planting your favorite bulbs? Start off by planting bulbs in the autumn for spring blooms. Create seasonal flair by choosing bulbs in shades of blue, pink, and white; then changing the color scheme of your yard with bold red, yellow, and orange flowers in summer. Some of our favorite bulbs include anemone, colchicum, hyacinth, and, of course, tulips for a colorful garden scheme.
Use evergreens and garden structures for your yard to maintain visual interest through winter. They’re particularly effective in landscapes that experience snowy winters. In a dooryard garden, place a bench, water feature, or miniature trellis within your front door plants for more visual interest.
Plan your dooryard garden makeover in phases; do one bed, then another in the following season or year to reduce costs. We suggest making a plants shopping list and sticking to it. Buy plants fresh in stock for the best quality that will last.
Whether you’re staging an entry area or a secluded backyard getaway, your dooryard garden needs a focus—something that’s eye-catching and draws guests into your escape. Keep durability and maintenance in mind when selecting objects. Stone is the longest-lasting choice; iron lasts but can rust if not treated. Painted objects will fade and eventually peel, and terra-cotta can crack and crumble if exposed to wintry conditions.
Containers, sculptural elements, furnishings such as a bench or chair, water gardens, and petal-packed flowers can all play the role of garden star. Select your favorite element and make it the point of your patch. Even make fun fabric-covered stepping stones for a beautiful garden path.