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One Room Challenge: The Front Garden Plan

by - Wednesday, May 12, 2021

It's Week 2 of the Spring 2021 One Room Challenge and things are moving along. If you missed Week 1, you can catch up here.

If you're new to Rambling Renovators, welcome! My name is Jennifer. I help people create functional and beautiful homes, I help brands create digital content strategies, and I've been writing this blog since 2007. I live with my husband and daughter in Toronto, Canada in a centre-plan, mid century colonial style house that we've infused with the fresh traditional style we love. We DIY all our renovations and have a fondness for architectural details, built-ins, and classic decor.  

As I shared last week, our One Room Challenge project is focused on our front garden. Right now, this 'garden' is little more than a few boxwoods and hostas and a pile of dirt but hopefully soon, it will be a colorful, thriving space. As a reminder here's what the front garden looks like right now.
front garden makeover

We've thought about how to address this garden over the years. We've come up with fun ideas (none of which we'll be pursuing for this project) but I thought it would be fun to share some of those plans with you. 

Plan Option: A Front Exterior Renovation

front garden plan
Sean, my architect husband, drew up this quick sketch. This plan called for a more dramatic front exterior makeover. It was focused on bringing symmetry to the front of the house and enhancing its classic details.
First, the roof line over the door would be extended to over the right front window. An addition would be added over the garage and the garage roof would be reoriented. Our front lawn slopes down to the sidewalk and this plan would call for removing the giant tree in front of our house and levelling out the lawn. A red brick retaining wall and walkway would add a sense of formality and more pleasing traditional landscaping. 

Plan Option: Colourful Plants

This plan was drawn up by Chloe last summer just before we relaid the front walkway. She was all about bringing colourful flowers to the front yard. I like her idea of repetition, with the boxwoods appearing on either side of the walkway. Puffy alliums create a row behind and a tree would anchor the area in front of the window. I think the girl is showing some design talent ;)
front garden plan
So while those creative exercises were fun, we knew we were out of our league. We have no expertise when it comes to planning a garden so we called in the professionals and had a 1.5 hour consultation with a landscape designer from Sheridan Nurseries.

Landscape Design Consultation

The landscape designer was a great help in giving us guidance on what plants would be suitable for our front garden. Our garden faces east and gets partial shade. She advised on what plants are suitable for our zone here in Toronto and informed us about a current problem with the boxwood leaf miner here in Ontario. Sadly, we do have an infestation in our existing boxwoods but I've treated the plants and hopefully they'll survive!

front garden plan

Here's the plan she devised. It was based on our plant preferences, including things like a boxwood hedge, hydrangeas, and flowers that I love like coneflowers and black eyed susans. She incorporated existing elements like the two trees (obviously) and Solomon's seal that are already in the garden.

front garden plan

Being the "extra" person that I am, I photoshopped plants and trees onto her plan to give a life-like rendering. After seeing the plan in its glory, we realized it still wasn't quite right for us. We weren't keen on the shrub-like Japanese maple, and though I loved the yellow flowers, they just didn't work in this scheme.

So taking this plan as a foundation, and researching other plants in the Sheridan Nurseries catalogue, we revised our front garden plan to this:

front garden plan

This was feeling more like "us". We're not fans of a lot of variety in a garden so stuck to just a few different plants and a cohesive colour scheme.

We introduced stonecrop (sedum), one of my favourite plants to create a low line at the front of the garden. Behind that we switched the Japanese maple for a rhododendron and repositioned the euonymus tree so it's more visible from the street. 

Large rocks that we already have in our backyard will be moved to the front and add texture. And finally, purple coneflowers scattered throughout will fill in the space nicely. My plan is to add spring bulbs this fall so that tulips or daffodils can fill out the garden before the coneflower appears later in the summer.

Winter Interest

The one question that remains outstanding is whether to add in some evergreens for year round interest. We have room at the end of the hydrangeas for a tree, if we decide to do that. But currently, our thought is that if we leave the hydrangeas through the winter and not prune until spring, plus the rocks, euonymus tree and rhodendron, the garden won't look too sparse. The dead nettle will also have a presence year round, unlike the hostas which die off and reappear in spring.
I'm learning that a garden is much like a symphony. There are high notes and low notes. There are grand crescendos that burst forth and repetitive choruses that bring order. The magic is in how you bring it all together and form a year-long melody!

The Front Garden Plan

Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I added grass and soil and pavers into my photoshop rendering. We won't be putting in the boxwood hedge this year because of the leaf miner problem, but aim to plant the rest. Here's what we'll be planting:

front garden plan, shady front garden, partial shade front garden, zone 5 garden plan

And here's hopefully what things will look like at the end of the One Room Challenge. I took the opportunity to test out a different front door colour, add some plants in the urns, and switch out the outdoor pillows as well. Can you tell I love to photoshop?

front garden plan, shady front garden, partial shade front garden, zone 5 garden plan

The plants have been ordered and with current timelines, they should be here in about two weeks. However, the soil is arriving tomorrow and we're going to get the garden ready to go. 
Follow along on my Instagram stories to see how things are progressing and don't forget to check out the One Room Challenge blog to see all of the other projects!


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