image of containers

Growing a front yard garden

You might think that a landscape architect would always have a perfect garden, but that’s not the case. As with most gardeners, mine is a work in progress. I have lived in my rented row house in Washington, DC for over a year, and I am still working on getting the front courtyard completed.

Last summer, I started by searching out the perfect containers to complement the space. Since the courtyard is entirely paved in concrete, any planting had to be done in containers. The biggest challenge was finding large enough containers in the style and color range I wanted. Proportion is key in creating a successful landscape, and it’s easy to end up with containers that are just too small for the job you want them to do. They might provide enough soil for the plants you choose, but do they have the mass and presence to create the spacial relationships required?

Once the containers were in place, the plants came next. The largest containers that ring the space are filled with iris (for color) and along the fence, holly (for evergreen presence and massing). Smaller containers are planted to provide a mix of colors, scents and textures, including daylily, jasmine and annuals.

That provided the basic skeleton, and my task for this year is to find the right small trees to accent the composition. I’m thinking Magnolia virginiana would be large enough to provide some vertical relief and anchor the corners of the courtyard. They are also evergreen and would provide some much needed shade in the summertime. A fig tree placed adjacent to the brick wall of the house would offer another layer of texture and greenery and help modulate the scorching heat of the courtyard in mid-summer.

As we continue through winter, I look forward to a quiet season of visualizing all the wonderful things next year will bring for my garden. For all my fellow gardeners, I wish you a winter of daydreaming, planning and anticipation.