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Front garden ideas please

dappledshadedappledshade Top of the Hill, North London Posts: 583
It's a clean slate currently, ugly concrete paving and not much else.
East facing, 7m x 6m.
No trees.
Typical London clay underneath, I should imagine.
The house we're buying is a Victorian, end of terrace cottage, front door to the left side, with our own side access passageway to back garden, to the left of the main house.

I need to incorporate a bin area, for two slimline wheelies (would love a sedum covering to that).

Other than, I love the cottage garden 'look', particularly climbing roses, clematis, perhaps a small apple tree...there is a knackered wooden low picket type fence currently, but I'm not sure whether to keep it, or not. I love the idea of a hedge, but not traditional - I recently saw a flamingo willow hedge, that looked lovely and I really want to encourage hedge loving birds like sparrows.

I wouldn't want hard paving - maybe a winding brick path to the front door, and possibly gravel around it with shrubs etc interspersed.
Beds to one side? Either side of front door?
I've never had so much space at the front and I'm not sure where to start!

I also love grasses (non invasive), sedums, herbs...I have 2 lovely sarcococca in pots I'd like to put into the ground, plus two large olives in pots, that could go in there too (or in back garden).

Thanks for any tips 😊

🎼"I've been driving in my car, it don't look much but I've been far, I drive up to Muswell Hill, I've even been to Selsey Bill..."🎹


  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,001
    edited June 2018

    Lovely unspoilt house, I'm drooling over that door and sash windows.  I hope you're not thinking of replacing them with boring upvc.  That fence goes perfectly with the house, maybe you could repair it if necessary.  The wrought iron gate will take a bit of looking after, to keep it looking good.  I used to have one and painting them is tedious whichever way you do it - in situ, or take it off and lay it down.

    Are you thinking of breaking up the concrete, and improving whatever's underneath?  Or building raised beds on top?  Ground level planting would be more in keeping with the character of the house.  Remember if you want soil right up to the house wall, you need an impermeable barrier to prevent penetrating damp, and if there are any air bricks, you must leave them exposed.

    One or more fruit trees would be lovely, but if there's a school anywhere near by, you might not keep much of the fruit!  I'm picturing a tree in the centre, in a circular bed covered with white chippings, and surrounded by four corner beds.  Each of those to have a small shrub, surrounded by daffs and crocuses in spring, followed by perennials and annuals.  You could give the sparrows a hedge in that narrow border beside the path.

  • BenCottoBenCotto RutlandPosts: 1,175
    Nothing whatsoever to do with gardening but you might be amused to know that the half moon window above the door is called in French a lunette or a vasisdas, the latter from the German for ‘What is that?’ meaning ‘Who is there?’ shouted out to visitors through the glass.
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 4,718
    Good fact B) We call them 'fan light' windows which is quite boring in comparison. 
  • jblockhartjblockhart SomersetPosts: 32
    What a great opportunity with a large blank canvas. I think I would first experiment with some drawings of a parterre garden. For me, either (a) a somewhat formal garden, say four buxus or yew-edged beds filled with roses and perhaps some low underplanting of hardy geranium or (b) a more 'controlled' rampant cottage garden with buxus-edged beds filled with colour (paeonies, roses, irises, bulbs of all sorts including Byzantine gladioli and alliums, self-seeders like Nigella and poppies, etc.). The four beds could be built around gravel and bick paths and perhaps a centre intersecting feature such as a bird bath, small specimen tree, sun dial, sculpture or other centre piece. I have seen rosa rugosa hedges planted along picket fences to very good effect. I would look to Gertrude Jekyll designs for an arts and crafts inspiration given the apparent age/period of your lovely house. Google Jekyll and Lutyens and search for images of cottage garden or buxus-edged parterre gardens as I think an arts and crafts approach using gravel, reclaimed bricks and cottage garden plants would really suit the architecture.
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen SpainPosts: 3,238
    Lovely looking house and I think a cottage garden feel would complement it nicely rather than the more formal, rectilinear layout that is more usual for a front garden. Have a look at your neighbours gardens, tho, if thy are a mess with no particular style, go with your gut re the cottage garden, but if everyone has tidy formal gardens yours might stick out and spoil the rhythm of the street.

    I do like the the idea of the winding brick path, though, perhaps move the gate to a more central or just off centre position to create a gentle serpentine to the front door (not too contorted or you might end up taking the shorted route, trampling your plants, especially when lugging heavy shopping). This would then give you space to the left by the fence, opposite the side return door, to construct a bin store. The winding path will give you more irregular shaped beds which suits the cottage feel. Save the sunnier side for your climbers on a couple of trellises rather than constructing a higher fence to plant against - which your neighbour might not appreciate if you end up blocking their sun.

    I don’t think the fence looks in great shape and I would be tempted to replace it, or as you suggest, use a hedge instead. However a hedge needs decent growing width so maybe a few carefully selected shrubs would attract birds just as much.

    A small centre piece tree would add height and structure but I would live in it for a while before committing to that, if light levels are quite low it could make your front room quite dark - are there tall buildings opposite, for example? 
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 6,237
    edited June 2018
    I would say - go for it. Don't be half-hearted because it's a front garden and therefore less important, somehow, than the back. As a nation we have abandoned our front spaces - often there is no outside tap at the front and we feel judged by passers by on our results. Sod that, I say. Play, have fun, plant veg, create arbours, inspire others to make good use of their spaces. Pull up the concrete and do whatever floats your boat. (Putting in a tap might be useful, if you can).
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,001
    A refreshing change to have a car park turned into a front garden - bucking the trend!
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 6,237
  • jblockhartjblockhart SomersetPosts: 32
    Absolutely - indeed hurrah!
  • dappledshadedappledshade Top of the Hill, North London Posts: 583
    Gosh everyone - thanks for the great response! And the lovely comments too 😊

    right, to answer all your questions now:

    josusa- nope, no intention whatsoever to use upvc as it's also a conservation area, so we wouldn't be allowed (even if I did like upvc, which on a house this old would look awful). Once finances recover, it's wooden double glazed sashes all round.
    i like the idea of a central small tree, but then I'm a little tree greedy (having had only a postage stamp sized garden to date, with no possibility of anything larger than one dwarf apple and a dwarf acer).
    There is a car port further along and the agent's first words were "I'd apply to the council to get a car port in there asap, if I were you"...made me laugh out loud. Would rather walk a few meters to my house, from the car, but have a front garden bursting with plants and wildlife, thanks!
    love all your ideas for planting too.

    Picadae: that made me giggle, as my OH is German and he'd never heard of that word for a half moon shaped window above a door! How cool. 
    Must admit, I do rather like that door and want to restore it to its former glory, at some point. 

    Thanks, jblockhart- some lovely ideas, though I'd be scared to place anything really good like a sculpture or bird bath in a front garden, in London - in case it walked! Have had so many pots stolen from my current garden flat, from the communal steps, that is a little soul destroying...
    I love the sound of a controlled cottage garden though - having spent some weeks recently in the New Forest, oohing and aahing at some of the most beautiful footages and gardens I have ever seen, it is a look I love, though controlling it must be hard!
    would I get good cottage garden plants to grow east facing, you think?

    Thanks Nollie - yes, I agree that a winding, brick path slightly off centre, but not too tortuous, would be great. I'm still in two minds about the picket fence - it's sweet, but in very bad condition. Perhaps, also for cost reasons, another low fence in wood, with a bit of trellis around the top, would be good. I've seen trachelospermum jasminoides wound around fences like that and it looks so lovely.
    I wouldn't want to high a fence/plants effect really - as you say, it creates more shade and also to block off the view from the street too much could encourage burglars, here in London. 
    I'm definitely installing a tap out there though!
    But likewise, plants that are quite tolerant of a little drought and don't need constant watering, appeal to me. It hasn't rained in London for weeks now and the idea of having to water a 45ft back garden, plus this front one, every 3 days doesn't appeal.

    Fire - yep, that concert has gotta go! Horrible job it'll be, but worth it. Veg too - why not indeed! You're very right about the nation abandoning their front gardens - I intend to change that, with my little plot ☺️ And I know it may sound silly, but I'm almost more excited about the front garden than I am about the back one - maybe because others can see it too. I always stop and admire other people's, so I'm hoping some day they'll do the same for mine. 

    I noticed some air bricks around the edge of the bay window, so my idea was to have a gravel strop around that, with no soil going right up to the wall of the house anyway. Plenty of opportunity still to plant climbers and clematis love being at a sharper angle too, I think.

    Still, not even moved yet, but as you can probably tell, I'm already in garden planning mode...never mind the house, it's the outside that really rocks my boat!

    Where would people plant my 2 sacrifica bushes? One is about 2ft hugh and currently in a pot - a broad leaved variety. The other is titchy and in the ground. 

    I love the scent and would ally like to have them by the door.

    Also, would a witch hazel look good somewhere, or too big? Intoxicating smell and I do love a bit of winter interest, when all the trees along the road are bare.

    Thanks for all your help.

    🎼"I've been driving in my car, it don't look much but I've been far, I drive up to Muswell Hill, I've even been to Selsey Bill..."🎹
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