Going up front with a flower bed

March 01, 1992|By Nancy Brachey | Nancy Brachey,Knight-Ridder News Service

More than once people have asked me if they dare to plant a flower garden in their front yards.

It is their only sunny spot.

Something is needed, they say, to enliven the mass of green lawn, green shrubbery and green trees.

They want it.

Any one of these three is a perfectly wonderful reason for reassigning a stretch of turf to a flower bed. Have courage. Do it.

Perhaps the main reason that gardeners are reluctant to break the mold of the lawn-tree-shrubbery front yard is that they don't see enough good examples of it. The idea that front gardens are "public" and should be more formal and less personal is deeply ingrained in the American home landscape.

Perhaps you fear a flower bed, blank in winter, would be dreary. I don't think this is true. If your front yard has some attention-grabbers in winter: elegant silhouettes of leafless crape myrtle, wonderful fragrances of winter daphne or winter honeysuckle or colorful holly berries, a dormant flower bed should not be a detraction.

A front-yard flower bed must have blooms and look good for the longest stretch possible. That means you should choose either long-blooming plants or flowers that bloom in succession.

Done correctly, this garden could be the pride of the neighborhood. But roses are a high-maintenance item, and nothing looks worse than a group of debilitated roses, plagued by disease and inattention.

Herbaceous perennials those that die down to the roots every year are another option, particularly if they are accompanied by pansies for winter bloom and bulbs for spring color. While most of these perennials bloom for weeks rather than months (as do marigolds), a carefully chosen mixed border forget-me-nots, irises, daylilies, daisies, salvia, black-eyed Susans; sunflowers, asters, chrysanthemums will keep the bed in bloom spring through late autumn.

I= Most perennials are quite easy to grow and very colorful.

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