Front gardens can offer guests a welcome to your home, a parking space or additional privacy. But, for those with limited garden space, especially in cities, front gardens present a precious planting opportunity. Growing plants in your front garden creates a welcoming, good looking space that could add value to your home.
Increasingly, as more areas of green space are paved over for parking or to reduce garden maintenance, front gardens represent a lifeline to wildlife, which are unable to forage or nest on hard surfaces. They also help reduce risk of flooding, as there is soil and plant roots to absorb water. Research conducted by the RHS found that areas with lots of hard surfacing increased local temperatures because they absorbed heat through the day – known as the urban heat island effect. A street of gardens full of plants will be cooler, less prone to flooding and more biodiverse.
Plants in front gardens need to work hard. They’re constantly on view and there’s usually a lot of through traffic. It’s therefore wise to choose tough plants with a long season of interest. It’s also worth planting the garden to keep it as low maintenance as possible, for example by planting slow-growing shrubs and hedges so you don’t constantly have to cut them back.
See the following nine ideas for making the most of your front garden.
Sit in your front garden
If you have the luxury of a larger than average front garden, make the most of it with a sitting area. This sunny front garden has been transformed by planting into gravel. Verbena bonariensis provides a tall but airy screen, while lower growing grasses and shrubs have been used to create an enclosed space, perfect for a bistro table and chairs. It’s the ideal spot to enjoy your morning coffee.
Choose a garden gate
Make an entrance with a bespoke garden gate. There are plenty of gates on the market to suit all tastes, ranging from traditional wrought iron or wooden designs to more contemporary styles. But if you want to stand out on your street, you could design your own or choose an original design by a local artist or craftsperson. In this picture, the gate is made of wood and wrought iron, creating a contemporary look with traditional materials.
Make a garden path
Make the path to your front door a little more interesting by combining paving and planting. This path uses a combination of gravel and paving, which is better for drainage and also makes the perfect planting medium for small, creeping herbs such as thyme. The thyme will withstand a little stomping and release its lovely scent when the leaves are crushed. With cottage style planting tumbling over the edges of the path, this makes a colourful entrance.
Hide the bins
Many front gardens have become a repository for our rubbish bins. There may be no getting away from ugly wheelie bins, but you can minimise the impact. This option takes the principle of a green roof and uses it on a bin store. The herb planting might help disguise any unfortunate aromas as well as attracting wildlife to distract from the rubbish bins. Meanwhile, it’s a great way of making more planting space on this elevated platform.
Plant up pots
A simple collection of seasonal colour in pots will brighten up any doorstep. Here, the different sized pots, filled with bright complementary coloured flowers make a cheery and sunny spring ensemble. Pale yellow dianthus, yellow ranunculus and white Bellis perennis contrast with silver cineraria and purple drumstick primula. If mixing up your pot sizes, try to stick to one material or colour to give your group some unity.
Use screening to add privacy
Traditionally, privet was the plant of choice for front garden hedges. But there are other options that offer a less dense screen and are lower maintenance too. This tall Calamagrostis has been planted directly in front of a window to make a soft curtain that gives a little privacy when indoors, but also lets the light filter through. You can plant into pots or a trough which means you don’t have to go digging up concrete front gardens.
Don’t pave over completely
Many front gardens have been concreted over to create parking spaces. More concrete means more run off and risk of flooding, and the loss of valuable planting to support urban insect life. This driveway offers a solution with wide paving slabs and slate chippings, interplanted with low-growing plants so cars can still use it for parking. But with a water feature surrounded by ornamental grasses, hostas and perennial planting, the garden has not been compromised.
Create wildlife habitats
Garden designer Sean Murray has turned these tin cans into homes for wildlife. With some of them filled with bamboo sticks and others empty, they create a rustic mosaic pattern. Framed by wooden posts, adorned with climbing roses, this may attract nesting solitary bees in summer and hibernating insects in autumn and winter.
Make a bold centrepiece
This front garden is densely planted. The large terracotta pot makes a good centrepiece and the effervescent planting spills out into the gravel. The window boxes include evergreen foliage for all year interest, and box balls give structure, while the mixed summer planting includes plenty of colour and texture – lavenders, geraniums, alchemilla, geums, and roses are thriving in this sunny spot.