Purple Wellies

One woman's musings of plant lust for intoxicating blooms

Disappearing Front Gardens

The humble front garden. Whatever happened to it? Lush, well-manicured green lawns of the 50’s surrounded by Hydrangea’s in an array of psychedelic colours interspersed with equally garish dahlia’s in glorious technicolour. Many still have front gardens, but sadly they are a shadow of their former self. Necessities of life have forced their conversion to car parks and bin stores and few people have time to devote to them.

The majority of people invest in a back garden over a front garden. Most barely give it the time of day other than to get in the car or chuck the rubbish out, but that little barren wasteland out front with the one dead plant in the corner has potential to increase kerb appeal and add value to your home, leaving a good first impression to all. The irony is having off-street parking increases your property value, so too can green space.

It’s not just about aesthetics and adding value though. Front gardens are becoming increasingly important for wildlife, with 60% of UK species and their habitats in decline. 1 in 4 gardens in the UK is paved over and 1 in 3 contain no plants, meaning fewer places for birds to nest, insects to feed and bees to forage. As soon as you add 1 plant to each front garden they start to ‘join up’ and act as a wildlife corridor.

Changing your front garden doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Plant choices are key, as you are unlikely to want to spend much time tending your plot out front. Plants need to be low maintenance (who doesn’t want this these days), offer multiple seasons of interest and supress weeds. Plants can also filter pollution and when grown against house walls, insulates against extremes of hot and cold temperatures. Wall spaces are a valuable vertical planting site that is often overlooked, yet we all have them.

In very restricted spaces, you could opt for just a climber by the door such as Clematis koreana ‘Amber’ producing lemon flowers in May through June and in September. Requiring no pruning this is ideal for the uninitiated gardener. Carpet the ground underneath to smother the weeds with evergreen fern, Polypodium vulgare, teamed with Trachystemon orientalis, offering early season borage-like flowers. These flowers benefit passing insects before the large weed-suppressing foliage takes over. Both perform well in dry-shade.
Scented, Choisya ‘Royal Lace’ has a duel flowering period of spring and autumn. Reaching only 75cm high, this is unlikely to need pruning so offers hassle-free planting. Plants with prolonged flowering seasons such as Helleborus × hybridus 'Harvington Shades of the Night', (Feb – Apr) and Geranium × cantabrigiense 'Westray', (May – Sept), ensure you have interest throughout the year.

For more front garden, plant inspiration and wildlife ideas go on the Horsell Garden Safari in June and visit some of the 27 gardens, my own included, that will be opening this year. Details can be found here: https://www.paintedfern.co.uk/Gallery/Open-Day
Posted: 29/05/2019 11:33:54 by Pamela Barden