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.
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Be inspired by our tips for designing a front garden, below.
Use complementary colours
Front garden with slate paving and chippings, planted with hostas, grasses, irises and climbing roses
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
White garden gate surrounded by cottage style planting
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
Sempervivums with a gravel mulch planted in a blue wooden wheelie-bin cover
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
A tiny front garden packed with plants in containers
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
An eye-catching cloud-pruned box beside white house walls
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, box 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
Red begonias and purple petunias in a basket hanging from a red-brick wall
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
A display of flowers growing in terracotta pots
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
Container-grown ferns in a shady spot beside a house wall
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
Tall miscanthus fronds forming a semi-screen in front of a window
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. 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.