The strategy: Create an entry path whose shape complements the house, as landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck did for the front yard of Patricia and Wellington Reiter's Phoenix, Arizona home.
The walkway now leads straight to the front door, and, along the way, intersects a new central courtyard. The three low walls that define this mini patio–a fourth is a pre-existing block planter–provide ample seating for gatherings.
Four thornless 'Phoenix' mesquite trees will eventually form canopies large enough to shade most of the yard. And clumps of deer grass add beauty and motion where the green lawn used to grow.
Design: Christy Ten Eyck, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Phoenix (602/468-0505)
Streamline a front yard in 4 steps
1. Break out the shovels: Sinking the major planted areas of the garden by 6 inches captures rainfall. It also solves a problem for this backward-sloping front yard–the house flooded regularly during rains.
Save money: Removing soil is nearly always cheaper than installing plumbing to divert runoff, and rainwater irrigates plants for free.
2. Widen the walk: To create sense of arrival, break it up near the front door into large squares with bands of river rock or gravel in between.
Save money: Choose common and relatively inexpensive paving materials such as concrete and black river rock instead of stone.
3. Plant for impact: Select just a few kinds of plants–deer grass in the former lawn area, Pedilanthus in a raised planters, and Euphorbia along one wall–then set them out en masse.
Save money: Allow plenty of space between ornamental grasses so their grid pattern will remain visible even as they mature. That way, you won't have to buy many plants.
4. Choose shapely trees: Just two trees, one on either side of the courtyard entry path, can soften and shade the yard. Those with open, airy canopies–like mesquite and palo verde–create dappled shade.
Save money: These natural shade makers cost a lot less than permanent manmade structures.
More: Inspiring garden paths