In the Studio | Landscape for New Construction

In the studio

front house landscaping new construction

If you’ve spent any time on our website, you surely recognize this beautiful home. This landscape project was one of Red Fern’s first design jobs in New Hampshire many years ago, and it has never made it to the blog until now! We love the gracious front porch, the green on green on green peaceful design, and the soft graceful curves of this landscaping. It is amazing what good design, healthy plants, and TIME does to make a new construction house feel like it’s been there forever.

The drawing above shows our final landscape master plan- multiple planting beds, a few seating areas tucked in here and there, and the back deck area. We worked hard to come up with the right plants for the right place, and a foundation planting that would nestle the house into its surroundings. We wanted to make the most of great views of the woods from inside the house, and create new views with lovely plantings. So many houses are finished with the required 2 trees and 10 shrubs that builders plunk down, but the house never feels like it’s wanted.  That’s one of the jobs plants serve- they take newly built houses and make them seem like they have always belonged right where they are.

Above is a “before” of the house just after construction was completed and the property was ready for landscaping. My first step on a design project is to walk the site, take measurements, and assess everything I see: views, soil quality, existing trees and shade, sun exposure, wind exposure (now that I live in Iowa!), house colors, access options to get around the yard… the list goes on and on. In a new house that has just been built, no one knows how it’s been used. It’s a different problem from renovating a property, because we’re able to start with this incredibly blank slate.

Here’s that same front yard right after planting. It is definitely different, but this image shows how important TIME is to the whole thing. You can buy giant plants, but they don’t always do well, and an instant landscape is hard to get. There is really no substitute for time.

That same front view, three years later!  It’s even more mature now that 5 extra years have gone by, but I don’t have photos to follow up. Can you believe how those baby hostas and ferns in the front grew into these lush, gorgeous plants?!?

Above is the 3D image we used to communicate to the clients what the mature project would look like. I always tell clients that the 3D work isn’t meant to be photorealistic. But then the real-life landscape stuns me by how much it looks like the images!


I am old enough to have learned all my design work drawing by hand, and it was a hard decision 10 years ago to invest in a quality CAD program. But I have not regretted it, and I know my clients value what the 3D views bring to the design. Sketching something out quickly just doesn’t take care of troubleshooting all the different details that go into a finished, beautiful landscape.    Below is the side garden off the driveway just a couple years after planting. Those shrubs and grasses have continued to fill in and frame the deep burgundy Japanese maple in the center.



We can play this game again with the back yard!  Above is the finished house – deck, hot tub, windows… it’s all there, but it looks so empty! Even if there was lawn right up to the deck and foundation, the house would still look lonely and unfinished.  Below is that same area just a few years later. Plants surround the deck and make it look like it’s always been there.


This was the 3D view for clients showing the back and side yards.  We added a couple of really pretty understory trees to this side of the property. The woods around the house provided enough large shade trees.  The redbud on the corner has become this perfect anchor for the front. The serviceberry along the side creates an arching “ceiling” for a sweet outdoor sitting area. It also provides a great view from inside.


Okay – one more time!  Here in Des Moines, I work with clients building new homes all the time.  We so often start with something like the photo above – a bare open front with nothing inspiring going on. These clients at least sprung for an interesting front walkway rather than poured concrete. Please consider talking with your builder about working with a designer for the exterior parts of your house!  The front walkway is the most important first impression for guests, and what builders start with isn’t inspiring at all.  I have so many posts already about the front entry – check them out here, here, and here.

Above is that same view just after planting. Nothing has filled in – it is just getting started.  And then below is the front walkway area just three short years later.  The perennials are lush and full. The evergreen is making a statement. The foundation plantings draw you out into the garden. It is welcoming and interesting and honestly- not too much work.  Cutting back perennials in the fall is the only ongoing maintenance.  I try to place shrubs where they don’t need to be cut back each year. There shouldn’t be a need to “give them a hair cut”! But over time, there may need to be thinning out. I try to balance between that instant gratification landscape and the wait and see.  I think three years isn’t too long to wait to get something like this.

So what do you think? Want to sit on the porch here, surrounded by all this peaceful green?


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