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New Build Front Garden

I live in a new build and have a small sized blank canvas of a front garden that I am getting ready to plant. It is east facing, doesn't get much early morning sun until summer due to the houses opposite, but it gets a good hit of midday sun.

It was planted up with Photonia Red Robin and Hebe Albicans Red Edge. I have moved the Photonias to the far right of my plot to create a hedge line with next door. They are a fair height already after 1 years growth since moving in, around 4-5 feet tall. I have then planted some bright colour stemmed Cornus in front of them - they are new plants so are very small currently. The Hebes I have moved to the front of the plot to go along the metal railings.

This has left me with approx 2 x 1.5 metre bed. I have worked in some manure to improve the soil but I keep changing my mind about what I should plant in it.

My original thought was to have spring bulbs and sow seeds to have lots of self-seeding annuals growing through with some lavender lining the path to the front door. We use the back garden and door more than the front so ideally I'd like the front to largely look after itself.

I like this idea but would it need some structure (shrubs - I like the look of a viburnum 'popcorn'/box/rose up obelisk)? However in autumn/winter it would be a big bare patch again.

Another concern is that this would give a cottage garden look but in the middle of a new build development, would this look too out of place?

I'd be really grateful for any ideas, particularly for winter interest (along with the cornus stems) if I did plant the cottage garden look. I've attached a photo to help visualise (sorry it was dark when I took it).

Many thanks.



  • Edit: it's in full sun right now, so it gets more morning sun than I realised.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 4,810
    1. Don't worry at all about it looking out of place. Speaking as a gardening dog walker, I love nothing better than walking along a street admiring the different front gardens and all the different things people do. New streets that have 'corporate' planting are so dull. A nice row of 50s semis or 60s bungalows with a wide assortment of bedding plants, stylish pots and hilarious gnomes are a joy, and a village of varying house ages with all sorts of planting styles (and none) will keep me entranced for ages. It's your garden. Plant what you like. It'll improve the neighbourhood by difference alone.
    2. Annuals are a good idea for year one but they aren't low maintenance. But having an assortment of flower colours and leaf shapes that you tend to get with a mix of annuals can lead to the sort of happy accidents that make you think 'hmm - I like that blue with that orange, and that spikey leaf with the ferny one behind and a tall one there with shorter ones here' from where you can go looking for hardy perennials with a similar form/colour to plant in the autumn and create a more permanent planting scheme.
    “There is no military solution
    Doesn't always end up as something worse”
  • Watch the dogwood don't spread!
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 40,829
    Sorry to rain on your parade a little but, the Cornus get very big, and I think you've got them too near the Photinias.
    Also on a practical level, you need access to the windows for cleaning and general maintenance, so you may want to have a bit of paving or similar to stand on for that purpose, otherwise you'll be trampling newly placed shrubs/plants.
    Having said that, there's plenty of plants which will suit, and as r'girl says, it's down to your own taste. Hardy  geraniums  and knapweed are great fillers, and cottagey, and need very little attention, so those would be ideal for gaps. A few low growing evergreens like Euonymous, Hellebores and Heucheras [in the shadier spots], and Heathers if the soil suits,  will be foils for any [more fleeting] perennials. Some verticals should be included so that it doesn't all become a similar height, and you'll find loads of ones which will suit the aspect well. All the perennials can be underplanted with spring bulbs which will extend thre interest from early in the year until spring.

    It's not a very big area, so you won't need many plants. Better to have a couple of evergreens of the same type, and then vary it all with the perennials and bulbs :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Thanks all.

    What about if I spread the Cornus out to fill the area and then underplant with bulbs/plug gaps with perennials? 

    I take your point about window access. They do fold inwards to make them possible to clean from inside the house, but still need to be able to get them.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 40,829
    Yes - you could do that. Again, you need to leave enough space around the base of them for accessing to prune etc.  Is it just 2 Cornus?
    As D.G.Man says - they do spread, so you'll need to bear that in mind too. They could easily fill that whole space in a few years. I've got to say - they wouldn't be my choice for the area you have. 
    That's good re the windows. As long as you don't need to get at them for maintenance regularly, it should be ok.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • I have 3, a yellow stemmed (Flaviramea), a red (sibirica) and an orange (midwinter fire). I was planning to hard prune every Feb/March as I have read that you get the best colour this way. Surely if I was to do that it will keep the size under control?

    I'm very new to gardening and just thought that the stems looked great in winter. I've taken some hardwood cuttings of mature plants but couldn't wait the year to see if they root so I bought those 3 last week. Probably should have posted here first  :D
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 40,829
    Yes - the hard pruning helps to get the coloured stems, but they also spread. Don't worry too  much - if they get too big and wide, you can always lift one or two of them and plant them somewhere else.
    I think any gardener who says they've never planted something and then regretted it later 'cos it's in the wrong place, would be lying  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • RubytooRubytoo On the sofa, Southerly aspect.Posts: 1,286
    The problem with the cornus is they spread in the ground once they get going. You have understood/ got to grips with the pruning the tops which is good.
    But in the longer term what Fairy and Damp garden man are saying is, where you cut them back they make big woody clumps and spread.
    You would need to be cutting back and uprooting lumps of old bits to keep it looking nice in a relatively small space.

    If you use a search online to look at images, take a closer look at picutres of Cornus stolons,  you should be able to see how big a clump the cut back stems make after just a couple of years.
    Sorry. But at least you could enjoy them for a few years see how you feel. Just be warned in the nicest possible way. Good luck :)
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 8,368
    edited February 2019
    Is it possible for you to move them to the back garden? You could possibly replace them with nandina - evergreen shrubs and colourful  :)
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