You wouldn’t believe how crappy my little 900 square foot front yard looked through my first 9 years here and at least that many utterly forgettable design attempts.  Small spaces are hard!  Then I hired landscape architect Holt Jordan and for only $250 (in 1994) I got this lovely plan (below), which I dutifully implemented.  What you see is the view from the street, with the sidewalk along the bottom.  Highlights:

  • Removing the hideous cement walkway up to and along the front of the house and replacing it with red brick pavers to match the front porch, and a new planting area.
  • What had been a busy, distracting lawn shape is now this simple oval that regularly gets compliments.  That’s right; a geometric form is the highlight of the garden.
  • Replacing the black-and-white metal awning over the porch (what I call the house’s ’50s-style  tackification) with a wooden one that complements the Sears bungalow (1925, the Conway.)
  • A custom-built teak arch over the entrance to this now-enchanting space.
  • The plants?  The reason this very talented guy charged so little for the plan is that the plants you see here are mere filler, colorful blobs, and all plant choices were left to me.  I did follow his suggestion to plant the large purple tree on the right – a flowering plum – and the three cherry trees along the street.  The big stuff.
Susan Harris with landscape architect Holt Jordan

Holt Jordan and I in my back yard.

That’s my mantra.  Because so many properties have some really awful hardscape elements like concrete, metal awnings and chain-link fencing that need to be dealt with, dammit, or the garden is NEVER going to look good, no matter what we do with the plants.  And we don’t admit it because fixing these problems costs more than buying plants, and we don’t know what we’re doing.  AND because sometimes it takes a professional to give the lawn and borders the simple but perfect shape that allows the plants to look their best.  And lots more reasons where they came from.

So sure, this make-over made a dent in my checking account – about $4,000 in labor and materials* – but it doesn’t take a realtor to know it enhanced the property value by more than that.  And more importantly, it gave me the beautiful front garden that I’d failed miserably to create on my own.  Then there was an unexpected result – it was this very make-over that transformed me from a maintenance gardener to a passionate gardener.  You know what I’m talking about here – the conversion event after which there’s no turning back.

Oh, and to catch you up on Holt and me, the next year I hired him for a one-hour consultation for the whole property.  And then 3 years ago my new next-door neighbors hired him and he created this.

*Information gleaned from my good-enough gardening records.  $4000 covered plan, construction and plants, but not the new porch roof.  Since then, the dirty-white asbestos siding has been replaced with no-care vinyl siding in Colonial blue.