In this season of cold and fog and not being able to get out into my garden much, I’ve been thinking about how this is actually the time of year when front gardens can really come into their own. While we may not be spending too much time outside, most of us will be walking through our front garden several times a day – making it rather deserving of some special attention.
Winter doesn’t have to mean a season of nothingness outside the front door, stepping out each morning into cold, murk and not much else. And it doesn’t matter how modest the space you may have is. You can really make a bold statement that you’re proud to come home to. Or, if you have less than green fingers, a simple smartly paved area accompanied by no-maintenance dwarf conifers in matching pots can look tasteful and well cared for.
Whatever the season here are my suggestions to bring cheer your daily commute to the street.
Consider the boundary between your property and the pavement
What kind suits your house? High hedges give privacy but are difficult to maintain. Low walls look permanent and smart but offer little in the way of security. As well as function, they can set the style – ie. smart wrought iron railings, neat picket fence, or just simply and implied barrier with the use of a planted border. I live at the end of a quiet close and share a front lawn with my next door neighbour. To erect a boundary would seem unnecessary and unfriendly in this context and yet, a front garden with no boundary on a busier road may seem too open. Careful design can create just the right balance of elements for your situation.
Use lighting for artistry as well as security
Along the same lines, think about how lighting can be used in the front garden. Uplighters and spotlights pick out the best of your planting long after the sun has gone down, and in winter the silhouettes of tree skeletons cast atmospheric shadows onto otherwise plain walls.
If you have space why not add a small seat in a sunny spot
I always love the American style porches with a rocking chair, they seem so welcoming. Whilst we may not be able to leave cosy cushions out, a weather-proofed bench will always give a sense of relaxation and enjoyment to the space it sits in.
A clear path to the front door gives a welcoming impression
So many front gardens leave you teetering on the edge of the driveway along the side of the car or walking across a wet lawn. A central path provides a focal point. It also creates symmetry which often transforms a modest space into something grander. Flank it with well-kept planting for an experience you and your visitors will enjoy.
And while we’re on the subject of plants…
Use the power of fragrance
Place winter flowering shrubs strategically along your route to and from the front door – Skimmia, wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), witch hazel (Hamamelis), Daphne and Erica. Line your path with a dwarf hedge of sweet box (Sarcococca) for depths of winter knockout fragrance. These shrubs are largely evergreen, providing much needed structure and form in the garden at this time of year too.
Keeping it fresh
The secret to a lot of gardens is to have plants with a succession of seasonal interest (colour, berries, fruits, bark etc). In a smaller space just one or two plants need to do it all themselves. Grow the climber Trachelospermum jasminoides for an evergreen front wall of scented flowers all summer and red tints into winter. Or consider planting the small tree Amelanchier lamarckii – a fabulous all-rounder – delicate bronze spring foliage, summer berries, blazing autumn colour and a delicate winter skeleton.
So even though front gardens may often be at the back of the queue when it comes to lavishing love and attention, there is much that can be done to enhance your most seen space… and uplift your day.