Front gardens have to work hard for the money. Coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes, they have to support functional needs like parking and storing the bins, whilst also being inviting and giving the house kerb-appeal. In some cases the front garden is the only garden and has to be shared between these functional needs as well as providing somewhere reasonably private to sit.
A poorly designed front garden is a pain to use; the parking too tight, the route to the front door uncertain, the planting too big to get past with the shopping or the garden is too exposed to the street to be used for other purposes. A well-designed garden on the other hand is pleasurable to use. It is inviting, easy to move around in, whether on foot or in a vehicle, and is screened from the street.
A SUN-BAKED GRAVEL GARDEN
SHERFIELD PARK, HAMPSHIRE
This was a small south-facing front garden to a double-fronted new build property. The main problem was dealing with very compacted clay soil, builder’s rubble and poor drainage. It had been laid to lawn and planted with some tough but uninspiring shrubs. The key requirements were for the garden to look appealing and pretty throughout the year while limiting the maintenance required.
My solution was to create a gravel garden, requiring minimal hard landscaping and using plants that would happily look after themselves for most of the year. The original path was lifted and replaced in a more logical direction for approaching pedestrians and a decorative brick strip was laid along the front of the borders for visitor parking.
Topiary box balls were planted along the path and Hebe rakiensis shrubs along the front, to give evergreen structure and definition, complemented by ornamental grasses and sun-loving perennials.
CIRCLES WITHIN CIRCLES GARDEN
OLD BASING, HAMPSHIRE
This was a very small front garden to a Maisonette. Due to its size, I felt that the paving was as important as the planting in creating interest. The clients were both fans of Kandinsky, so I took inspiration from his 'Circles in a Circle' painting for the design, which included circles composed of different coloured and sized pavers connected with lines.
The garden was north facing and largely shaded by adjacent trees, so leaf texture, shine and colour was more important than flowers for all season interest. It wasn't possible to put a border against the house, due to pipework and drains, so a freestanding container was added to break up the view.
Wassily Kandinsky, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A TERRACED FRONT GARDEN
I was asked to prepare a design for a very narrow, sloping frontage which my clients had tried to garden. Compacted, poor soil and hot sunny conditions, as well as a local cat, meant that not much of what they planted survived.
To make the best possible use of the limited space available, my design replaced the grass, terraced the slope and created raised beds for low-maintenance Mediterranean-style planting that would provide interest in all seasons.
I made the approach to the front door much more inviting to visitors by removing the sloped path and replacing this with a series of wide steps. The garden is due to be finished in 2021.