Landscape ideas for a small front yard

Updated July 20, 2017

An appealing front yard welcomes guests to the front door and looks attractive from the street. Maintaining a welcoming yet uncluttered feeling in a small front yard seems like a challenge, but it takes only a few design techniques along with proper selection of plants to perk up your yard and turn a small space into an airy, diverse garden.

Path to the Front Door

A key feature of the front yard is the path that leads to the front door. A walkway that's at least 4 feet wide allows two people to stroll side by side. A path lined with vegetation is attractive, and one that curves around a bird bath, a tree or even a garden gnome gives a sense of flow. Any design, however, should have meaning, especially in a small yard, and sometimes a straight path works best. The front door is a great focal point in a small yard; enhance the space with a nearby cluster of bright containers and cheerful flowers.

Designs for Small Spaces

A few design tricks make small yards look bigger. In an article published in "Fine Gardening" magazine, landscape designer and author Rosalind Reed shares a few tips. For example, make use of the entire yard by extending the garden to the curb. Dividing a small yard into diverse areas, such as a water feature, elevated plantings, and a segmented patio area for eating and relaxing, adds depth to the space. Also, positioning parts of the garden at a 45-degree angle to the house counterbalances the size of the house in a small yard.

Garden Design and House Style

A garden style that matches the architecture of the house creates unity and is an effective landscape design for yards of all sizes. In her "Fine Gardening" article titled "Front-Yard Gardens Make a Strong First Impression," garden designer Jeni Webber writes about designing yards for a variety of house styles. For example, to complement a cottage, Webber added a low picket fence to allow for neighbourly conversations, as well as an arbor, a birdbath and an herb garden. Webber suggests extending elements of the house, such as brick or stone, to the garden walkway and mailbox, as well as to other hardscaping elements of the yard.

Plant Selection

Take care when selecting plants for a small front yard. For example, installing a tree that grows too large will cause problems down the road. Before planting, understand the height, spread and cultural requirements of the tree. From a design standpoint, improper selection and placement of trees and shrubs blocks the front door and walkway and clutters a small space. Karen Ellersieck of the University of Missouri Extension recommends selecting plants with at least 2 seasons of interest, such as bright fall foliage, intriguing bark, or cheerful spring or summer blooms. A balance of deciduous and evergreen plants also creates visual interest in the yard.

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About the Author

First published in 2001, Marie Lenahan writes about horticulture, food and green living. Her work has appeared in gardening magazines and academic journals. Lenahan holds a Ph.D. in horticultural science.