Dynamic or drab, the front of your house is the first impression guests receive and the view that welcomes you home. It's simple to give your country cottage or urban mansion some curb appeal, whether that changes with whim or season or is a permanent decorative makeover. Create a grand entry to upgrade the crabgrass. Celebrate your favorite time of year with nature's abundance. Ring in the holidays with a little bit of theater to set the scene.
Fall Front Porch
Start at the autumn equinox to welcome fall and your guests with a harvest-themed front entry. Line the porch steps with alternating giant pumpkins and pots of decorative purple and white kale -- the ornamental cabbage-like plants that are hardy enough to make it through early winter. Stack big gourds -- naturally white and pale orange or variegated fall shades with green -- on top of each other on some steps; position solitary pumpkins on others. Pile up flattish gourds on either side of the door. Clip woody vines and evergreens from your garden, twist them into a large garland with copper or green florists' wire and hang the garland around the front door. A wreath of twisty grapevine, studded with pine cones, feathers and hard berries goes on the door. Add a soaring bat to the wreath and two jack-o-lanterns to the steps for Halloween.
If your humble home is set back from the street, bisect the yard with a lattice fence and arched entry covered with vines to create a mini-estate. Potato vine is green and hardy but deciduous; the fence will be exposed in winter and you can weave strands of colorful berries or Chinese lantern flowers through it. Cultivate a healthy lawn or drought-scape from curb to fence. Replace the lawn leading from the fence to the doorway with gravel and position a large stone sundial, fountain or pedestal planter full of seasonal flowers in the center of the gravel courtyard, visible through the arch. Stone urns flanking the doorway could hold evergreen topiaries, spring and summer flowers or decorative holiday displays.
Santa arrives at your house through the front door, and he leaves evidence of his passage all over the entry. Replace the prosaic doormat with a red-and-white-checked holiday mat. Park stone garden urns or square faux-stone blocks in front of the sidelights and stack gift-wrapped and weighted empty boxes on them in a pyramid of tantalizing possibilities. Make or buy a door wreath and garland made of the same green leaves, punctuated with lots of red holly berries, so the decor doesn't get too chaotic. The kids can kill a rainy afternoon wrapping the boxes for you, and it takes no time at all to set up the rest of an elegant, no-fuss holiday doorway.
It's never going to snow in your front yard but maybe you long for a frosty morning or two and a blanket of snow to hide your scrappy landscaping. The climate may not cooperate, but you can fake it and put everyone in a holiday mood as they approach your front door. Spray a garden bench, the branches trimmed from your overgrown shrubs before hurricane season and two wire hanging planters with blinding white paint. Gather a couple of galvanized buckets and a long oblong planter and glue large sparkly white paper snowflakes on them. Coat the paper flakes with clear fixative if your porch or entry is exposed to the weather. Stick the white branches in the buckets on either side of the door and tie more white snowflakes, like leaves, to the forking branches and to a snow-sprayed evergreen door swag. Line up white bottle-brush Christmas trees in the oblong planter, hang the baskets -- filled with white pine cones -- to flank the door or porch steps and let it snow.
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