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Home & Garden: New front yard has many uses

Mark and Jocelyn Sloan’s 2013 front-yard vegetable garden. They garden in the front because that is where it is sunny, although there are more vegetables in the back. Mary Jane Breitling

The conventional view of front yards is that they are regarded as public areas. The landscaping consists mainly of a large swath of manicured grass and a collection of shrubs planted along the foundation of the house. Times have changed, and many front yards, especially in new developments, have imaginative designs.

Some homeowners choose to take back the front yard for various reasons.

Perhaps the backyard is too shady but the front has sun. The back may be too small or contain utility buildings. Sometimes the backyard is devoted to a play area for children or a place for pets. Maybe we just want to use our front door more and want the area to look pretty.

An entrance garden may provide a welcoming journey to your front door. It should reflect your personality and be an extension of your home.

You can engage people with fragrances, textures and colors with interesting plants and sculpture. The path should take them through the garden, not just past it.

Take a look out your front door and ask these questions. Do you see a lot of driveway or street, and are there cars parked out front? Next, look at your house from the street. Are the shrubs overgrown and past their prime? Are there trees or shrubs that block the view of the front door? Does the entrance look welcoming?

If you decide to make changes, think big and start with the path to the front door. If you can redo it, consider making it curved to slow down visitors. Think of making a garden between the house front and the sidewalk. An entrance garden can be as wide as the house is tall.

Plant some fragrant flowers that will release their scent as you brush by them. Repeat colors that you enjoy indoors in your outdoor space as long as they look good with the color of your house. Use small or midsize trees that will not be much taller than your roofline at maturity. Use containers and change them out for the seasons. A garden is a personal place, so don’t let fashion dictate what you do.

Gardens can be formal or informal, so let the style of your house be your guide. An informal style has no straight lines or geometric shapes. Self-seeding is allowed, and borders may spill over onto paths. There is an unrestricted mix of colors and plants. Formal gardens have crisp outlines and symmetry.

Edging is essential, the color palette is restricted and shrubs are sculptured.

Some homeowners have chosen to plant vegetables in their front yards. These can be attractive and luscious. The design goal should be to downplay the farm aspect. Some plants have nice foliage for most of the season. For example, Swiss chard and Lacinato kale are colorful and tidy. Greens that fade more quickly can be interspersed between plants. Edible or other flowers may be incorporated to make the garden more attractive.

Nasturtiums, viola, pansies and marigolds are edible and can be added to salads. Many herbs make good ground covers, but some, such as mint and oregano, are invasive and should be grown in containers.

Mark and Jocelyn Sloan have had a vegetable garden next to the driveway in their front yard for several years. Last year they grew tomatoes and this year there are potatoes, squash, peas, onions, cucumbers and sweet potatoes. Jocelyn has bordered the garden with yellow marigolds and centered colorful red geraniums in each section.

There is a bed of strawberries along the foundation along with some pretty rose bushes. They garden in the front because that is where it is sunny, although there are more vegetables in the back. She says that she sees the garden when she drives home from work and realizes that she must get the weeding done as soon as possible in order to keep it looking good.

I walk by the garden of Stu and Sue Brown that is used as an outdoor sitting room.

There is no room for gardening in their backyard as Sue has her day care there.

Evonne Vaplon has created a front-yard garden much like the entrance garden I mentioned. And there is a West Fargo home with a rose garden filling the front yard. Whatever reason or for no reason at all, let’s try to take advantage of our front yards. You only have to mow, water and fertilize all that green grass.