Form and foliage carry the day. Trees, shrubs, and ground covers—both evergreen and deciduous—provide plenty of variety and interest in all four seasons.
Apprehension grew in our conservative neighborhood the day the crane arrived. Those who saw it dangling 48-foot posts above our building lot could be forgiven for thinking that another monster house was under way. Such fears, however, were soon allayed. The retirement house we built, if unconventional in structure, is actually quite small and blends well with its surroundings. But curiosity was again aroused when neighbors, stopping by to chat as I began planting the front yard, learned that there would not be any lawn.
Foregoing a lawn was not a rash decision, or a political or environmental statement. Nor did we have any illusions about lower maintenance. Rather it was a practical response to space constraints. Our previous garden had been 75 feet by 200 feet; this new space is just 25 feet by 75 feet. Omitting a lawn simply allowed for much more room to garden.
Occupying the house at Christmas, Jeanette and I spent the rest of the winter planning. Our goal for the front yard was to create an orderly yet natural-looking garden that would be of interest both from the street and from the house, and over all four seasons, including the long Canadian winter. In order to accomplish this, we relied on form, texture, and long-lasting foliage, with flowers playing a supporting role. We also varied the height of our plantings to create greater topographic interest, and chose plants that complemented the faintly Asian character of our brick and cedar house.