Oklahoma’s extreme temperatures and humidity can make gardening in summer quite a challenge. So instead of struggling to keep plants going during that time of year, Oklahoma City's Linda Vater decided early on to focus on her yard’s spring and fall shows, in particular. As you can see, investing time and effort into just a couple of seasons still creates breathtaking curb appeal, and her yard usually boasts some of the first color on the block. Let’s explore how the front garden came together and the elements that make it so eye-catching.
This front yard had a beautiful mature tree but it didn’t add all the interest or color needed for eye-catching curb appeal.
Determine bed shapes
The oak tree — close to 100 years old and a rarity in the neighborhood— above dictated the look and feel of the beds. The shade it casts and competition from its roots made it difficult for grass to be successful. When designing the bed shapes, the style of the house was another factor — their soft curvaceous lines echo the archways in the background.
Choose path materials
For the most harmony and consistency in the overall look of the garden, the home’s construction materials are repeated in the hardscaping. Brick edging outlines the beds, and stone is set in throughout the front yard.
These steppers provide definition and crisp contrast to a carpet of low-growing ground covers, such as moss phlox (Phlox subulata) and bugleweed (Ajuga reptans). They also take up space where turf would otherwise struggle when summer arrives and the sun gets stronger. You can walk nearly the entire perimeter of the garden on them, and kids have fun hopping from stone to stone, as well.
Create the color show
It’s easy to see that Linda loves tulips (Tulipa hybrids) — she plants about 700 every fall and pulls them as they start to fade the following spring. In her experience and region, where winters aren’t consistently cold enough, they just don’t come back reliably. The sweeps of spent foliage would be a distraction out front anyway. If you’d like to try to leave your bulbs in place, though, make sure they stay dry as soon as the flowers finish and leaves start to yellow.
For the best backdrop to her bulbs and the plants that support them, Linda makes sure the lawn will look great as soon as the earliest tulips begin blooming. Each fall, this means overseeding with a fescue blend to fill in around the bermudagrass, which is still dormant in early spring. The lush green canvas this creates really sets off the pretty pastel flowers. Another way to guarantee tulips stand out? Choose blooms that contrast with their background. Here, light-colored tulips are naturally set apart from this dark-colored home. In front of a house that’s a lighter shade, or for a spot along a white fence or beside a white arbor, deep purple, rich red and vibrant orange cultivars would be striking choices.
Since many tulips have successive bloom times, blends — premixed collections of several different varieties — have a built-in ease factor. But while tulips are the star in this garden, an array of other plants helps enhance and extend the spring display, which can start in late March and continue for up to six weeks, depending on how warm and dry the weather is. Some years, hellebores (Helleborus orientalis) are still hanging on as the earliest tulips come up. As spring continues, mounds of pansies (Viola x wittrockiana), violas (Viola hybrids), golden feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), dianthus (Dianthus hybrids) and spirea (Spiraea hybrids) make great companions. Emerging hostas (Hosta hybrids) provide texture and interest alongside the bulbs and later fill in the bare spaces left behind. After the late tulips finish, azaleas (Rhododendron hybrids) and columbine (Aquilegia hybrids) take over in front.
Now that you know some of Linda’s other go-to plants, see six of her top tulip picks and planting advice.