September often starts with a blaze of warm weather as we head back to work, school and university after the holidays; and we feel refreshed after the summer break and ready to face the pleasures of festivals and crisp autumn walks to keep us busy between now and Christmas.
And then we walk out of the front door and down the garden path to the gate.
Do you have practical, neat and bee friendly passage between you and the outside world?
Or do you have a weed ridden, sadly neglected wilderness?
It is all too easy to forget that the front garden is more than a depository for recycling boxes and dirty trainers.
The eye tends to gloss over the bits that require effort and anyway, how much time do you spend looking at your front garden?
Possibly you avoid looking because it’s a mess?
Your front garden should please you when you walk out of your door and when you return home. It is the first thing about you that visitors notice; it is the outward face you show to passersby.
Front garden ideas #1
Make a focal point of your front door. Welcome family and friends with pots and planting that lead their eye and their feet towards the house. If you have very little space for planting, making a feature of the doorway is the often the best area to focus on.
A pair of topiary cones or standard olive trees in lead planters are rightly popular, but are not the only choices. Why not have a bit of fun with colourful pots and contrasting bedding plants such as pelargoniums (pot geraniums)?
Front garden ideas #2
Parking for cars and motorbikes. Remember that legislation prevents you from paving over your whole front garden with an impermeable surface; ie a surface where water is not able to soak through into the ground underneath but runs off onto the pavements and roads, causing more likelihood of flooding and overflowing drains.
There are practical and attractive surfaces suitable for parking that are also permeable. With many of these, it is the sub structure, the bit you don’t see, that is critical for permeability. I have known blocks (a popular driveway choice for many) laid on impermeable concrete rather than sand or crushed granite.
When you’re having a new drive laid make sure as large a planting area as possible is included, and be very specific that these areas are not filled with hard core or rubble beneath a 2” topping of poor soil! A situation we’ve come across too many times when asked to plant up a front garden, frequently leading to a disappointed client who wanted a range of flowering shrubs for privacy, winter colour and spring blossom and is left with the option of either a few bedding plants or serious excavation.
Front garden ideas #3
Trees can be a stunning addition to a front garden design, even in smaller areas. The critical thing is to suit the size of tree to the size of garden; which includes:
- Knowing how large the tree will become when mature and how many years that will take; also remember that many shrubs can grow to a large size.
- The nearness of the tree to the house; also whether you are in an area prone to subsidence.
- Whether the tree is deciduous or evergreen – especially with regard to leaves; wet leaves can make paths slippery, and certain leaves, lime for example, can make a mess of car paintwork.
Trees can be coppiced or pollarded to keep them small and encourage attractive bark, for example silver birch and snake bark maple (acer griseum); or decorative juvenile foliage, for example eucalyptus and catalpa bignoides.
Other trees can offer a long season of interest with spring blossom, summer fruits, autumn leaf colour and attractive winter bark or branch structure. Sorbus, aka Rowan or mountain ash is a good choice, as is corkscrew hazel (corylus avellana contorta).
Or you could choose a large shrub with long lasting coloured berries to match your car!
Front garden ideas #4
Rubbish bins and recycling boxes can be an unwanted focal point in smaller urban and suburban gardens. Boxing them in is one solution but then leaves you with a wooden or concrete structure as a focal point instead. Sometimes a custom made solution is best for these structures, so they fit the area you have available and look like part of the overall front garden design.
Why not turn the bin store into a new planting area with a green roof? There are both shade loving plants and sun worshippers that are happy in shallow soil. Succulents such as Sempervirens (house leeks) and Sedums offer textural interest and don’t mind if you sometimes forget to water them. Miniature daffodil bulbs and cyclamen will also be happy in this situation.
Front garden ideas #5
Would you like to grow your own fruit and vegetables but there’s no room in the back garden between the goalposts and the trampoline for anything?
Why not turn your front garden into a decorative productive plot? This is not a good idea of you live on a busy road, but otherwise has definite possibilities.
A couple of espalier fruit trees against fences and step over fruit trees edging the path will provide quite a bit of fruit. A wrought iron obelisk will give you height in the winter and support for runner beans in the summer. Rainbow chard is an attractive leafy vegetable that can stand all winter.
If you’re concerned about passers-by seeing and then wanting to eat your produce, why not grow less obvious food plants? Most people wouldn’t know that quince, medlar, sweet almond and hazel all provide tasty fruit and nuts. New Zealand spinach and globe artichokes surrounded with alpine strawberries could easily be mistaken for ornamental plants.
More front garden ideas and thoughts
A front garden may compliment the style of the house – for example a traditional cottage could have a front garden in the cottage garden style; or it could have architectural and spiky modernistic planting ‘zinging it up’ for contrast.
Budget constrictions often mean that the front garden is a low priority, being the space least time is spent in: it is often compared to a hall. But a hall can be a showcase for treasured pictures as well as a practical utility area for essential coats and shoes. Likewise, a front garden can be eye-catching and still accommodate recycling boxes as part of the scheme.
The smaller size of front gardens can be an advantage as a small budget for a front garden can achieve a big result. Have a look at some of those we’ve designed while you finish your cup of coffee.