Help with Circular Driveway

mreen2May 22, 2011

Here's my front landscaping - the circular driveway doesn't look right. I was reluctant to put pavers around the whole circle. But this does not look right. I am going for a natural/ farmhouse look. I've had two landscape designers - and the last one had great ideas for adding color/grasses/wildflowers for a more natural look. But I have not found anybody that has any ideas for the driveway. Any ideas would be appreciated!!!


Here is a link that might be useful: driveway photo

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These are great photos for a discussion ( including some hijacking)on mitigating , entries welcome to garage and all that but I hardly know where to start. A random start is the hidden front door and how the plantings at the street, to me, work against defining the entry (to walk or house) rather than with it.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 8:07AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I can see how an expanse of gravel in front of the house would give a simple farmhouse look, but to me the paver paths divide the gravel and work against that look. Perhaps if the gravel and pavers were the same color there would be more unity.

To help delineate the driveway, you could add an edging of a single row of pavers perpendicular to the edge of the driveway (same pattern as along the edge of the front walk). However, given the much wider paver walks, I doubt that would make much difference. Another tactic to help delineate the driveway more clearly would be to plant a lowish band of groundcover on either side of the driveway, about 18" deep. If not using the same groundcover throughout, use plants with similar height, leaf size, and flower size/color (don't alternate single plants, but plant each variety in large patches).

Like frankie_in_zone_7, I'm dubious about the plantings inside the driveway semi-circle. I'm not a pro, and I can't articulate it any better than to say it has to do with the plants being too tall for the size of that area, and also distracting from the house itself.

My parents had a semi-circular driveway (a good bit wider than yours) at their previous house. In the semi-circle, next to the driveway, there were shrubs (no taller than 24" or so) except in the center, which was grass. On the house side of the driveway was a wide walk leading to a central front door. From the street, the effect of the low grass/front walk was to channel the passer-by's view across the yard and the driveway to the front door: a very effective welcome to the house. If the shrubs had lined the entire semi-circle, viewed from the same point, the viewer would have felt fenced out. As it was, the two arcs of shrubs framed the view of the house.

So I understand what the landscaper was aiming for with your central path.

I think the plants in your semi-circle are too tall, too varied, too busy. I'd replace them with something much lower, less varied, and more subdued (either non-flowering or with low-key flowers and foliage). [I'm not sure how I feel about the two trees; I'd have to see a photo taken from directly in front of the house, but much farther back.]

Regardless what you do in that area, in the interest of delineating the driveway more clearly, I'd plant a lowish groundcover on either side of the driveway, at least 12-18" deep. Either use the same groundcover throughout, or use plants with similar height, leaf size, and flower size/color.

Definitely paint the front door a bright color (not the white of the trim). It's hidden in the corner; the paver path points not to the door but to the very noticeable center window; and the door is apparently the same color as the walls of the house, which renders it nearly invisible. I don't know if painting the door would help your dissatisfaction with the driveway, but it would make your house less confusing for visitors. My mother would paint your front door red; a gray house with white trim and a red front door has always been her ideal color scheme.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 9:51AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

All that expanse of gravel just looks too bleak against the gray house. The first question I'd ask is whether in fact you really even need that half circle drive? If not, I'd get rid of it and turn it over to garden, with a new connecting walk to the existing driveway at the garage. If you have the budget to use pavers, and want to keep the half circle driveway, redoing this with a nice layout of pavers in an ashlar pattern and a variety of complementary colors/sizes would look less stark.

The plantings at the center look adequate for the intended effect, the rosemary and star jasmine just need more time to fill in, or add more. You might consider replacing the different colors of Agapanthus will one color to give more unity, and adding annual filler such as Verbena or Calibrochoa of Bacopa at the bare spots to tie it altogether visually until the ground cover shrubs fill in. I could also see using a grouping of matching bright blue glazed pots below that window at the entry to add interest and indicate the entry better, adding something like Limonium perezii or Calandrinia spectabilis would really make that visually "pop".

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 2:43PM
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Frankie in zone 7, Bahia, missingtheobvious,
Thanks for all the suggestions- I love the feedback and it gives me a lot to think about. I appreciate the feedback on the front door and the windows at the entrance. The door is reclaimed, antique but it seems that it's not quite appealing due to the drab entry.
I was also wondering if anyone has a recommendation for a landscape design person in the San Diego area - I've used two and they've been helpful to a point but, so far, no one has been able to tackle this "curb appeal" issue. Again thank you for your feedback - it's been difficult for me to see the specific issues - I've been looking at it and just seeing that it isn't right!!!! I'll take some time to visualize all the ideas that were suggested - thanks again for your time.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 3:57PM
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That window by your front door looks like it very much wants to be the door... but your driveway situation is a difficult one, best left for the pros.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 5:22AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

You're right - naming the issue is the first step to solving the problem, or at least deciding whether you want to solve it.

As I see it, the driveway problem is that the only lines on your driveway are those going across it, so its circular arc is not at all apparent. It would help to outline the edges in brick, as you'll note that the circular arc at the street edge is quite noticeable. Or to put a strong edging of plants along the inside or a round patch of lawn, anything to say "I am a half-circle". But even all that still wouldn't make it clear to me, if I were visiting, that it would be OK to drive on it, because the surface says, maybe patio.

And I think Bahia's question is really key - why would I drive there, as it seems I can turn around in the cul de sac? Is it where you want visitors to park? If that, then I would shape the area with car-sized blocks, not as a semi-circle. And if you don't need it for parking, well, do you need it?

The door problem is partly the dark door relative to the windows (maybe a pickled finish would help if you don't want to paint? but I would paint) but also that your path leads straight to the window, not to the door.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 3:39PM
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Righ, karinl, this is one of the things that threw me--I can't see this as a "circle drive", which in my bailiwick is a drive to allow you to get in and out without having to back onto a busy street (the most common reason) or maybe to allow you to drive up in grand fashion to offload passengers at the front door. So this is more of a "fancy border to street" which again, I have seen used when there is no stepping-off place and guest would be in grass or puddles, but again, that does not seem to be the function and it does not seem to help tell guest what to do with their cars or feet.

What was the purpose of the gravel wasteland? Is it specifically to avoid mowing and does it stay clean or require raking?

The white window trim to me is distracting but do not know how easy it is to change. Having not-white trim does not make the front door less dark, but it is something to think about in terms of having less screaming competition with the door.

Read laag's post as re-upped thread "Moving things along quickly" , or some similar title, to give you caution about how all of our random hits on your question do not a design process make, and how you may not end up with a cohesive plan, but if you are duly cautious you might still enjoy the discussion and use it to some good effect.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 4:00PM
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Gravel wasteland is to provide permeable surface for driveway - if no driveway than no gravel. It seemed a better option to me ,at the time ,than asphalt, or a sea of pavers.
Removing the circle altogether might make the most sense. thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 8:36PM
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