Dear Homework,
We love our gorgeous-on-the-inside home but feel like it needs a major face-lift— specifically our flower beds. A few years ago we took out giant bushes and planted peonies and hydrangeas. We still have so much space that we don’t know what to do with it. I’d also really like to replace a tree the previous owners took down, but we don’t know what to plant. I’m hoping for something that will eventually create shade. Also, anything we can do to freshen up the façade of the house?
—Can Simple Changes Make A Big Difference?

hmk-img_6903Dear Can Simple Changes Make A Big Difference?,
I love the symmetrical Arts & Crafts design of your home. You can definitely make the planting in your existing beds denser, placing shorter growing plants in front and taller ones in back. Your lawn is not big enough to plant any shade trees, but you could plant a tree between the sidewalk and street.

I would suggest reinforcing the home’s existing character. Architectural changes might include a more mellow color palette and wooden benches at the porch that also could serve as railings. Giant ceramic urns at the sidewalk and a new porch lantern complete the upgrades.

For the landscape changes, I would border the lawn panels with a low evergreen hedge. In front of the planting beds’ stone retaining walls, use a dense planting of purple iris and add some soft, ornamental grasses to fill it out. Normally, I would plant a tall evergreen at the sides of the front elevation (to soften the presence of the neighboring houses), but in this case, the angled walls of the façade are too unique to cover up.

Hope you find these ideas useful,

Homework is penned by Paul Doerner, Founding Partner of the Lawrence Group. If you would like your home critiqued, contact us at