By Dawn Isaac
Front gardens are rarely spacious affairs, yet we work them hard. Not only do they regularly serve as bike keeps and bin stores but we may even ask them to squeeze in a parked car or two. Which is why a space that should be a horticultural voyeur’s dream more often resembles an open-air storage facility.
But rather than drawing the curtains and pretending it's not there, you can help add a bit of balance to the space. Shrewd plant choices can give structure, colour and even screening without being a maintenance headache. Sympathetically chosen hard landscaping materials may cushion their impact on the space, and the right kind of boundary should set it all off perfectly.
Is it an easy marriage: practical needs and a gorgeous garden? No, but when it’s the outside space you probably see and traverse the most, it’s worth trying to make the union work.
1. No direct and easy path to the door
2. Shallow window box is high maintenance
3. No space to park car
4. Lawn requires regular cutting
5. Large brick walls dominate
Create evergreen structure Clipped box balls or rounded hebes add year-round structure that won’t require much pruning.
Screen off the neighbours A multi-stemmed flowering cherry tree (prunus 'Amanogawa') screens the neighbouring property and frames views from the house as well as providing summer shade.
Plant a wildlife-friendly boundary Adding a yew hedge along one side of the garden not only softens the space but offers protection and food for garden birds and wildlife.
Mark out the space Adding a short section of wall at the front of the garden provides an attractive visual marker of the boundary line while still leaving it accessible for cars.
Add plants in the wheel tracks If cars are only parked occasionally in the space, you can add tough, low-growing plants such as Ajuga reptans, creeping Jenny or thyme to green-up the space between the wheel tracks
Keep it low-maintenance Rather than rely on pots and window boxes that require regular watering, permanent planting beds next to the house provide a lower maintenance option.
Lay a path direct to the door A brick path to match the house brick now goes direct to the door, making it easier for visitors to use and less tempting for them to take a 'shortcut' across planting.
Soften walls Wire-supported climbing roses, combined with early and late clematis, will soften the appearance of the house wall and bring colour across the seasons.
Lay rain-permeable paving Using an angular gravel allows this to bed down to form a stable surface but on that is still permeable so rainwater can soak through.
Provide access for bins A wide section of brick paving gives plenty of room to manoeuvre bins in and out for collection at the front of the property.