1. 7. A major problem with many foundation plantings is that they are overgrown to the point of obstructing the windows of the house and crowding adjoining entry walks. Also, the entry is apt to be directly exposed to such climatic elements as hot summer sun, cold winter wind, or precipitation. stand on it while the storm or screen door is being opened without getting hit in the face or stepping away from the stoop (Figure 1-9). And the walk’s pavement material often lacks a distinct character or appeal. It is simply a rather dull environment to walk through to get to the front door. This may be acceptable in good weather but can be an inconvenience in wet weather or during the winter when snow is piled along the edges of the driveway. This extensive area of asphalt or concrete is generally not very appealing to the eye. In these conditions, there is little privacy in the backyard. Regardless of the size of the site, the house is usually placed near the middle of the site, thus creating front yards and backyards of similar sizes and narrow side yards. A garage door that directly faces the street and takes up a large portion of the front of the house becomes a significant visual feature of the front yard. 6. Front Lawn Lacks Edges. 4. Overgrown Foundation Planting. On many residential sites, the house is placed near the middle of the lot in a manner that creates an open front lawn. Let us turn to a more critical analysis of the three major areas of the residential site: (1) front yard (often referred to as the public space), (2) backyard (commonly referred to as the private space), and (3) side yards (usually not thought of as space at all). Figure 1-14
Sometimes foundation planting cannot be seen from inside the house unless a person is standing at the window. By comparison, the front door often seems insignificant and secondary. True, there are regional variations in use of materials (especially plant materials), construction techniques, and attitudes toward the use and style of the residential site. This quality is frequently compounded when the front lawn of one site blends into the neighboring front lawn with no separation or division between the two (Figure 1-2). The backyard is the most varied area of the typical residential site. In arid areas of the country, the lawn
The typical residential site. The front yard is most often thought of as a public setting for the house. Entry Walk too Narrow. 5. Prominence of Garage Door. Figure 1-8
An open lawn and a dull foundation planting provide little visual interest from the entry walk. Figure 1-2
Many front yards lack defined edges. In these situations, the backyard is apt to be the most private area on the site. In such cases, there is nothing to acknowledge or call attention to the location of the entry walk. The residents of the house along with their relatives, friends, and other visitors use this public space as an introduction to the site. For a first-time visitor, not knowing exactly where the front door is can be an uncomfortable and confusing feeling. What is usually seen (Figure 1—1) is a one- or two-story house surrounded by an expanse of lawn and various plantings. Entry Foyer too Small. The side yards are normally narrow leftover spaces with little use except to provide access between the front and back of the house. There are few places in most front yards to sit, have a cup of coffee, talk with a friend, or read a book. One reaction some homeowners have to this is to permanently close the window shades to block the view of the back of the shrubs just outside. Scattered Plants in Lawn. Entry Walk Lacks Visual Interest. 3. Much attention is given to arranging plant materials along the base of the house and in the yard to establish “curb appeal.” That is, the front yard and house are attractive to look at from the street. Foundation planting has been used in the United States since the late 1800s to hide high foundation walls that resulted from houses constructed several feet above the ground to provide basements for gravity-air furnaces. This visual treatment of plant materials is characteristic of historic Italian and French gardens, where plants were sheared and clipped into formal shapes to reflect the strong formal character of the gardens and the architecture. Figure 1-12
Typical "foundation planting."
Foundation plants are often trimmed into precise geometric shapes resembling footballs, baseballs, etc. area may be replaced with gravel or decomposed granite. Figure 1-16
Plants are often located randomly in front yards in a manner that fills the entire yard. for year-round green color, are often manicured to establish such geometric forms as cubes, pyramids, and spheres (or, if you like, footballs, pop cans, ice cream cones, boxes, and so on; Figure 1—13). Another problem of foundation planting is that it is seen more by passersby on the street than by the homeowners. The front yard is also a public area where the main arrival and entry to the house are usually located. It is often so small that no one can
Shrubs lining a driveway overaccentuate the view to the garage. Hidden Front Door. On most residential sites, the backyard is a more utilitarian area than the front yard and is the location of the outdoor terrace, work space, garden, and open lawn for recreation. When a driveway is lined with shrubs, the garage door is accentuated even more because a noticeable axis is formed that leads the eye toward the garage door (Figure 1-5). The conditions cited in the following paragraphs are summaries of observations of single-family residential sites in the United States. All of these factors make it uncomfortable for a visitor to stand for very long outside the front door. Many front yards are bland, unexciting, and similar to the others in the neighborhood. This most often results from overgrown plant materials screening out the view of the front door (Figure 1-11). 9. It is usually the location for outdoor living activities. With cars parked in the driveway, there is often little or no room for people to walk except along the narrow edge or on the lawn (Figure 1-4). The use of plants in the front yard is frequently limited to foundation planting—the practice of lining the foundation of a house with a row of shrubs (Figure 1-12). Finally, a narrow walk extends from the driveway and/or street to the front door of the house. 2. An opposite problem of some outside arrival and entry areas is that the front door is hidden from view. Foundation planting cannot be seen from within the house unless a person is standing at the window (Figure 1—14). Although this generalized description of the typical residential site does not apply to every site, it does summarize common characteristics of residential sites throughout the United States. Entry Walk Hidden from View. As a person proceeds along the entry walk, there is very little visual interest. 13. In newer neighborhoods, especially in the eastern and midwestern regions of the country, the backyard is often very open, with little or no definition of where one property ends and another begins. This dimension is narrow and forces people to walk in single-file fashion (Figure 1-6). The walk leading from the driveway to the front door is often about 3 feet wide. Still, many similarities prevail in terms of size, function, organization, and general appearance of residential sites. Foundation Planting. A concrete pad or stoop located at the front door serves as the outdoor foyer or arrival area. Figure 1-3
The driveway is a dominant visual element of many front yards. One overall characteristic of many front yards is that they lack a memorable image or style. 8. A lawn, often manicured to create a lush green carpet, occupies most of this area with a driveway situated along one side of the site.