Creating a New Planting Bed In the Front Yard | Planting Your First Ornamental Tree

Choosing the Right Spot Is Important For Long Term Satisfaction

Your Front Yard Has No Tree: What Do You Do?

Our front yard definitely needed a tree and definitely something more attractive and interesting to look at besides the well pump with the bright blue top. First things first. The first thing to do is decide what kind of tree you want to look at when you enter the driveway and approach the house. Usually this type of tree is an ornamental. Pleasant to look at, not too big and not blocking the view of the house when entering the driveway.

Questions you might ask...How much room do you have for the tree? What will the tree look like throughout the year? Will it be deciduous, losing the leaves in the winter months as the tree rests, or will it be evergreen, keeping the leaves all year? Is a flowering tree preferred or a large shade tree perhaps? Will you want to plant other shrubs or perennials around the tree area? If so, you will need to know how much shade that tree will produce and be prepared to buy shrubs and perennials to accommodate sun or shade accordingly. These are questions that need to be asked before buying a tree.

Trees are expensive, and an investment for the yard for a lifetime perhaps. It is important to make sure before buying and planting that consideration for the long term scope of the front yard is determined. With that said, remember, landscaping can be changed and it is always a work in progress and it changes with the seasons.

Usually a flowering tree stays under 25 feet tall and will likely be some kind of fruit tree like cherry, pear or apple. I like Redbuds too, but the northern zones are too cold for this species. Magnolias are also a lovely ornamental for the front yard. The Southern Magnolia blooms in the fall with big white flowers and the Northern Magnolia blooms in the spring with pink blossoms that look like big tulips. Some people have nicknamed the Northern Magnolia a Tulip tree; however, there is actually a Tulip Tree that gets very tall and does not bloom.


Flowering Trees

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Japanese Weeping CherryKousa DogwoodRedbudWashington Hawthorne has white flowers in Spring and Red Berries in Winter, though it does have huge thorns on limbs.  Not ggod for climbing children.  Beware.  Northern Magnolia or Saucer
Japanese Weeping Cherry
Japanese Weeping Cherry | Source
Kousa Dogwood
Kousa Dogwood | Source
Redbud
Redbud | Source
Washington Hawthorne has white flowers in Spring and Red Berries in Winter, though it does have huge thorns on limbs.  Not ggod for climbing children.  Beware.
Washington Hawthorne has white flowers in Spring and Red Berries in Winter, though it does have huge thorns on limbs. Not ggod for climbing children. Beware. | Source
Northern Magnolia or Saucer
Northern Magnolia or Saucer | Source

Choose a Tree and a Location to Plant it.

My personal front yard favorites are Weeping Japanese Cherry, Redbuds of any variety, Kousa Dogwood, Washington Hawthorne, and Northern Magnolia. I chose the Weeping Cherry for my front yard and I will tell you why. I wanted a spring flowering tree that would not become too big for the front area. I wanted to plant other shrubs around the well pump and create a large kidney shaped bed to separate the house from the small grove of wooded area at the end of the road. The Weeping cherry would not overtake the bed and would add value to the landscaping in the front yard without blocking the house.

Picking the location of the tree comes before the shaping of the bed. Pick the spot that will compliment the house. Usually off the corner at an angle works well. I chose the spot and dug the initial hole. I picked out the healthiest tree I could find and brought it home for planting.

Planting the Tree

The hole should be dug twice as wide as the root ball, shaped like a wide bowl not a cup. The roots need room to spread. If you plant the tree in a cup the roots can curl underneath the tree instead of reach out into the surrounding soil, not a good thing for roots. Use an amendment of compost material and a root starter to give the tree the best chance possible to thrive and not go into shock. Mix the compost with the soil from the hole 50/50 and put the mixture around the root ball. If the root ball is in burlap, take it off before planting. If tightly potted, slash the root ball a couple times around the sides so roots can start to reach into the soil. Deeply water the tree so that you know the root ball is soaked, but not resting in a bucket of water. If need be, stake the tree for the first year to keep it straight until it roots well. Water the tree deeply every week, in hot temperatures twice a week, for the first year and even the second if rain is minimal. As an example a five foot tree likely needs 5 - 8 gallons of water a week. Take a clean paint bucket a drill a couple holes in the bottom. Use it to water your tree by filling it up. You know that the tree will have received five gallons of water when it is empty. That way there is no guessing game as to how much the tree actually received when watered. Again the investment of money and time is substantial, protect your investment and give it enough water.

 

The initial bed held the Weeping Cherry, miniature fire bush, flowering plum shrub and some herbs.
The initial bed held the Weeping Cherry, miniature fire bush, flowering plum shrub and some herbs.

Starting to define the shape of the kidney shape after the tree is planted

Once the tree is successfully in the ground, it is time to decide the size of the kidney shaped bed. I like to spray round-up or any equivalent where I want the bed to be. Once the grass dies, you can see the actual kidney shape before going through the trouble of planting other shrubs in the wrong places. You can always change your mind as you go along, but this is a good way to begin. Round-up will kill the grass down to the root and make for much less work by not digging up grass to plant other things later.

I definitely wanted the tree closer to the driveway and the kidney to go around the well pump where I proceeded to plant shrubs and perennials that would be sun tolerant. When designing the shape of the bed consider the size of your mower blade and the angle of the turns for easy mowing with the lawn tractor or hand mower and for a lot less needed trimming. Always be thinking about the lowest maintenance possible when designing hardscapes and planting trees and shrubs. For instance, why plant a shrub that will grow six feet in an area that will only tolerate three feet? You will have to be trimming all season. Heck with that. Read the labels on the shrubs you choose to determine the size at maturity and plant accordingly.

Once sprayed do not dig up the grass as it will deteriorate all by itself, just mulch over it with your favorite color mulch and let mother nature do the rest. When you are ready to plant something new, move the mulch over, dig a double wide hole and amend with good compost as you plant according to the previous instructions and move the mulch back around the shrub after watering. Trees and shrubs following the same planting rules. Enjoy experimenting with your yard to add minimal maintenance kind of beds. The birds will come to visit when you have lots of flowering trees and shrubs, so will the butterflies.

Making Progress

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Everything made it through the second year and I added a Arrowhead viburnum and Annabelle Hydrangea along with a few perennials of lariepe, mint julep, and creeping jenny..  View from the end of the drivewayapproaching the house, the tree does not block the view but adds esthetic value and will continue to do so as it grows.
Everything made it through the second year and I added a Arrowhead viburnum and Annabelle Hydrangea along with a few perennials of lariepe, mint julep, and creeping jenny..
Everything made it through the second year and I added an Arrowhead viburnum and Annabelle Hydrangea along with a few perennials of lariepe, mint julep, and creeping jenny..
View from the end of the driveway
View from the end of the driveway
approaching the house, the tree does not block the view but adds esthetic value and will continue to do so as it grows.
approaching the house, the tree does not block the view but adds esthetic value and will continue to do so as it grows.

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Comments 12 comments

Golfgal profile image

Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas Author

Hi Jane, thanks, yes the weeping cherry is fab. The perfect house has landscaping that not only adds esthetic value but gives the home additional values as you cleverly point out for seasonal warming and cooling as well as different displays of color and tecture. I appreciate your comments. caio.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Very nice golfgirl

How gorgeous is that Japanese Weeping Cherry? Too beautiful.

Trees (and a front garden) can really enhance a house, no doubt about it. Front yards with nothing but concrete or a stretch of lawn leave me a bit cold.

You do have to be careful what you plant though, as you point out. Decidous is great if the tree is relatively close to the house because it allows light in winter and shade in summer.

When I moved into my house, there ws a beautiful big liquid amber in the back yard. I love it but I'm always a bit worried that at some point in the future it's going to cause trouble with the neighbours underground pipes. Oh my.


golfgal 5 years ago

Hi D, Yes, if you look at the smaller pic mid-page you will see the white well pump with the bright blue top. As the Kidney grew up it was little more hidden, that was the point! I Thought seriously about one of those fake rocks, but it was too tall for the tallest fake rock. Thanks for you visit.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

Very pretty, well done. (But I see no signs of the well pump you wanted to hide...) ;-)

We have a well that serves only our landscaping (house is on city water) ... so I know what you mean by the 'bright blue' !!!

This was a beautifully illustrated and well-done hub! Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Voted up!!


Golfgal profile image

Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas Author

thanks Will, try it you might like it even more.


WillSteinmetz profile image

WillSteinmetz 5 years ago

Nice.. very excellent idea.


Golfgal profile image

Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas Author

Yes katiem2, I also have a small jap maple that moved to Texas with me. I just replanted it yesterday after making a huge bed for it to enjoy. :) I am a glutton for punishment for my plants, a plant slave.


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 5 years ago from I'm outta here

Awesome, My drop dead favorite trees are weeping cherries and Japanese maples, great choices and well worth the big hole. :) Katie


Golfgal profile image

Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas Author

Good morning C, Yes, that is always a thrill for me. I wait and wait to see what comes up year after year. Spring is my favorite season.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Very nice....we planted a cherry blossom tree in our front yard the year our youngest was born.....after a horrible winter and summer....we were very happy to see it blooming this spring..thanks for sharing your hub...


Golfgal profile image

Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas Author

Thanks again Simone, I worked my little fingers to the bone on that yard and then we moved two years later. Nothing is forever, that is what I learned. So live life for today, tomorrow you'll have totally different situations at hand.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Oh my gosh, your front yard is so pretty! Great tips and advice- and great photos, too!

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