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Front Entrance Transformation Garden wins APLD Gold Award

An APLD Gold Award winning front garden by North Carolina, USA landscape designer Mardi Letson. 

About the APLD Awards

The APLD International Landscape Design Awards Program honors excellence in landscape design. Projects in eight different categories are judged on the basis of difficulty, craftsmanship, attention to detail and execution.

Mardi Letson won a Gold award in this program this year for her 'Front Entrance Transformation'.

Front Entrance Transformation Garden wins APLD Gold Award. An APLD Gold Award winning front garden by North Carolina, USA landscape designer Mardi Letson.

About the Garden

The homeowners wanted to improve the curb appeal of their house, improve informal access to the house from side street, and create a more inviting pedestrian approach from the front street. They want low maintenance, drought tolerant native plants that create wildlife habitat. 

Front Entrance Transformation Garden wins APLD Gold Award. An APLD Gold Award winning front garden by North Carolina, USA landscape designer Mardi Letson.

They requested camouflage for a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit and the home foundation. They want to preserve borrowed views from neighboring gardens and limited winter view of nearby mountains to north. They are a professional couple with young children, and they want an entrance garden that is easy for everyone to enjoy and navigate.

Front Entrance Transformation Garden wins APLD Gold Award. An APLD Gold Award winning front garden by North Carolina, USA landscape designer Mardi Letson.

Gardens by Mardi set to create a front garden that improves and clarifies foot traffic patterns, highlights the front door, and is stunning from all viewpoints. 

Front Entrance Transformation Garden wins APLD Gold Award. An APLD Gold Award winning front garden by North Carolina, USA landscape designer Mardi Letson.

The client also wanted to create a cottage look with easy to maintain plants that will provide year round interest.

Plant list

Convallaria majalis
Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken'
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
Muscari armeniacum
Hylotelephium (Herbstfreude Group) 'Herbstfreude'
Salvia x sylvestris 'Mainacht'
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'
Scilla siberica
Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'
Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low'
Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris
Crocus tommasinianus
Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Dark Knight'
Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'
Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Brother'
Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'
Sedum kamtschaticum
Narcissus pumilus
Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black'
Muhlenbergia capillaris
Thymus serpyllum var. albus
Sedum acre 'Aureum'
Taxus x media 'Densiformis'
Fothergilla x intermedia 'Blue Shadow'
Sedum spurium 'Fuldaglut'
Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem'
Thuja occidentalis 'Golden Globe'
Buxus microphylla var. japonica 'Winter Gem'
Callicarpa dichotoma 'Issai'
Prunus laurocerasus 'Schipkaensis'
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Munchkin'
Chionanthus retusus
Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance'
Ilex glabra 'Shamrock'
Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Princess Diana'
Tiarella cordifolia 'Running Tapestry'
Rhododendron maximum
Hamamelis virginiana
Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lamb'
Rhododendron 'Album'
Rhododendron canescens
Taxus x media 'Hicksii'
Sedum ternatum
Rhododendron atlanticum

Site Conditions

• USDA Zone: 7A

• A 0.241-acre corner parcel in city limits, area to be designed is approximately 0.12 acre.

• Residence is traditional one-story frame and rock built in the 1940s. The house is sited with no visual or logistical connection to the front street. The front door is hidden from view, and entrance route is unclear.

• Other areas of the garden have been previously renovated: shadow box fencing and related stone work, west side garden plantings.

• Several mature Sycamore and a mature Japanese maple give a sense of establishment.

• Sloped lawn in front of house, failing mortared stone walkway and rock wall in the east garden, railroad ties covered in ivy along the front sidewalk, poorly maintained cutting garden along east border.

• Generous layer of topsoil and clay subsoil throughout with soil pH ranging 5.7-6.0.

• Adequate drainage

Project Description

The final design for this project included:

• Removed existing walkways, re-graded and tiered front garden including retaining walls, and installed stepping stones, paving, and steps to direct traffic. Relocated stone wall to enclose private side garden. 

• The porch was redesigned to open to the front 

• Creation of garden rooms and passageways to give the space more interest and provide privacy

• Installed plantings on all layers of the garden (Photo 3-10) • Removed declining Sycamore and Dogwood trees

Environmental Responsibility:

• Low maintenance, dense, layered plantings required less irrigation and mulching, while reducing erosion and runoff

• Plant selection and placement prioritizes natives, pollinators, wildlife habitat

• Locally source materials including stone, plants, soil amendments. This reduced use of fossil fuels in transportation

• Used organic fertilizers and soil amendments

• All new paving is permeable

• Worked with the lay of the land, as much as possible

• Saved and reused quality plant material and hardscaping on site.

• Recycled all nursery pots

• Ensured quality workmanship to extend the useful life of materials.

By Mardi Letson