Front gardens play an important role. Planted up, they breathe life into grey streets and help us to feel good about where we live.
Creating a front garden requires careful thought. You may well need to find space for wheelie bins and off-street parking, which can limit your planting choices.
However, this doesn’t mean that front gardens can’t be beautiful spaces that benefit wildlife, too. The key is to keep things simple, and ensure any plants and materials work well together.
Check out some of our top tips for designing a front garden, below.
A clean slate
This front garden is both beautiful and practical. Climbing roses soften the house walls, while a mulch of slate chippings allows rainwater to soak into the ground. This ties in nicely with the paving material, too.
Our tip: always lay landscape fabric under loose materials – it’ll stop weeds coming up but let rainwater through.
Save money: loose materials are far cheaper than solid ones, so keep paved areas to a minimum if your budget is tight.
Front garden with slate paving and chippings, planted with hostas, grasses, irises and climbing roses
A welcome change
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 little garden waiting to be explored.
Our tip: white can be quite dominant. Here, it matches in with the house, but 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.
White garden gate surrounded by cottage style planting
Raise your profile
Bins and recycling boxes are often the first thing you see in a front garden. This raised mini landscape is a great way to hide them, while reclaiming the lost landscape beneath. Sedums and sempervivums don’t need much soil depth and are drought tolerant.
Our tip: cover the base with plastic membrane to stop it rotting, then fill with a mix of multi-purpose compost and grit.
Save money: make it yourself from off-cuts of wood and decking planks.
Sempervivums with a gravel mulch planted in a blue wooden wheelie-bin cover
Go totally potty
Don’t give up on a tiny front garden – it’s amazing how many plants can be squeezed in. All these are in containers, which are totally hidden by the lovely trailing flowers and foliage.
Our tip: the bigger the container the better – it means you can combine several plants together, yet reduce the amount of watering required.
Save money: try to recycle and upcycle containers – virtually anything can be used, from old sinks to large olive oil tins.
A tiny front garden packed with plants in containers
Stand to attention
Simple is often best and you can’t beat a formally framed front door. These bay lollipops in terracotta planters are a classic combination. Other alternatives include yew, box and privet. For something that draws the eye a bit more, you could opt for a cloud pruned shrub or tree (pictured).
Our tip: turn the pots around occasionally, so the plants can grow evenly.
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.
An eye-catching cloud-pruned box beside white house walls
Get the hang of it
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.
Our tip: choose flower or foliage colours that work well with your house bricks or front door.
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.
Red begonias and purple petunias in a basket hanging from a red-brick wall
Cheap and cheerful
You don’t have to spend a lot to make a difference. Here a random collection of vibrant plants in pots of various sizes has been brought together by using the same terracotta finish.
Our 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.
Save money: look out for small plants and multi-buy deals – you can often make great savings by buying seasonal plants in quantity.
A display of flowers growing in terracotta pots
A fern favourite
Shady corners 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.
Our tip: for year-round interest, choose evergreen ferns such as the hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) or the soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum).
Save money: you can often buy multi-packs of young fern plants, which are great value for money.
Container-grown ferns in a shady spot beside a house wall
Add a touch of grass
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 little privacy indoors.
Our 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.
Tall miscanthus fronds forming a semi-screen in front of a window
White honeysuckle and mauve sweet rocket flowers
Front garden dos and don’ts
- Do choose surfaces and plants that will tie in with the colour and tones of the house
- Do 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
- Do ensure your design works from indoors too. Look out the windows and think about what you want to see, what you’d prefer to hide, and where you’d like to create more privacy
- Do 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)
- Do add fragrant plants for passers-by and visitors to enjoy
- Do consider a formal layout if you have a symmetrical house with a central front door
- Do include some evergreens, as the garden will be seen daily throughout winter
- Don’t create an awkward route from the pavement to the front door – postmen and visitors will always cut corners
- Don’t use a loose surface such as fine gravel right up the door, as it’ll get trodden through the house
- Don’t build up paving or soil levels against the house wall, as it can cause damp issues
- Don’t pave your front garden with an impermeable surface, causing rainwater to run into the street. Planning permission may be needed for paving