Planting plan for front garden

Hi anyone who can offer some advice on design /planting schemes. I’ve got a blank canvas for a front garden and am looking for some help with coming up with a planting plan on clay soil which gets a lot of sun in the afternoon into the evening (south westerly facing).

You can see the idea of the design so far below but I'm not sure which plants to go for and how to fill it out.

I wouldn’t mind getting in someone just to help do a planting plan as I’ve got the design layout, if not too expensive. But I’m not sure where to look for someone who’s happy to do one without any of the added services I don’t need - just a plan for which plants and where.

I thought about edging the circle of paving with a run of lavender and salvias, and go for prairie style planting in between the lavender paving edge and fence / perimeter shrubs? Also wanted to plant a tree near the front (see drawing) to help with screening for our window. I’ve got a small magnolia tree I could use but presume that will take a while to grow? An obvious choice is to go for some kind of cherry blossom type? What other trees would be good and can offer some varied seasonal interest?

I'm not sure whether to go for more formal hedging (not privet) to the front or mixed key shrubs which give a looser hedge / screening effect. What kind of shrubs could I use for a mixed / looser screening along both fences to give some height and privacy? Perhaps mixing photina with some others, or buddleia because it’s fast growing? How much space would you leave between each planting? The front feels very exposed and overlooked from the street, the houses opposite and from the neighbour’s side (it’s a semi, so left side is overlooked by neighbour’s window right next to ours).

I was thinking of having a tall trellis to provide screening along the section of fence up to the house wall for climbers - to screen the neighbour’s window and their bins next to fence. 

I’ve got some small shrubs which I could use in the front instead of back garden - can you imagine where I could use any of these - rhododendron, pyracantha, escalonia and cherry laurel (and small magnolia)?

And finally what to do about the beds on either side of the front door. Should I plant in matching shrubs on either side and /or combine with climbers up the wall? Or stick to a couple of matching pots but with what on either side?

Any pointers and suggestions very welcome!



  • K67K67 Leicestershire Posts: 554
    Wow, too much  info for my elderly brain I'm afraid.
    Your layout looks good but how much time do you have to upkeep the space?
    Lavender needs really good drainage and clipping every year or you end up with an untidy woody sprawling plant
    Buddlia also needs cutting down every spring.
    The shrubs you mention will get large over time so either space out now or be prepared to cut back or take out, you would need to check on growth rates, final sizes via a Google search
    I buy my trees from mail order trees online, good website for ideas and they have always arrived in great condition.
  • suzejfsuzejf Posts: 11
    Thanks K67 for those tips. All sounds manageable. I will probably be back with more questions as I progress!
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 5,467
    edited June 2019
    Trellis is a good idea for bin screening without blocking out too much light. You could use photinia "Little Red Robin" along the front fence which would give you a more formal look as opposed to mixed hedging. Pyracantha is good shrub, evergreen with flowers which the bees love, followed by berries. I find the red and orange berried ones seem more "berryfull" than the yellow ones. They also have vicious thorns which may be useful !
    Lavender along the edge of the curve would also look very formal - you would probably need maybe bark paths or something through the bed to be able to access for deadheading etc. I would advise not having too many different plants in a relatively small space, or it might look a bit "messy", and decide whether you want to go for formal or more cottage garden look.
    Magnolia trees are lovely but l think they are a bit of a "Nine days wonder" , a cherry or similar would give you blossom and autumn colour,  and an amelanchier would also give berries for the birds as well.  :)

  • amancalledgeorgeamancalledgeorge South LondonPosts: 607
    Magnolias are so blah as front garden trees...and they do become ungainly as time goes by...still finding the huge root system of one someone planted fifty years ago! Mind you I don't like screening anything either...but that's another conversation all together. I'd put a beautiful clipped spiral box (or alternative) as a central feature. I planted twenty French lavenders Anouk on my equivalent path last year and they have been constantly in flower since mid April...and buzzing with content bees.
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
  • suzejfsuzejf Posts: 11
    Thanks Anni D and amancalledgeorge for your tips.

    Yes I quite like the idea of putting pyracantha by the trellis or next to the window.

    I was veering more to cottage/ prairie look and less formal, even if the lavender hedging might look more formal - purple lavender against the grey paved edge is a lovely contrast. I can't choose between French Anouk or English lavender as both gorgeous.

    Also, I like the idea of having a couple of clipped spiral box on either side of the porch. 

    Yes, I was erring about having Magnolia as a main feature as it doesn't flower too long so might keep that as a potted plant in the back and go for something with 'varied seasonal interest' like cherry or amelanchier for centre stage. 

    Does magnolia cope well in a pot  - it's only 3 ft at mo?

    I agree, I don't want to go mad and stuff too many different types in one space, no matter how tempting it is to look at so many. So I'm not sure which plants (apart from a tree) to go for to fill out the middle space between the hedging/screening and border - tall flowering types / cottage style plants? Or break up with shrubs?

  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 5,467
    I can't answer your question about the magnolia l'm afraid, sorry. With regard to the lavenders,  English lavender tends to be tougher in that it survives the winter better (imo).
    Personally,  l prefer the cottage style planting, shrubby salvias, scabious, heleniums, bulbs in the Spring, that sort of thing. To give some interest in the winter, you could have maybe something like box, or an equivalent evergreen shrub (l see you have an escallonia, depends on the height it grows to but you could incorporate that). Of course it also depends on how much time you want to spend deadheading, feeding, watering etc.
    I'd advise having a look around your neighbourhood to see which plants do well, also don't try and plant it all up in one go. Get your evergreens in first plus the lavenders. Visit the garden centre or nursery in the autumn to see what's in flower and buy any Spring bulbs you fancy. Visit again in the Spring and look at the plants and buy anything suitable that you like, and again in the Summer. You're aiming for year round interest and that's a way of doing it.
    And here ends the sermon from me, apart from saying,  don't get too stressed and overthink it, plants can be moved, things don't work, they die, the colour is wrong, etc. The main thing is to enjoy it.
    Right,  l have definitely finished now  :)
  • suzejfsuzejf Posts: 11
    Good advice, thanks AnniD. Definitely will take on board the seasonal tip and not to overstress. Cheers
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen SpainPosts: 2,868
    What’s your soil like? It looks a bit clumpy in the pic before you put the mulch down, is it clay? Acid, neutral or alkaline?

    Mediterranean plants like lavenders, salvias and prairie type planting generally like good drainage and need lots of grit dug in and incorporated into heavy/clay soil. Ideally, you would do that to the whole area before you mulch (sorry!) because if you just dig in grit to planting holes it can create a water sump and you don’t want that for plants that don’t like getting their feet wet!

    I think given the plants you have, and with the bark as opposed to gravel mulch, might it be better to lose the ‘prairie’ and concentrate on the cottage style planting? There is quite a lot of overlap between the two, its more to give you a clearer focus.

    Instead if edging with lavender (which will spill over and largely hide the grey edging stones) you could always go for two large pots with a tall lavender like L x Intermedia either side of the door, so you get a lovely waft every time you enter and exit the house. Less formal, perhaps, than clipped box. That way, you can also give the lavender the gritty soil and drainage it needs (with the pots raised on pot feet).

    I agree magnolias are a lovely but very brief wonder. If its a star magnolia, they can live quite happily in a large pot. We had a gorgeous dark pink one in a huge pot that ‘accidentally’ got left behind in a house move (i.e. the movers couldn't be bothered lifting it).

    For screening, tall wavy grasses interwoven with verbena bonariensis or climbing plants up trellises can be just as effective a screen and perhaps less formal than a hedge, even a mixed one. Although you feel overlooked, it is a front garden and you are presumably not planning on naked sunbathing out there so I wouldn’t get too hung up on the privacy thing - once its all planted up you will hardly notice!

    Once you have your screening/structural planting in place, even with a relaxed scheme, try to restrict yourself to 3-5 different perennials and maybe 3 colours (with spring and autumn bulbs adding additional colour pops when the perennials are dormant). 

    Great plan btw!
  • suzejfsuzejf Posts: 11
    Hi Nollie, thanks for your advice. Soil is definitely clay, not sure of pH yet, another task on list... I know I seem to agree with every new post, but that's my dilemma, I have all these contradictory, wide ranging ideas going I go for this?.. Don't I? You're right, box might be too formal and look odd with informal theme beyond, and when looking up lavender, saw examples of potted lavender which does look lovely by an entrance.

    We did dig up the soil and declump and added soil improver. Not sure if we've got enough grit in though. The mulch has gone down recently to reduce the amount of weeding needed every few days while deciding on a planting plan, etc. We've got pernicious horsetail coming through as plot's lain empty for a while, so keen to stamp out which is difficult. So have a quandary; to put down fabric too with mulch and plant gradually through fabric with a few key plants and shrubs as we go when decided upon? Leave fabric down for a while to suppress weeds, then when ready remove where planting ground cover planting if spreads quickly enough to suppress weeds?

    But also in the process of researching what exactly is difference between prairie and cottage style planting as seems similar! So will be researching some more on that. 

    Yes, one of reasons am thinking of keeping magnolia potted is that it has a lovely dark pink flower, so if we move we have the option to move it too! 

    I like the idea of less formal hedging / screening with tall grasses and/or climbers, so was thinking of using that idea next to the fence with neighbour by adding trellis. But was wondering whether to go for by contrast out on the shorter front fence a looser form of mixed hedging, left to grow slightly wild - this was inspired by 'colourful hedging' idea with a mix of different types like photinia, escallonia, pyracantha, oleaster, although not necessarily go for too many different ones, stick to 2 or 3 there. Do you think that will clash with climbers/ tall grasses on other side as a relatively small place? Or makes it interesting? Trying to visualise how these two different types of screening would look.

    Yes, I know I shouldn't get too hung up about privacy especially as we have a gaping wide open access through the drive on other side, so all can be seen from there anyway. Just would be nice to have some privacy on one side/corner, especially as neighbour's window is so close to ours, and they seem incredibly interested in any coming and going from our side!!

    Good advice about restricting to 3 colours and 3 or so perennials. Makes it more manageable. Thanks!
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 1,589
    edited June 2019
    suzejf said:
    Just would be nice to have some privacy on one side/corner, especially as neighbour's window is so close to ours, and they seem incredibly interested in any coming and going from our side!!

    How about putting a big hanging basket with trailing plants about halfway between your window and the fence line, to hang at around head height?  If you buy a ready-planted one it'll give pretty much instant screening from the side part of your neighbour's bay window, and will last for the summer (I have very similar front window and we used to have an extremely nosy neighbour next door).
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