A front yard that warms your family's hearts when they come home requires some planning, but even a beginner can design a neat, attractive and welcoming landscape. Family needs, house size and style, as well as growing conditions in your front yard will affect your design and plant choices. Start with a basic plan on paper before buying plants or arranging changes to hardscaping, to check if your design will work.
Front yard landscaping should meet your and your family's practical needs and also enhance the appearance of the house. Plants can provide shade and privacy and shield the house from wind. The path to the front door should be clearly visible to visitors and safe to walk, and driveways should be easily accessible. Tall landscaping helps provide a frame, but it shouldn't be out of proportion to the house. Stand in front of your house and draw an imaginary line from the bottom of the front door to the house eaves. About three-quarters of the way up this line looks best as the highest point of tree crown centers or the tops of shrubs in your landscape.
Landscaping creates many effects, depending on the choice of plants and their placement. Straight lines, geometric shapes and symmetrical designs give a formal look, while groups of plants, curved lines and asymmetrical plantings look more relaxed and natural. Choose plants in a particular style -- such as tropical, traditional or Asian -- that suits your house and fits in with the surrounding environment. Trees or tall shrubs on the outer edges of the yard and smaller plants near the door direct visitors to your entrance.
Growing conditions in your front yard determine what plants will thrive there. Plants vary in the levels of light, shade and soil type they need. Yards that receive six or more hours of sunlight a day are suitable for plants that grow best in full-sun sites. Other plants require partial or deep shade. Soil types include clay, sand, chalk, silt and loam, and they can be well drained, wet or dry. Plants should also be hardy according to the local U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone, which is a measurement of the extreme lowest temperature the plant will have to survive.
Drawing a map of your front yard to scale allows you to plan where to place hardscaping and plants and check whether plants will fit when fully grown. Measure the perimeter of your yard and draw a sketch on graph paper, using one square to represent 1 foot or whatever conversion fits comfortably. Add permanent features, such as the front door, garage door and any plants or hardscaping you want to keep. Draw in planned hardscaping and show the mature spread of your chosen plants with circles. Some overlapping is fine -- plants look more natural merged together.