The Driveway Landscape
Ideas and Tips

Your driveway landscape is just as important as the driveway itself. A driveway by itself is lonely!

It serves as access to your home, and although your driveway design can be striking, it still needs plantings nearby so that one can enjoy the journey.

Your driveway planting design can be simple or intricate. Simplicity can be achieved with some lovely driveway entry plantings, and sometimes that is enough.

However, you can certainly expand on this in many ways. Planting beds on either side of the driveway, an elegant allee of trees, or even beautiful lawn with some nearby focal points (plants or other garden elements) are all ways to create a landscape for your drive.

Let's look at two main different types of driveways layouts.
  • Circular Driveway Plantings (most challenging)
  • Plantings For Basic Driveways (the plantings, though, do not have to be "basic"!)

Landscaping For a Circular Driveway

Homeowners who have chosen a circular driveways often are perplexed as to how to create a striking driveway landscape. What I like to do with this type of driveway, is to combine both lawn and planted areas. Easier said than done, right?! And landscape trees are a must.

Plantings Along The House

An obvious place to add plantings is up against the house. This will be your front foundation planting. With a circular driveway, this will be the area between the house and the driveway, but it will follow the outer driveway curve.

Plantings Along The Driveway Itself

Next, you can create beds in various positions along the outer edges of the driveway. If you have other nearby planted areas, and you can connect them to the driveway planting beds to make them look cohesive, all the better.

These beds could have some taller shrubs in the back with lower ones along the driveway. Adding an ornamental trees to one or two of these planted areas will do amazing things to the look. Ornamental trees will add height and scale. They will be a change from all of the lower shrubs and perennials. Ornamental trees can also provide pretty branching structure and flowers.

You can also add evergreen trees for both winter interest and privacy.

The Circular Driveway Center

And now for the center. First, here is what not to do.

  • Don't put a small fountain in the center.
  • Don't add a bed of shrubs with no height.
  • Do not create a bed that is small.

A circular driveway creates a large central area. (Unless it is a solid paved courtyard.) Give it its' due by creating a look that is in scale with this important area.

What I have done with driveway landscaping is the following. I will create a large bed along the inside edge, up near the house. I've placed shrubs about four feet high closer to the street. Then I will place lower shrubs closer to the house. Where the taller shrubs are, you might consider using either all one kind (do not think this will be won't)or place a group on either end of the same variety and a different one in the center. Use many in each group.

a planted circular driveway center

Driveway landscape for a circular design

Then, balance the ends. A smaller multi-stemmed tree on one end and a larger single stemmed tree on the other works well. You can also use a group of three very large, important shrubs, such as Lilacs, on one end and a tree on the other.

Landscapes For Basic Driveway Layouts

Regardless of what type of driveway you have, think about framing the driveway entry with plantings on either side. These might be as simple as two matching Dogwoods or Red Maples. You may also create beds on either side, but don't forget a few trees to stress the importance of the entry! The entry is what you and others first see as they approach the entry to your home.

Driveways that lead directly to the garage can have plantings placed creatively along the sides. Here, the beds in your driveway landscape design can connect to other planted areas or stand alone.

  • If single beds, make sure they are large enough to mean something and be important.
  • Plant in groups so that your plant varieties are massed.
  • The driveway landscape on both sides should either match (although they do not have to be placed directly opposite each other), or at least have similar plants.

Another nice look is to have an allee of trees. Here, trees of one variety are placed on both sides of the driveway. Although ornamental trees can be used, it is more typical to use beautiful shade trees. Driving along under the canopies of these trees as they age is reminiscent of estates with long driveways from years ago. Red Maples, Chanticlear Pear and Zelkova are good choices for an allee.

Courtyard plantings create a frame around the central area. This may be done in a formal way or it can be more naturalistic. If your courtyard is square, a nice feature is to add large urns in the corners....quite elegant!

Give thought to your driveway landscape. Done nicely it will provide a lovely experience as you leave your home and as you arrive each and every time.

Also see Driveway Trees

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