Front Porch Ideas

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

Your front porch is the first room of your home guests see.  It sets the stage, reveals how tidy you are, and how much the aesthetics of your environment matter to you. A porch also can be a semi-public sitting area, combining elements of indoors and out.

A red aeonium in the garden echoes the color of the front door. Or maybe it’s the other way around. (Design by Gary Bartl, San Rafael, CA)

Potted plants enhance the garden-to-house transition, but not if wan and underwatered. Sun-loving succulents—plants that store water in their leaves to survive drought—are low-water and low-maintenance (providing they’re protected from excessive rain, freezing temps and desert heat).

Above, terracotta unifies a grouping of green and red aeoniums, a flapjack kalanchoe (upper right), echeverias and sempervivums. (Design by Anna Clark Interiors, Los Angeles)

This pot grouping is a garden. A cobalt birdbath adds height and contrast, and is planted with echeverias that resemble water lilies.

Succulent topiaries flanking the front door are a great way to say “Welcome!” (Home of Hannah Kully. Topiaries by California Cactus Center, Pasadena.)

Pots also can create a pleasing view. These floral-style arrangements are planted with a variety of sedums, echeverias, and (for height) senecio. (Home of Barbara Baker, Rancho Santa Fe. Design by Chicweed.)

Got a porch pillar? Create a seating area in front of it by adding chairs and an urn  planted with sansevierias and cascading ‘Fish Hooks’ senecio. (Home of Mike Allen, Rancho Santa Fe, CA)

Here, pots atop a low wall announce the entry and hold living bouquets of Sedum ‘Aurora’ (in bloom), shrublike Crassula sarcocaulis, blue echeverias, trailing rhipsalis and bromeliads. (Design by Chicweed, San Diego)

Design elements that repeat are a visual delight.  Here, baskets of burro tail sedum hang above elephant stands topped with flapjack kalanchoes in cobalt pots.  (Design by Evelyn Jacob and Mindy Rosenblatt, Santa Barbara, CA)

Textural bottle palms lend whimsy and vertical interest, and are conversation starters. (Kent and Nancy Wood garden,  Santa Barbara)

Repurposed items from salvage yards and second-hand shops are fun to collect and intriguing to look at. These hold jade, aeoniums, sedum, graptopetalums and haworthias. (This and the first design are by Kathy McCarthy, Del Mar, CA)

What’s your own front porch like? Tell us about it!

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored the Timber Press bestsellers Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. Debra is a regular contributor to Sunset and other publications, and her own half-acre garden near San Diego has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens. Debra specializes in showing how to use architectural, waterwise and easy-care succulents in a wide variety of appealing and creative applications. www.debraleebaldwin.com.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Shawna Coronado February 5, 2011, 5:33 am

Love this! What wonderful ideas!

Shawna

Thanks, Shawna! ;+) Debra

Annelie February 5, 2011, 7:17 am

Mmmmm…. succulents, I love them.
They are so grateful.
Love the picture with the red door where the plant echoes the color of the door.

Annelie

Hi, Annelie — And I love your gabled home in Massachusetts. We have too few houses like that here in Southern CA. Lucky you, living in the Land of the Front Porch! — Debra

Darla February 5, 2011, 7:55 am

Apparently I need to get busy on my front porch. These are all very inspirational. Wish you had a close up of the topiary sedum..

Done! — Debra

Lisa at Greenbow February 5, 2011, 9:02 am

My front porch needs help for sure. It is a small stoop type porch. The pots vary from year to year. It receives only morning sun and I am negleful when it gets so hot. The plants have to be tough.

They do indeed. Succulents are about as tough as you can get, but I have to admit, when I saw some fake agaves that looked very real, I was tempted. The fact that something is living means it can die, get diseased or become overgrown. Who has time for THAT? But on the other hand, we ARE gardeners, aren’t we? So what it all comes down to, nurturing plants is what we do. It IS nice, though, isn’t it, when plants don’t need a lot of it! — Debra

One February 5, 2011, 9:43 am

Love those arrangements in the pots especially the ones in the 5th photo. Thanks for the ideas. Currently, I have moon cactus and agaves in little pots in my porch.

I have moon cactus on my deck, which is kind of a laboratory for what will survive in pots during killer heat waves and annoying cold snaps. And just to torture the poor things even more, their pots lack drainage (I dribble about an eyedropper-full of water onto the soil once a month). So far, they’ve survived, but are doubtless relieved that spring is nearly here. — Debra

Deirdre February 5, 2011, 4:10 pm

I have a 1916 Craftsman bungalow. It has a wonderful front porch. It is comfortably furnished, and has assorted shade plants (it faces east) in season. I’ve received many compliments on the porch while sitting there watching the neighborhood walk their dogs and children.

Oh, how marvelous! Lucky you! That’s such a beautiful style of architecture. Btw, I’m going to tour the Craftsman-style Gamble House when in Pasadena later this month.– Debra

Deirdre February 5, 2011, 4:13 pm

Lisa, Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti work really well on a shady front porch

Yes, good point. They do need good air circulation, though. — Debra

MarkNDenver February 5, 2011, 8:20 pm

Except for the example planting in the first and last picture I would have to have a greenhouse to store these for the winter here in Colorado. Nice if you live in a zone that will allow the large container arrangements.

Very true, Mark. Most succulents will not survive out in the open once temperatures fall below freezing. This is one reason I wrote “Succulent Container Gardens”—so that anyone, anywhere can grow these marvelous plants, because containers are portable and can be overwintered indoors.
— Debra

meemsnyc February 5, 2011, 9:58 pm

Wow, those plants are amazing! We have an enclosed front porch and we keep plants in there during the winter months. It sometimes feels like a greenhouse.

How nice to hear from someone who gardens in the boroughs of New York City! Your enclosed front porch sounds wonderful. Can we look forward to seeing a post about it on your lovely website? — Debra

Michael Rosenberg February 7, 2011, 10:33 am

I read the article and must be honest. All the information is there. The pictures are crisp and clean, but where is the life. Who are you writing for. Where is your voice. Plants and gardens are an expression. I have so many resource books on gardening and design written in a similar fashion, void of the connection to the desired audience. In our social network world we as the artists must extend ourselves to make everyone else better. Will read further into the site to see how other writers come forward. Thanks for the effort.

Hi, Michael — I appreciate your honesty and constructive criticism. Maybe next time I’ll use more exclamation points. (Just kidding.) As a career journalist, author and speaker, my success depends on addressing the needs of my audience. The way I see it, my presentations, articles, books and blog posts are not about me or even about my topics so much as about my readers and listeners. Otherwise, I’m merely talking to myself—a waste of time. I’d love to know if others who read this felt the same way. — Debra

Annelie February 7, 2011, 7:26 pm

Debra, I appreciate your visit and response (and kind words). Yes, that is our mailbox, perhaps we should think of a different color for next winter so we can more easily find it.

Just read your post on writing in metaphors. Didn’t expect to learn so much in such short time. Very useful for me.
Funny, cotton candy came to mind on the grass before I read it.

Annelie

I vote for a red mailbox the color of holly and cardinals, Annelie. Glad you liked the metaphor post! — Debra

Kylee from Our Little Acre February 7, 2011, 7:53 pm

So many wonderful ideas, as usual, Debra. YOU are the one who really has turned me on to succulents! (As if I needed another gardening obsession…) I wish I lived where I could have things like this outside year round.

Oh, Kylee, not even such cold-weather succulents as sedums and sempervivums? — Debra

allanbecker-gardenguru February 7, 2011, 7:59 pm

Debra ,
I disagree with Michael.
You know exactly who you are writing for, judging by the complimentary comments above.
I think this posting is a gem:- I’m not into porches or containers yet I re read this post three times simply because the content, images and graphic design are that good.

Hi, Allan — Thank you, but I have to say, my journalism style—despite creating concise content—may be a tad impersonal. After reading Tovah’s post on amaryllis, I bow to the master! — Debra

Scott Hokunson February 7, 2011, 8:07 pm

I’m always in awe of the successful use of succulents and because I was chipping ice of the roof today, jealous of those who can enjoy them year round.

I love the tea kettles on the stove top, and the sitting area by the porch pillar is genius! I am adding a burro tail sedum hanging basket to my wish list, wow!

Thanks Scott! You’ve put me in mind of my friend Christy who lives in Colorado, at an elevation of 8,000 feet (current temp -2). The cuttings of succulents I brought her from my garden have just about taken over her sunroom. She needs a machete to get to the windows, those plants are so happy. Just sayin’. — Debra

Billy Goodnick February 7, 2011, 8:27 pm

Deb: I’m not sure what Michael is after. When I read your books and articles, I get great ideas and usually find myself giddy with your exuberant style of writing. “All of the people, some of the people, some of the time, most of the time, none of the time.” Judging from the prior comments, you wrote a bang-up blog, so don’t flog about it.

I think of my mother’s famous words that guide me to this day: “You have your opinion, I’ll have the right one.”

Very much appreciated, Billy, but giddy? Didn’t your mom also tell you not to read with a book in one hand and a hookah in the other? — Debra

Rebecca Sweet February 7, 2011, 8:37 pm

No, I don’t feel the same way at all. I love your writing as well as the information and inspiration you continually provide. Keep on doing what you’re doing, Debra! You’re fabulous!!

Backatcha, kiddo! Hm. Looks like the whole garden writing gang from Facebook is here. — Debra

Mary of Front Porch Ideas and More February 7, 2011, 9:11 pm

Debra,
I am enthralled by the beauty of these succulents in a porch setting. Thank you for this beautiful post. The first and last photos are my favorite. Because of the way you share your passion for succulents, I am becoming a fan of these beauties.

Thanks kindly,
Mary Morris

Thanks, Mary. I seem to find out new things about them, or see new varieties I haven’t seen before, on a daily basis. I do love my niche! — Debra

Fern @ Life on the Balcony February 7, 2011, 9:17 pm

I couldn’t disagree more with Michael. If he checks out any of Debra’s videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj8vvZQAlDU), he’ll see that so much of Debra’s personality comes out in her writing. She has a soft-spoken, classy style, with a fun sense of humor. She’s also very generous about sharing what she knows. I have read Succulent Container Gardens cover-to-cover at least three times. And I don’t mean I looked at all the pictures three times. I read the text. I learned so much about succulents in particular, but also gardening in general. So many of the ideas Debra shared in that book–and in this post too–are quirky without being tacky, I really find it hard to believe that anyone thought these ideas and photos were uninspiring or devoid of a human touch.

My name is Fern Richardson, I’m a real person gardening on a real balcony in Orange County, CA, and I can honestly say that I am thrilled to be part of the audience that Debra connects with through her photos and writing.

Shh, Fern, they’ll think I’m your mom! Seriously, I’m tremendously pleased that a smart, savvy lady (who likely is younger than my grown son) feels this way. You’ve convinced me I must be doing something right. — Debra

Teresa O'Connor February 8, 2011, 11:54 am

Debra: Another great article about succulents. I’m such a big fan of your work. I’m not quite sure what Michael meant by his comments. Maybe people are so used to blogs and websites these days that they can no longer appreciate good journalism.

Personally, I’d rather have the facts speak for themselves without cluttering it up with too much personality.

Considering that you are one of our industry’s most successful garden book authors, you are certainly finding a way to connect successfully with your readers.

All the best, Teresa O’Connor

Wow. Thank you, Teresa. — Debra

Jenny Peterson February 8, 2011, 12:00 pm

Since I love succulents and porches both, I’m giddy about this post! And, I must say, everyone’s got their own opinion, but your books are some of the only garden books that I actually READ. Of course I’m all over the gorgeous photographs, but when I read your books, I learn so much as a designer about creating stunning compositions. Thanks again, Debra!

Thanks, Jenny. I’m not a designer per se, so this is high praise indeed! — Debra

Sheila Schultz February 26, 2011, 11:23 am

Debra, you are my succulent guru. Containers are my thing and since I moved to Denver 5 years ago, they are often filled with these beauties. Your books have been read and re-read, and they are getting a bit tattered from continuous referencing. I freely admit to being addicted. Thanks.