Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Front Garden Design

A front garden is the public face of a house; it creates the first impression of you and your property to visitors or passers by. Here are some tips on how to design a front garden and give your property that all important kerb appeal.

The main purpose of the front garden is to provide easy access to the house without getting drenched or scratched by prickly plants. However, these days the front garden is often needed for other more practical purposes as well such as wheely bin storage, bike access, car parking, and wheelchair access. To accommodate all these often conflicting requirements and create a great looking garden the key is to keep the design simple. A simple layout with robust planting will look great and not need constant maintenance. Keep the layout simple, avoid using too many different hard landscaping materials – you can create interest with the planting.

Use a straight, wide path that get’s you to the front door without having to navigate shaggy, overgrown plants. The entrance to the house should be obvious, and welcoming. Frame the doorway with some elegant Box topiary – it always looks smart and is easy to keep looking tidy. If you’re going to have a climber over the front door keep it tied back and well pruned to stop it becoming a damp, smelly, prickly obstruction. Don’t include a lawn in a North facing front garden it will not thrive, and if you have a lawn keep it mown – a scruffy lawn ruins an otherwise good garden.

When designing the layout use simple geometric shapes and avoid fussy details – freehand curves work well in large, country garden schemes, but do not translate well into a much smaller front garden. A formal scheme with strong, crisp lines always looks good and is easy to keep tidy. If the scheme looks a bit bland and flat, create interest by including some raised borders. You can also use the planting to create interest, texture, colour and soften the hard edges.

If the front garden is your only outside space and you want to use it for sitting in, consider creating a sunken area which will give you some privacy. A water feature can also add interest in a front garden, but you need to make sure it is in scale and in keeping with the style of the garden. I don’t like the kind of pre-fabricated water features you find in garden centres, and feel that a simple drilled sandstone sphere or a raised brick pool with a steel spout works in most situations.

Having provided a straight path from the gateway to the front door, you may still have a problem with if there is another shorter route into the garden, for example, over a low front wall. Human nature dictates that we will always try and take the shortest route and regular callers like postmen and delivery drivers will soon create an ugly, informal route through your lovely new scheme. Some strategically placed spiky plants, like some ornamental Hollies will help stop this.

Avoid making would-be burglars’ lives easier. High hedges offer ideal cover for anyone wanting to break into your house unobserved. Use movement sensors for lights so that they are activated when someone approaches the house. Secure pots or sculptures by either cementing them in place, attaching them to the house or a ground spike with chains.

When designing front garden lighting, don’t get too carried away and be tempted to over illuminate. Wall-washers either side of the front door create a nice warm welcome, and are much better than security lighting which is unnecessarily bright, can shine directly into people’s eyes and is rather harsh. Add some pathway lighting to for safe nocturnal navigation. You can include some decorative spotlights, but be careful, there’s a fine line between highlighting the garden and creating that airport landing strip effect!

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