Front gardens play an important role, particularly in our towns and cities. They can breathe life into grey streets, helping to provide wildlife habitats and reduce pollution. They can also make us feel good about where we live.
Creating a front garden requires careful thought. You may need to find space for wheelie bins and off-street parking, which can limit your design and planting choices. However, this doesn't mean that front gardens can't be beautiful, practical and wildlife-friendly spaces. The key is to keep things simple and ensure any plants and materials work well together.
Design tips for front gardens
- Ensure your design works from indoors. Think about what you want to see from the windows and where you'd like to create privacy
- Use surfaces that let water through, such as gravel, permeable setts or grass sown into heavy-duty plastic modules (that cars can be parked on)
- Don't create an awkward route from the pavement to the front door – visitors will always cut corners
- Don't use a loose surface such as fine gravel right up the door, it will get trodden through the house
- Don't build up paving or soil levels against the house wall, as they can cause damp issues
- Seek advice or planning permission for paving, which can increase risk of localised flooding.
More on front gardens:
Small front garden ideas
Even in a small front garden, you can make a difference by planting a container for the front door step or growing climbers up the house wall. There are ways to make your small front garden look bigger, such as avoiding clutter, using one larger plant as a focal point rather than creating a busy look with lots of small pots, adding height with climber and using cool colours.
- Plant up a window box. This can be changed seasonally and will create a focal point for your front garden. Miniature daffodils, pelargoniums, violas, pansies, ivy, heuchera and heather are all easy plants for window boxes
- Planting a climber such as a clematis, rose or wisteria will add colour without taking up too much ground space. Adding vertical interest is a great way to make your garden look bigger
- Use symmetry to give your entrance impact. Placing a bay tree or standard rose on either side of the door is a low maintenance way to improve the look of your front garden
- Add lighting – a string of fairy lights along your hedge or fence is a simple way to give your front garden a boost without too much effort. You can buy outdoor battery powered lights that can be set with a timer to come on after dark
- Plant a hedge – this is a great option for a boundary and adds greenery to a front garden. It’s good for wildlife, providing shelter and food, depending on what species you go for. Some good choices for wildlife include beech, hawthorn and hazel.
Front garden fencing ideas
A fence creates a boundary between your garden and the street, gardens to either side of you or the landscape beyond. If the fence in your front garden is next to a road or path alongside a road, it can be up to 1m high. You don’t need planning permission for a fence this high, but if you live in a listed building or conservation area it’s worth checking with your local council. The options for a fence in your front garden include metal railings, fence panels in a variety of styles, and picket fences. The cheapest material for a fence is likely to be wire fencing, which isn't very attractive, but which could be enhanced by growing climbers such as ivy and clematis up it. Wooden fence panels are also an inexpensive option.
More like this
- Paint plain wooden fencing to give your front garden a lift. This could be simply staining it a more attractive wood colour or brightening things up with colour
- Use a picket fence that creates a boundary but doesn’t block light – this is a good option for informal, cottage style gardens
- Plant either behind or in front of your fence to soften the look of the boundary. A hedge can add to a formal look or a display of bright plants can bring a more relaxed feel to a smart exterior
- Use your fence as a base for vertical planting. Choose fencing panels with trellis at the top to tie in climbers such as clematis. Alternatively, plant along the base of the fence
- Combine railings with a wall – railings set into a wall are a good match for Victorian properties
Be inspired by our tips for designing a front garden, below.
Use complementary colours
Try to use colour to tie in with the colour and tones of the house. This front garden is planted with low-maintenance plants in various shades of green, set off by loose slate tiles and chippings.
Design tip: Note here the colour of the window frames and door awning complement the slate paths. Climbing roses further bring the garden to the house, while also softening the house walls. The front door and wood store are both painted black.
Save money: loose materials are cheaper than solid ones such as paving stones, and allow water to percolate into the soil, preventing flooding. Always lay landscape fabric beneath loose materials – it will stop weeds coming up but let rainwater through.
Use white to create a focal point
The entrance to a front garden can immediately set the style of the space. This welcoming white wooden gate, surrounded by cottage-style planting, signposts that there's a fabulous cottage garden waiting to be explored.
Design tip: white can be quite a dominant colour. Use in small doses only. It may be just a bit too garish for your garden – try various colour samples before choosing.
Save money: look out for reclaimed or second-hand gates, and spruce them up with a fresh coat of paint.
Hide bins with bespoke screening
Bins and recycling boxes are often the first thing you see in a front garden. It's easy to hide them away. This box unit has been designed to hide the bin while still enabling easy access, and the planting space above looks pretty while reclaiming the lost earth taken up by the bin. Use a variety of plants of your choice – green roof plants, such as sedums and sempervivums, don't need much soil depth and are drought tolerant.
Design tip: cover the base of the planting pocket with plastic membrane to stop it rotting, then fill with a mix of peat-free, multi-purpose compost and grit.
Save money: make it yourself from old pallets and decking planks.
Use containers to enhance paved spaces
It's amazing how many plants can be grown in pots and other containers. This front garden is paved, and all plants are grown in pots, which are hidden by trailing flowers and foliage.
Design tip: Browse our list of plants for pots and choose wisely, taking into consideration how much time you'll have to water and feed your plants. Choose the largest pots you can find or afford – the bigger the container the better, as you can combine several plants together and reduce the amount of watering required.
Save money: grow as many plants from seed as possible. Try to recycle and upcycle containers – virtually anything can be used, from old sinks to large olive oil tins.
Use topiary for a formal look
Consider a formal layout if you have a symmetrical house with a central front door. Topiary trees and shrubs work well in these situations, such as this cloud-pruned box. You can also buy lollipop trees of bay, yew and privet.
Design tip: plant your specimens symmetrically – such as on either side of your front door, in matching pots, for the best effect.
Save money: there are some very convincing faux terracotta and faux lead planters on the market – they cost less than the real thing and are also lightweight.
Use hanging baskets for height and colour
Hanging baskets help to break up a harsh brick wall and soften the front of the house. Change the plants seasonally to keep the display looking cheery and welcoming.
Design tip: choose flower or foliage colours that work well with your house bricks or front door, such as the orange flowers, here, which pick out the colour of the bricks behind.
Save money: raise your own bedding plants from seed, or buy as plugs early in the season, then grow them on. Keep summer bedding plants indoors until after the last frost.
Use pots of different sizes
Here a random collection of vibrant plants in pots of various sizes has been brought together by using the same terracotta finish.
Design tip: this display works well because the pots have been arranged by size, with the tallest at the back and a row of dianthus along one side. Add fragrant plants for passers-by and visitors to enjoy.
Save money: look out for small plants and multi-buy deals – you can often make great savings by buying seasonal plants in quantity.
Grow shade-loving plants in shady gardens
Shady gardens needn't be tricky. These ferns show that even a few plants in pots can break up an otherwise harsh junction between a wall and concrete path.
Design tip: include some evergreens, as the garden will be seen daily throughout winter. Evergreen ferns such as the hart's tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) or the soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) are perfect for shade.
Save money: you can often buy multi-packs of young fern plants, which are great value for money.
Add height where possible
Try to get some height into even a small space. A single small tree or large shrub will make all the difference and can be grown in a large container. Read more about trees for small gardens. A deciduous tree can act as a net curtain, giving a degree of privacy from the street all year round but letting light in in winter – read more about trees for privacy.
Grasses are a great option in a sunny front garden. They have a long season of interest and many keep their form all winter. This miscanthus is the ideal height to provide a soft screen for the window behind it, creating a little privacy indoors.
Design tip: let ornamental grasses stand tall through the winter months. Wait until spring to cut them back and tidy them up.
Save money: grasses are usually fast-growing and will quickly bulk up, so don't waste your money on large specimens.
Try a Victorian front garden design
Features that are common in Victorian front garden designs include wrought iron railings, tiled paths, formal style planting such as topiary and box hedging that matches the smart architecture of the house.
Design tip: if you prefer a less formal style, embrace some of the plants that the Victorians loved and go for a more colourful look. At this time dahlias, petunias, chrysanthemums and roses were all popular. And if you have a north facing garden, try ferns.
Save money: search reclamation yards for railings and tiles that can be repurposed.
Plant a hedge
A hedge can absorb noise and pollution and help wildlife. It also makes an attractive boundary between your front garden and the street, and a wildlife friendly alternative to fencing. For an easy to maintain hedge, box is a good option although there is the risk of box blight. Other good hedging plants include Osmanthus burkwoodii, with white flowers in spring, privet, yew and pittosporum.
Design tip: plant a hedge behind your fence to add greenery to your garden or combine it with an attractive gate. Choose a clipped small leaved hedge for a formal look or a flowering or mixed hedge for a cottage style or informal garden.
Save money: buy young hedging plants in bulk and use smaller plants. It will save money on buying more mature plants but it will take longer to get a full sized hedge.
Use your front door in the colour scheme
Choose a colour scheme or style for your front garden and paint your door to complement it. Even refreshing the current colour will give your front garden a boost. Whether it’s black to suit a traditional Victorian house or a light blue to complement a soft colour scheme, it’s one more element where you can improve your front garden.
Design tip: take into account the style of your house and houses on your street before painting your door bright pink or dayglo orange. It should help bring design elements together, from your plants to your brick colour, rather than stand out on its own.
Save money: do the job yourself rather than paying someone to renovate your door.