Garden statues decorate a front lawn. Bill Boch/Getty Images
Sure, It’s Your Garden. But Everyone Else has to Look at It
Our homes and Gardens are often personal expressions of who we are, and unless we live under the rules of a homeowners’ association (HOA), we can pretty much landscape and decorate our front gardens as we please.
However, some landscaping and decorating choices are best avoided. Among them: anything highly personalized, valuable, potentially offensive, or associated with hoarding.
Look at it this way: a front garden should be an entry garden that is pleasing, goes with the architectural style of a house, and uses plants that are native or indigenous to the region and are well maintained. The entry and front door should also be easy to access, unless you live in a gate-guarded home or community.
Let your back garden be your personal outdoor space, where you can let your creativity, hobbies, passions, and favourite ways to relax all happen, privately.
No, They Can’t Take That Away From Me. Or Can They?
Many cities and residential communities enforce or ban what you can and can’t do with your front garden, which includes landscaping, decorating, and even operating something as innocent as a lemonade stand.
Before you build something, make plans, or invest time and money in your personal front garden project, check with local codes and ordinances.
To make it easier, consult this list of things that should not be happening in your front.
Forgetting to Take Down Holiday Decor
Mark Runnacles /Getty Images
We’ve all seen it: the house in the neighbourhood that leaves its Christmas lights up through February, or beyond. Don’t be that house.
Weekly (or More) Car Boot Sales
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Maybe you have a knack for finding valuable stuff at estate or garage sales and then flipping it for a nice profit. Good for you! But when you start posting garden sale signs in your neighbourhood and hauling out the same old items weekend-after-weekend (or more often), you’re operating a business out of your house. Your neighbours might not appreciate the early morning traffic and occasional riff-raff that garage sales can attract.
Consider getting a space in a nearby car port or antique’s fair, or selling online through Gumtree, eBay. And please get the stuff off the driveway or front lawn.
Think this is harsh? Some cities have banned frequent garden sales. Check with your local government offices for rules.
A Hot Tub or Shower
There are some things that need to stay in a back garden, where it’s private. Outdoor hot tubs and showers are luxuries that provide owners with the potential for hours of therapy, relaxation, and intimacy. Even if you wear a swimsuit, you should not want, nor do your neighbours desire to see you entering and exiting the hot tub.
Where to Put a Hot Tub
Couches on the Porch or Lawn
Nothing says “cosy” like a well-designed front porch with a settee, maybe a rocking chair, some side tables, and potted plants. For centuries, it’s been a great place to sit and watch the world go by.
So even though that plaid velour couch is comfortable and just happens to fit on the front porch doesn’t mean it should be there. Do everyone in the vicinity a favour: donate the sofa, sell it on eBAY or post it as a “curb alert” freebie and get yourself some real porch furniture that is as pleasing to look at as it is comfortable.
The same goes for a couch sitting somewhere in the garden. Indoor sofas should stay inside. You don’t want the place to look like a run-down frat house.
Conquer the Clutter: Get Rid of These Things Now
Bad or No Landscaping
Where’s the house? Mr. Thinktank / Flickr / SS by 2.0
If a front garden is neat and maintained, all’s well, right? Well, it could be better. Depending on what’s happening with the landscaping in a garden, a property’s and neighbourhood’s value can be affected.
Things to consider:
- Mismatched landscaping: The house’s architectural style doesn’t go with the landscaping, like a Midcentury modern house with an English cottage garden in front.
- A lawn and nothing else.
- Incompatible plants: Different types of plants are battling in your front garden for the proper shade, sun, and space. Plan what should go where.
- Traffic: Is there a way to smoothly and safely walk through your garden to the front door, like maybe a path?
- Overgrown landscaping: When was the last time you picked up a pair of hedge trimmers or pruners?
Laundry and Clotheslines
Tony Anderson/Getty Images
A rug hanging over the railing of the front balcony. A clothesline that stretches from the edge of the front column to the side fence. The wetsuit that hangs near the entrance or garage, letting everyone around know that you have the free time to snorkel or surf.
You are literally airing your laundry in public. Yes, it’s clean, not dirty, but it doesn’t belong in the front garden. The air-drying movement is a good one, when it’s confined to a side or back garden.
Lawn Ornaments: Gnomes, Geese, Flamingos, etc.
Whether these characters are there for fun or because you truly love them, just think of the collection you can amass—without danger of theft—when they can happily congregate in your back garden. That way, you can enjoy the costume-wearing geese, flamingos, naughty gnomes, and peeing-boy pond statues in private—just you and them.
Landscaping That Doesn’t Work With the Climate
Francesc A. Camí Bernadó / EyeEm/Getty Images
Ever since you took that trip to Hawaii, you’ve been trying to recreate a tropical paradise in your own front and back gardens. The trouble is, you live in a climate that experiences four seasons, and those tropical and subtropical plants you ordered aren’t surviving. And the ones that are, don’t look too healthy. There’s a reason that some plants thrive in their native habitats—the weather, soil, and environment cooperate and everything that grows there pretty much flourishes
Consider this: If we all had tropical landscaping, traveling to far-off locales to enjoy balmy evenings sipping exotic drinks out of coconuts and watching the palms sway in the breeze wouldn’t be such a special and unique experience. Love the one you’re with.
Mike Licht / Flickr / SS by 2.0
The intent is friendly and innocent—to share books with neighbours and passers-by. Some cities and areas encourage it, and you’ll see little weatherproof shelters at the edge of a property that houses books and magazines to borrow or take.
Not everyone loves the idea or look. Check with your city or township for regulations on home- or neighbourhood-based libraries before building a little shelter, only to see it get shut down by local code enforcers.
Outdoor Dining Set
Thomas Jackson/Getty Images
There you are, enjoying grilled salmon, field greens, and corn on the cob with a glass of wine al fresco. Living the dream, outdoors. What could ruin this image? Cars driving past, their owners coming home from work; maybe the pizza delivery person?
However, those interruptions may not be the other people’s fault. If you have a house with a front and back garden, just why, exactly, is your patio table sitting there, smack dab in the middle of your gravel landscape, four feet from the sidewalk? Sure, it’s nice, rustic, and kind of lends a Tuscan vibe to your home’s exterior, but who wants to see you chomping a burger in your front garden, sauce running down your chin? Really? Pick up that table now and relocate it to your nice, private back garden. Your neighbours will survive without seeing what you eat and drink every evening.
Of course, if you live in an urban environment, where front and back gardens are blurred, and everything is communal, forget this advice. Ditto for parties and large gatherings where you need to use every foot of outdoor space.
tarajalal / Flickr / SS by 2.0
That big, plastic red and yellow playset and castle your sister-in-law gave you as a hand-me-down is a hit with your kids. Even neighbourhood children can be found on the slide when you’re not home.
Yes, you argue, it’s easier to keep an eye on the kids when the play gym is in the front garden, plus it might attract future friends. But plastic, wood, or any kind of children’s play set is safer and more private in a rear garden. Soft material can be laid underfoot, to prevent or soften falls. You or another adult can watch over them safely from the confines of a fenced-in garden. And if a ball rolls away from the game, it won’t be in the middle of a busy street.
By Lisa Hallett Taylor