The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

Front gardens


By kowhai


This is doldrums month for the garden. It’s been so dry for ages, and there’s been so much cloud for so long that it’s not been possible to really enjoy the garden other than to look at it from inside the house. I think we must have had our summer in May or June when it actually was possible to sit outside in the sunshine or shade, without having to reach for a fleece!

All of this has made me think again about the front garden. In our terrace of 4 houses, there is a small garden in front of each house. We are west facing, so the gardens don’t receive any sunlight until around lunch time, but when they do, they get lots of it until sunset.

When we moved in, the front garden was a jumbled mess, and during our first year, I removed most of the odd plants which weren’t doing anything interesting, and following a Grand Plan, planted grasses nearest the house, with verbena in the middle, and lavender nearest the footpath. I left the bergenia in place, as it provides year round ground cover, and I like the foliage and the early spring flowers. I laid a permeable membrane to control the weeds and covered this with nice round stones, about the size of an egg.

It more or less worked, but after a few years, the lavender became very leggy, and was replaced. I think that this is something that happens with lavender, although there may be ways of preventing it from becoming lanky.

After a season or two, Nigella or love-in-the mist suddenly appeared. There must have been seeds lurking around which finally germinated. As they self seed, they require no attention, and they now provide a very pleasant misty blue ‘rug’ near the front door during the early summer, and an attractive mass of seed pods during the later part of the season. They must be grown in a very sunny spot, as my attempts to spread them in the back garden by scattering seeds has met with limited success, since the south border is not sunny enough, so that the Nigella, although it grows and flowers, is lanky and unhappy. In fact, Nigella might be a good ‘sun test’ plant: if they grow successfully, the site is sunny, and if they don’t, it isn’t.

Last year, the local authority announced that we were going to have to separate out rubbish into one of several bins, and there came the day when we had the great bin delivery. The problem for terraced houses like ours is where to put the bins, and this difficulty became a major talking point in the neighbourhood and in the local weekly newspaper. There was even the Bin March on the town hall by some bin dissidents!

I must admit that the presence of the bins on our front gardens isn’t a great aesthetic addition. Some neighbours have constructed neat fences to obscure their bins, and I had plans to plant tall grasses to hide them. That plan couldn’t be realized, however, as the ground in which I had planned to plant the grasses proved to consist of about an inch of soil, with what seemed like bed rock below. So, I’ve put a couple of very heavy cement pots with christmas box in them in front of the bins. These pots had formerly been on either side of the front door, where they looked rather better. Unfortunately, the box doesn’t seem to like being potted and in comparison with the same plant which is in my next door neighbour’s garden, the plants are a bit sickly. But my suggestion about replacing them was resisted by my wife, who likes the scent of their flowers at Christmas time.

This year, I replaced the daffodils in a concrete pot which we inherited with pelargoniums so as to provide some extra colour. They have really gone to town and have achieved the effect I had hoped for. Another bit of colour is provided by one of the potted salvias, which I moved to the front garden, where it is thriving and is almost as good as a sister plant which I gave to a neighbour, whose front garden is south facing, which means it’s an ideal location for sun loving plants like salvias. She’s also got a great show of agapanthus, a source of some envy on my part, I must confess!

Nigella seed pods contrast nicely with now faded lavender and grass in August.

Verbena provides bright dots of colour at eye level, and like the Nigella, self seeds.

Each front garden in our terrace is quite different. No doubt it would be aesthetically better if they all followed exactly the same planting scheme, but to me part of the charm of the various front gardens in our close is the fact that they are all so different, as will be clear from the last photo below. And, because our front gardens are so small, they remain as gardens, whereas the neighbours whose houses have what could be called a forecourt have paved them over and their front gardens have disappeared, so they have cars instead of plants.

It would be interesting to see what other bloggers have done with their front gardens which, in many ways, are a much greater challenge than the more private and enclosed garden at the back of most houses where we have a bigger canvas for realizing our gardening dreams.

More blog posts by kowhai

Previous post: Late bloomers

Next post: The fugitive summer



Congratulations on a very well-written and interesting blog with good photos.

This summer, I've found the many weeks without rain very tiring, because of the daily watering of my gardens, front and back....

.. but I love to work in the hot, dry weather, and I have achieved lots of garden maintenance tasks during the sunny days, such as painting sheds and making gravel gardens....

Well done again on this blog. I'm adding it to GoYpedia Small Garden Ideas. :o)

3 Aug, 2010


It all looks very nice. My front garden is a carpark, there is nothing planted -something when the family and their cars leave the nest I will address.

3 Aug, 2010


What a very interesting well constructed blog. It seems us gardeners can always rise to a challenge.
It`s a shame about the bins though, perhaps some sturdy trellis up to window height with a couple of hanging bags on it would be an idea for next year.
You have got some lovely planting in your border.

3 Aug, 2010


really enjoyed your blog...great photos too

3 Aug, 2010

Add a comment

Featured on

Recent posts by kowhai

Members who like this blog

  • Gardening with friends since
    14 Aug, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    10 Mar, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    9 Aug, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    24 Mar, 2010