A good landscape design focuses attention on the entrance to your home, funneling energy to your door. Your front door should be the centerpiece of your landscape, so that anyone can see it and know instantly how to reach it. The design discipline of Feng Shui actually claims that channeling energy to your home’s main entrance “brings prosperity to your door”. We have found that to be true, and so we’ve adopted that principle in our designs wherever we can.
The most important thing about your front walk is its shape. Most home builders like to make front walks in straight lines, simply because it’s easier and cheaper. For this reason, most front walks either make you walk around right-angle corners like a soldier on parade, or lead straight out toward places no one ever walks. Often the walk is too close to the house for there to be attractive landscaping along the foundation.
Creating a shapely front walk is the first step in designing landscapes with curb appeal. We like to make walks in graceful curves, mimicking the way people actually walk around buildings. Unless you believe a wife should walk behind her husband, the walk should be wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. It should be direct enough, without unnecessary wiggles and curves, for you to get to and from the front door without going out of your way. We like to flare out the beginning of the walk and make enough space at the house for a decorative bench or planters.
A gracefully curved walk creates a space for landscaping large enough to be interesting. Rather than a boring straight line of shrubs between the house and walk, you can make a “stepped” arrangement with larger shrubs at the back. This should leave space for a variety of smaller, colorful plants in front. Designers call these plants “socks and shoes”.
Poured concrete remains the cheapest form of paving for front walks. Using flexible forms instead of straight lumber allows concrete to be installed in any shape you prefer. A step up from plain concrete walks is “pressed” or textured concrete. This method is meant to imitate more exotic materials, like dry-laid pavers, slate, or natural stone. The surface of the concrete is textured using rubber molds, and the colors are painted on.
Dry-laid pavers, set on a compacted gravel base, are our favorite. Pavers have a three-dimensional texture, colored all the way through, and are more than twice as hard as poured concrete for wear and stain resistance. Pavers come in a huge variety of sizes, shapes and colors, including “blends” with subtle color shifts. They can be laid in intricate patterns like inlaid tilework, or in a simple running bond or “herringbone”.
Paving brick and cobblestone have been used for centuries to make attractive and durable walks and drives. Modern pavers, if professionally installed, have the same toughness and colorfastness. The trend in landscape design is toward larger pavers, and materials like ceramics or travertine are increasingly popular, but brick-sized squares and rectangles are the workhorses of the paver world. They are time-consuming and tedious to install, but their beauty and practicality are well worth it. If poured concrete is the T-shirt of the landscape world, dry-laid pavers are the tailored suit.
Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in outdoor living spaces. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are online at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.