Congratulations: You're the proud new owner of a city row house, which, with its early 1900s chair rails, high ceilings, and elegant moldings, offers endless potential for interior design. But where's the potential in that tiny, weedy patch of dirt in front of the house?
The answer for most row houses, as well as many newer townhomes, is container gardening. Making the best first impression in the front of your house should start with a sketch that maps out how much space you have to work with in relation to the front door and steps. But trust me—you don't need much space to create a great mini-garden.
Consider where a couple of large planters could go that would be the focal point, accompanied by smaller planters and window boxes. The latter should be professionally installed with wrought-iron brackets, filled with light potting soil, then planted with ivy geraniums, ornamental ivy, marigolds, and petunias. After flanking the entrance with the two oversized clay pots, plant them with tree or shrub roses—either the white, fragrant White Dawn, the related pale-pink New Dawn, or cherry-red Knock Out roses. If the roses take up too much space, use slightly smaller pots and fill them with elephant's ear.
Select eight smaller clay pots to line the steps. Filled with potting soil, these could be planted with geraniums, vinca, petunias, and potato vines, either grouped in one pot or planted separately. Create a layered look for visual impact. And, even in July, there's still time to plant Heavenly Blue morning glory seeds in the pots lining the railings. Once tiny tendrils appear, guide them along with a piece of string.
To the right and left of the front of the townhouse, consider annuals like a climbing rose, such as the fragrant deep-red Don Juan; a miniature fruit-bearing tree, such as an Asian pear; or the old-fashioned spirea, also called bridal veil.
Make sure to keep the containers' soil slightly damp to the touch. But it's often better to underwater than overwater plants that grow in containers.