Garden Spaces: Plant a Front-Step Garden

A front-step garden makes for a pretty, green entry, adds gardening space and allows you to cater to difficult or tender plants.

| February/March 2007

  • Click IMAGE GALLERY, then click NEXT to view the planting key.
    Illustration by Gayle Ford
  • Click IMAGE GALLERY, then click NEXT to view the planting key.
    Illustration by Gayle Ford

• Design Plans: Grow These Herbs For Your Front-Step Garden 

Whether you’re a plant lover with limited space or one whose mature garden is full, you’re probably on the lookout for another spot to tuck a few more herbs. One convenient and often overlooked place is the area around the front steps (or whatever stairs you have that are wide enough to accommodate a grouping of containers). As long as it gets sufficient sunlight, a garden that steps up the stairs can add drama to an entryway, and it’s the perfect place to show off your topiary or other prize specimens.

Not just an afterthought of the garden proper, this container garden can be a useful adjunct to the landscape. You can use this space for plants that you don’t want to put in your beds, either because they might be too rambunctious there, or need some special care, or because you’re unsure of their ability to make it through the winter.

We’ve included many tender perennial favorites in this little garden, which is especially convenient during the changing of the seasons, when the weather is whimsical and unpredictable. Some of our most valued potted plants—such as the slow-growing bay laurel, rosemary shaped into fanciful topiary and the luscious lemon verbena—are all tender to frost, and can be pulled easily into the house or onto the porch for protection, if needed.

Become a Stair Master

The width of your stairs may determine your arrangement of pots, as you don’t want to clutter a stairway and have to walk carefully or knock against them as you pass. Even a regular-sized staircase often can accommodate an orderly line of single pots at the edge of each step. If the staircase is wide enough, line both sides of the steps with containers.

Staircase railings sometimes can handle a hanging basket or windowbox type container, adding to the green impression you get approaching the front door. If the stairway is covered, hang a basket in a place that is attractive but not in the way.

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