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front garden - got rid of the lawn, now what do i do?

Hi all,

A complete newbie here looking to advice. Goal? Having a front garden that's doesn't look like an eye soar, doesn't cost a lot, and doesn't take too much effort. Ideally something that's good for wildlife / environment. And I don't mind taking my time - this work started a over a year ago :)

I've attached two photos. One of the front garden with approx 4.5m by 4.5m of space to grow something. And the other photo is a soil sample - if that's required by anyone before giving their advice.

It's south facing in central Scotland. What's left - after removing the turf, the soil beneath it (as it was a big mound of uneven ground), the big stones and rubbish - is what i'm guessing is sand, clay and still small stones.

I like the idea of a wild flower garden but read there are many negatives to consider, such as weeding and winter visual appeal. I also like the idea of prairie gardens too but maybe on such a small scale it won't work. Or do a bit of both?

I'm keen to use local plants and flowers and found a Scottish seed supplier (not sure if I can mention them here) but they do something call a Dry Meadow mix - and I'm guessing Dry as the soil looks dry to me. I'm looking to use seeds instead of plants, initially, but maybe once something starts to grow I could fit in some plants like grasses as I've read it can take a year or two for things to establish from seeds.

So what do you think?

Just go for it? or is there a more suitable alternative?

Could i do a wild flower meadow and maybe prairie type plants in the middle? And do i need to add top soil for the seeds?



  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 8,138
    I did that soil experiment on an Open University course! If I remember rightly that looks like pretty good loamy soil. Mine had a distinct thick layer of bigger grit/sand at the bottom and the same thin lighter-coloured layer of clay particles as yours at the top.
    I've never grown a wildflower meadow but I understand they need low-nutrient conditions. I'm sure someone who's done one will be able to give more tips.

    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,445
    edited April 2022
    Good job clearing  :)

    You can get perennial seed mixes, if you want to go for a 'chuck it and hope' approach, then work with what comes up.

    I'd probably be more inclined to try something more organised, such as a mix of ornamental grasses and verbena bonariensis (from seed), spring and summer bulbs to extend the season, possibly dahlias if you have the enthusiasm to lift and store them over winter and some of the easy annuals like rudbeckias (cherry brandy, perhaps), sunflowers (earth walker or vanilla ice). If you want some colour in winter, you might need to invest in a smallish shrub or two. Or Eryngium will probably grow there, and they give rather nice winter forms. You can grow them from seed (some of them self seed in my garden)
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    edited April 2022
    There are some good thoughts in the vid below. Plugs can be a good way to get a wildlife lawn going or a moss lawn. Bulbs too. Give a thought to how it will look from October to May, when spring and summer flowers are not out yet. There are a vast array of seed mixes out there now, so I would choose one exactly right for your situation. Maybe choose a perennial seed mix without grasses if you want a more low maintenance option. It usually takes a good few years or trial and error to hit on the right approach, so, don't give up! Make sure to keep your seeds watered for the first six weeks; don't let them dry out.

    Pictorial meadows are a set of seed mixes designed by botanists.

  • didywdidyw Posts: 2,736
    I see you have a bit of a dog-leg in the path leading to the front door.  I think I would plant something structural in the corner, such as a phormium or cordyline to stop delivery drivers/postmen cutting that corner off. It would add winter interest too.
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 3,566
    You are a lot further north than me but if you type 'A sunny easy maintenance front garden'  into box at the top it might be helpful. Looks to be a similar size to mine.

    A garden is an oasis for creation, available to anyone with a little space and the compunction to get their hands dirty.

    Dan Pearson
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,262
    The biggest problem you'll have is stopping it being a giant cat litter tray  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    If cats are a problem, while plants seed, you can put a fine netting over it with pegs. They won't go if there is dense seeding.
  • My one word of warning would be that in a small and highly visible area, a prairie type garden can suffer from collapse in wet weather. Then it just looks like an unmown lawn, or when in flower like a bunch of ballroom belles who’ve had one too many. You’ll need to experiment to find out which plants stay upright. The book Dream Plants for the Natural Garden is one of my go-tos for such situations. Noel Kingsbury, one of the authors, has also written a book on small gardens. Low nutrients are a good way to keep your plants from growing too tall, then collapsing. But it also helps to have a matrix of grasses into which your wildflowers are planted—they help prop one another up. Taking these things into account, I’d suggest investigating a perennial rather than annual approach: less maintenance and a longer period of looking interesting. You could then look at ornamental grasses like Panicum virgatum with perennial flowering plants like Phlomis russeliana, Geranium pratense, Hylotelephium ’Matrona’, Sanguisorba and the like. As has been said, anchoring the whole picture with a solidly architectural element like a Phormium would be a good idea. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,262
    It's not something I would do either @Cambridgerose12. Too small, and too exposed and vulnerable, not to mention the bare ground for many months of the year. Plants are later into growth here - don't be fooled by last year's weather.  
    Some structural planting, and perennials/bulbs would be much better. Phormiums are far better than Cordylines here  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,445
    I've got a phormium called Maori Queen in my garden - it's relatively small and very tough.
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
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