Jazzing Up a Garden
are for showing off to the neighbours with minimum effort.
Joe Swift shows how you can do it
Front gardens are
fabulous spaces. Just think how many people see your
front garden. All the passers by on foot, bicycle, roller
blades, by car or even on the top of the number 24 bus!
The front garden becomes public visual property and
also makes a statement about yourself, the homeowner
whether you like it or not.
Creating a successful
front garden is a completely different task to trying
to create that relaxing outdoor room from your back
garden space. The fundamental criteria to be considered
are completely different. For a start it’s unlikely
that you’ll actually want to sit and sun yourself
in it unless it’s the only outside space you have.
Then there’s the consideration of it visually
anchoring the house to the ground, and therefore the
overall architecture of the house has to be considered.
On top of all this it has to blend in with the rest
of the street and neighbours front gardens, or does
it? If you are a bit of an extrovert the front garden
becomes the perfect place to unleash your creativity
and show the world what you’re really made of.
As a child I lived
in a street where our direct next door neighbour used
his front garden to exhibit his painted junk metal sculptures
(it was the early 70’s!). It is the only front
garden in the road that sticks in my mind and I know
it gave great pleasure to many passers by. To do something
like this is a daring step and the general public will
judge you on it. But if executed well the front garden
can be the perfect place to introduce a sense of play
For most the front
garden should ideally be the ultimate in low maintenance.
Weed suppressing fabrics will considerably reduce the
amount of work, and can be planted through and mulched
over with pretty much anything. If it’s a dark,
shady area bare soil will only sap the light and increase
the feeling of shade. Use a light coloured material
such as cockleshells or beach pebbles to help lift it.
Depending on how daring you are there are some mad coloured
glass aggregates on the market, which will help set
off the plants brilliantly.
Don’t be frightened
of simple symmetry, which often works best as plenty
of houses are built on strict geometry. Each side of
the front door is the perfect place for a couple of
pots. If you’ve got the space go for ones that
are oversized: they may look almost too large proportionally,
but will create real impact, so go for it. If it’s
a sunny spot try planting them with something aromatic
such as lavender or rosemary, and if it’s shady
you just can’t go wrong with box or even Osmanthus
burkwoodii, which has a delicious scented flower.
In fact the front
garden is the ideal place to grow scented plants. The
winter and spring flowering scented plants such as sarcoccas,
viburnums and mahonias are particularly suited to the
front as opposed to the back. The back garden is somewhere
you are unlikely to venture during the cold months whereas
the strong fragrant flowers cannot be missed in the
front garden as you’ll pass them on a daily basis
whatever the season.
Front gardens more
often than not create an opportunity to grow at least
one climber up the front of the house or over the front
door. If it’s scent you’re looking for you
can’t beat a jasmine or even an evergreen jasmine-
Trachelospermum jasminoides. It may need a little protection
from the cold, but is pretty tough and will flower well
in light shade as well as full sun. It’s scent
is delicious and it’s pretty well-behaved and
won’t try to rule the world. If you have full
sun and want to cover the house with the most majestic
of all climbers you simply can’t beat a wisteria
sinensis. It may not flower for the first few years,
but boy when it does it makes one the finest of all
plant displays with it’s flowers dangling down
like huge bunches of grapes.
Whatever you choose
to do with your front garden just remember it should
reflect your personality and how you want to be seen
by the rest of the world. If you’re neat then
go for neat. If you’re messy go for messy. There
are also simple practicalities to consider, and if you
are a two car family with absolutely nowhere to park,
forget the garden completely and apply to the council
for a car parking space!
Joe Swift is the
author of the recently published The Plant Room (BBC
Books, £19.99), a stunning, inspirational look at the
contemporary urban garden
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com