Your front garden is the first thing visitors see. Yet, while many people lavish time and money on their back gardens, front gardens are often dull and unimaginative.
With a little planning and some expert advice, however, it’s easy to create a front garden that is attractive, welcoming and easy to maintain.
If you’re short of time, you want it to be low maintenance.
It’s true that the demands of low maintenance have been used as an excuse for all sorts of horrors, such as ugly concrete paving and thickets of dwarf conifers.
But if you spend time getting the structure and design right, you can have a beautiful and imaginatively planted front garden which really does require little weeding and minimal upkeep.
The trick is to get it right at the very beginning.
Garden designer Debbie Carroll, of dcgarden designs.co.uk, has worked on numerous front gardens, and she admits that they can present a real challenge, even for an experienced designer.
‘There are so many conflicting requirements, ‘ Debbie says. ‘Clients want to use the front garden to park the car, but they also want it to look nice, with as little effort as possible.
‘The layout has to be practical, but your front garden can also provide a welcome home each day from work. An attractive front garden can lift your spirits, give pleasing views from the house, increase the kerb appeal, and add to the property’s value.’
The width of paths and drives is critical. Debbie recommends that a path should be at least 1.2m wide, and a drive 3.5m.
‘If they aren’t large enough it becomes frustrating, and people will stray off the path and damage the edges of the planting, ‘ she says.
When it comes to the hard landscaping, new legislation is now in force in England (though not the rest of the UK) which applies whether you are simply repaving an existing front garden or remodelling it.
Unless your space is less than 5sq m, you must lay a permeable or porous surface, such as gravel, permeable concrete or permeable asphalt, or apply for planning permission, with all the associated costs.
For more details, visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk.
But with vertical surfaces, you can let your imagination run riot. Whether you have a wall, a painted trellis or a wrought iron fence, it’s a great opportunity to plant fragrant climbers and introduce some greenery to soften the effect of the hard landscaping.
Once you have sorted out the structure, start planting. What you grow will depend on whether your garden is sunny or shady (see below), and what the soil is like.
‘It’s worth doing a pH test to make sure the plants you’ve chosen will cope with your soil, ‘ says Debbie.
‘The more suited the plants to your location the more they will thrive. If they’re healthy they’ll need less maintenance.’
Lay a weed-suppressant membrane and plant through this, mulching in between with woodchip or gravel. This will cut down hugely on weeding.
If you are working with an existing border, weed it in early spring and then apply a deep layer of composted mulch onto damp ground. This will trap the moisture and reduce weed growth, making life much easier.
BEFORE YOU START, CONSIDER:
- What are the access routes?
- Does the drive have to accommodate cars?
- Where are you going to keep your bins?
- How will the garden look from the road?
- How will it look from inside the house?
- Is there room to move a bike/motorbike?
- Is there room to make the plant borders at least a metre deep?
- Is there a tap for easy watering?
- What is the soil like? Can you grow acid-lovers like camellias, skimmias and pieris?
Low-maintenance plants for a sunny garden
- Hardy fuchsia
- Red hot poker
Low-maintenance plants for a shady garden
- Fatsia japonica
- Skimmia japonica
- Christmas box
- (Sarcococca confusa)