Choosing plants for your front garden – The front garden presents householders with a range of garden design challenges. Whilst the back garden is usually a private, personal space where no-one sees the front of the house is on show for all the world to see.
Ideas for a front garden
That little piece of England in front of a home is the public face of a house, and its occupants. If you’re thinking of selling the property, first impressions are everything. An unkempt garden can devalue your home so easily. Conversely, a well maintained garden will increase kerb appeal and may even boost the buying price a little.
Your front garden greets visitors before you do. It offers an answer to the question “who lives in a place like this?” So from a human perspective, your front garden needs to reflect your own tastes and personality . That can be difficult if it’s a car park.
What to think about when designing a front garden
Any garden, but especially a front garden needs to be functional, attractive, affordable and manageable. In an ideal world it will also be sustainable, in tune with the environment and attractive to wildlife. Questions to ask yourself include;
- Will there be a hard standing for the car (or cars)?
- How important is privacy?
- Does it need to provide shade for the house or let in as much light as possible?
- Should it be toddler proofed?
- Will the pets be using the garden?
- How long each week/month/season do you want to spend caring for the garden?
- Will you employ a gardener or are you happy to do the work yourself?
Remember that you are not the only one who uses your garden. Front gardens can make amazing wildlife corridors. The more plants you have, the more you are doing to improve air quality. Don’t forget too that soil and soft landscaping is so much better at absorbing rainfall than hard surfaces. A lawn, a flower bed or a shrubbery can take an awful lot of the strain off our overworked drains.
None of the above need to be labour intensive if you don’t want them to be. Personally I love fiddling about in the garden and if I’m in the front garden I get to chat to neighbours and passers-by. But I can empathise with anyone who doesn’t like gardening (I feel the same way about housework).
I share a front garden with our neighbour and a constant source of irritation is that delivery folks tend to trip across the lawn to get from Bob’s door to my door and vice-versa. They’ve gradually carved out a compacted track across the grass. It never ever looks attractive. Next Spring, I will put down some stepping stones so that the poor lawn gets less of a battering.
How about planting a native hedge? You can control what height it reaches so it can give you privacy, or it can stay low enough to let the light in your windows. More importantly it has the potential to provide nectar for pollinating insects. As well as laval food for butterflies, nesting spots and autumn berries for the birds and a wonderful place to shelter for hedgehogs. Use a weed control membrane when you’re planting and the only work a native hedge will generate is a quick trim in late autumn to keep it at the height you want it to be.
Climbing plants are brilliant. I’m a great fan of ivy, especially at this time of year when it can add to my Christmas decorations in the house. Ivy flowers when there are very few other sources of winter food for bees and moths. Not only that but it’s one of the most self-sufficient plants there is. It doesn’t take up much space – because it grows upwards – and it doesn’t need lots of attention. If you’re nervous about growing it up the side of your house, let it twist around a pole instead, or, buy one of those wire topiary frames and really make a feature of it.
Take a look at http://www.gardeningdelights.com/topiary-frames/wild-animal-topiary-frames.html for inspiration.
Plants in containers
I’m rubbish at hanging baskets and container gardening, I always forget to water them but if you have a better memory than me, they can provide such a lot of colour, nectar and interest at any time of year.
A hanging basket lined with sedum matting. This will stay green all year round and can have all sorts of plants added to it.
If the hard standing for the car really is essential, why not remove the paving stones where the wheels never run and slot in a piece of sedum matting? Its low growing, easy maintenance and will flower beautifully all summer long. Butterflies and bees are attracted to sedum plants like little magnets.
Traditionally, front gardens all had well-tended lawns. I remember it was always my Dad’s job to cut the lawn on a Sunday morning. He had an old Qualcast push mower and was forever competing with Mr Bird at number 11 and Mr Rowsell at number 13 to have the best looking lawn. Nowadays Mr Bird and Mr Rowsell are tending the big lawn in the sky and neither neighbour seems to be quite as fastidious about gardening as those two elderly gents were but at least none of them have concreted over their lawns yet.
Lawns seem to be out of favour with the trendy garden designers but you know, they’re really not that bad. Blackbirds love foraging for worms on a close-cut lawn and as long as the grass plants are fed, mown regularly and occasionally spot-treated for weeds, they’re not as labour intensive as people are led to believe. They certainly give a property an air of maturity and make it look loved far more than brickweave ever can.
If there isn’t room for a lawn and a car, why not put in some of those Ecogrid tiles to reinforce the grass? That way you can have your cake and eat it. I must confess though, I have never tried carrying shopping bags across an Ecogrid lawn whilst wearing heeled shoes and supervising a toddler…..it might not be practical for everyone!
I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that the front garden needn’t and shouldn’t be a sterile expanse of brickweave or gravel. Do some research online, commission a garden designer (they’re not as expensive as you might think) and you can soon create a real talking point in front of your house without breaking the bank, or your back.
In an ideal world, what would you put in your front garden?