The front entrance to a home establishes the feeling of the owner, so there are as many possible styles of front entrances as there are owners. Our clients George and Carol asked to have a formal front entrance off their elliptical driveway, so that friends and family could easily be dropped off near the front door.
We developed a design that took a straightforward approach. From the driveway, using ashlar bluestone, we built a walkway about 25 feet long that connects the drop-off point to the front porch. I like to have wide landings outside front doors, so that more than one person can stand together and then enter the home. At George and Carol’s house, the front door enters into a large living/dining room, which has dramatic cathedral ceilings and large windows that face west and open out onto a spectacular woodlands view. I wanted visitors to be able to open the front door and take all that in.
This use of ashlar bluestone and steps make up what I would call a traditional design. The walkway is 5’ wide, the step risers are 6” high, and the stone treads are 14” wide. Sometimes I use 5” risers, which are easier for all ages to use, especially in bare feet! The stone veneer on the risers matches the granite on the fireplace, tying together the outside approach to the first view of the inside. Classic simple brass lanterns flank the front door for subtle illumination.
The plantings are intended to be somewhat slow growing, easy to maintain and hearty, with flower and leaf interest that are attractive all the way from June through September. I try my best to use trees and shrubs that also offer a fall color, which most of these plants do.
Flanking the door to the left side is a wonderful, very slow growing pine, Pinus flexius ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramidal,’ which has unusual stubby blue-green evergreen needles and a small cone. It does not need much pruning or shaping. Dwarf Flowering Spirea is in the foreground.
Flanking the right hand side is Hydrangea Tardiva, a large shrub that grows to 12’ by 12’ and that exhibits spectacular white blooms through July and August. And just in front of the Hydrangea, we planted one sheared Boxwood shrub. In the foreground on the right is Itea, the larger shrub, which has an unusual small conical shaped white flower much loved by hummingbirds and butterflies, and which exhibits a stunning scarlet color in the fall.
The showy displays in clay containers are annuals. Julie Chamberlain is the master container gardener and this is one of three landscapes that she manages. The containers flanking the steps are planted with tuberous begonias, golden creeping jenny, chartreuse sweet potato vine, and torenia (blue draping).
Little drip irrigation “spaghetti lines” water the containers. Mowed lawn fills the space between the landscape beds and the planting beds.
Carefully select plantings that will not overwhelm your house and totally block windows. Placing the various plants further rather than closer to the house will allow for growth without much pruning. We also install 15-18” stone drip lines at most of our home landscapes to allow for easy maintenance and window washing.