Have you ever attended a tour of gardens, when a group of homeowners graciously open their yards for the rest of us to see? These tours are often sponsored by civic groups or garden clubs as fundraising events, and they’re well-attended and popular.

Do you know what strikes me most when on these tours? The front yards are usually pleasant and neatly manicured. But wow, the backyards! That’s where the best stuff is, tucked behind the houses in impressive flower beds and landscapes that rival anything we see in home and garden magazines.

Creating a backyard landscape is the gift you give yourself. Front yard landscaping is the gift you give to the rest of us.

Cleome is a tall-growing, less-common annual that always intrigues passersby. Forum file photo
Cleome is a tall-growing, less-common annual that always intrigues passersby. Forum file photo

Having a backyard oasis gives peaceful privacy, and that’s important. But if you include some of the good stuff in your front yard, the rest of us love it when we’re out for a walk or driving by. Creating color in your visible front yard is a gift to the community, and you should know that it’s noticed and appreciated.

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I’d like to challenge each of us to plant more color in our visible front yards, apartment balconies and condo entries, even if just a little. Imagine how pretty our communities would be as we enjoy a walk or drive, with each of us contributing a small part. This year especially, many of us might be sticking closer to home.

Following are 10 ideas to add more visible color.

  1. Annual flowers provide the most color for the money, flowering all summer with relatively low maintenance. Locate groups of pots near the front entry, or develop flower beds in the front landscape or along the side perimeters, where people can enjoy as they walk or drive.
  2. Imagine our large apartment buildings, with a majority of the tenants planting annual flowers in planter boxes on balcony railings. What a sight from the street!
  3. Perennial flowers are great partners in front yard landscapes. For longest periods of color, plant day lilies, perennial salvia, monarda, hosta, echinacea and Asiatic lilies. Combine tulips, peonies, bleeding hearts, iris, phlox and mums for ever-changing bloom through spring, summer and fall.
  4. Flowering shrubs that yield color include hydrangea, spirea, lilac, potentilla and weigela.
  5. Window boxes are making a comeback. Combine annual flowers that trail with types that are rounded.
  6. Select winter-hardy roses, such as those developed in Canada. Cultivars include Never Alone, Campfire, Canada Blooms, Hope for Humanity, Morden Sunrise and Morden Blush, and many more available primarily at locally owned garden centers.
  7. Plant a picturesque and colorful small-scale tree along the front yard perimeter, like Hot Wings Tatarian maple or Japanese tree lilac.
  8. Along with increasing color in the front yard, remember to trim shrubs for a neat appearance.
  9. For a crisp overall look, take a few minutes to trim the grass along edges of flower beds and landscapes. It greatly increases the effect.
  10. Reducing front yard lawngrass is gaining popularity, as homeowners plant pollinator gardens and butterfly habitat, a trend that fits the initiative for community color. Smaller areas of turf can be used as a central walkway, or a canvas against which other plantings are staged. I’m participating in this community color initiative also.

I’m putting my plants where my mouth is, as my wife, Mary, and I develop more flower beds in our front yard. Let’s pass the word and encourage each other to plant just a little more color for all to see.

Canadian rose breeders have developed beautiful cultivars with increased winter hardiness, such as Morden Blush. Forum file photo
Canadian rose breeders have developed beautiful cultivars with increased winter hardiness, such as Morden Blush. Forum file photo

ARCHIVE: Read more of Don Kinzler's Growing Together columns

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at kinzlerd@casscountynd.gov or call 701-241-5707.