Front Garden Makeover

My front garden is getting a makeover. We’ve done a fair bit to the front garden since moving in, in 2012. I filled the borders with shrubs, perennials and bulbs, and planted a Rowan tree. I planted fragrant climbing roses against the house. We put in cheap and cheerful raised beds so we could grow fruit and veg. It’s the ideal place for a mini allotment because it was sunny and open and the space was mostly lawn.

But, it also has a few problems (and was looking rather tatty).

Neither me nor my husband enjoy lawn maintenance. The back garden grass is more than enough to look after, and mowing and edging the front garden lawns became a much loathed chore.

The driveway entrance is narrow and visitors never want to squeeze their cars through the gap. In the first year we lived here, I actually managed to scrape the paintwork on the side of my car when I came to close to the side pillar.

The paths and drive were ugly old sections of poured concrete, and the position of the concrete strips on the drive meat the car had to be parked so close to the fence that you could get in or out of the passenger seat. Not ideal!

The cheap timber raised beds started rotting and warping, and regularly needed repairs. Plus, in the past couple of years, I haven’t had much time to spend working in my mini allotment because I’ve got lots of lovely garden design work keeping me busy. The beds were weedy and underused.

So, after much mulling of ideas, I have finally come up with a new design. My drawing is not as pretty as ones I do for clients, but it shows the basic layout.

Two weeks ago, my landscaper mate Neal Daniels and his friend Rob arrived to start work. Cue much excitement from my neighbours’ grandson when they turned up with a mini digger. It was so satisfying to see all that concrete being smashed up.

We’re replacing all the concrete with new beds, and a mixture of cobble-style block setts and flint shingle. The design includes a path and driveway laid to setts, and gravel areas softened by planting. It’s a really economical way form of hard landscaping because setts are relatively cheap in themselves, are much quicker to lay than pavers, so the labour cost is lower. I chose ‘tumbled’ setts because they have a softer look than utilitarian standard block setts, and they come in mixed sizes, with colour variation. I want it to feel like a real garden not a car park.

Last year, I wrote a post about greening up driveways, and I’m taking my own advice here. Rather than a solid driveway, our driveway will have two long strips of setts, with a planting bed running down the middle. I’m going to fill that with low-growing, flowering perennials that will become a nectar larder for bees and other insects. Top of my plant list are trailing sedum, primroses, wild violets, pulmonaria, forget-me-nots, cyclamen, and house leeks. Self-seeders will be my friend here, as they will populate the shingle that will surround the planting over time. I might also plant crocuses in autumn.

We’re going to have six raised beds constructed in oak sleepers, which will be sturdy and long-lasting. This means we’re losing two existing veg beds, but it’s right for us because it will give me an amount of growing space that I can actually maintain. I intend to only grow stuff that we will eat and which is expensive to buy or hard to find. So broad beans, green beans, garlic and currants are on my list. I might also try growing flowers for cutting in one bed.

The beds will flank the path, three on each side, and be connected by beautiful steel arches that will have a rusty finish over time. The steel will match the rose obelisks in the front beds. My plan is to train Malus ‘Evereste’ cordons over the arches, to create a blossom-filled walkway in spring, a leafy canopy in summer that turns to autumn colours, followed by bare branches with colourful crab apples over winter. I’ve chosen a variety that will hold its fruit until spring. Hopefully it will look something like this.

I’ll write more posts with more info about my design decisions and progress updates in the next few weeks. I’m hoping to start planting up the driveway bed this weekend by scavenging plants from other areas of the garden. Below are some pics of the destruction phase, and the driveway bed.

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