Planning and Designing Front Gardens

Make your house more inviting

The potential of a warm welcome from a front garden is often neglected if space is restricted and access difficult. But it can be easy to convert even a very small area into an attractive, inviting entrance to the house.

The numerous choices for a front garden design range from the strictly formal, filled with carefully planned annuals, to a miniature cottage garden or an easy-care gravel area.

A simple, easy-care design for a very small front garden is to pave the area with ornamental paving slabs or bricks. The advan­tage of laying a covering material between plants is that it suppresses weeds and allows easy access.

inviting front gardenCreate planting areas by leaving out groups of paving slabs or bricks here and there, and fill the holes with good soil. Then plant dwarf shrubs, creeping plants, alpines, and orna­mental grasses in the soil.

A plant wheel

A novel feature for a small front garden is a plant wheel – a circular, island bed laid out like a spoked wheel. Fill the segments with low-growing or dwarf plants. A collection of a particular group, such as miniature roses or a mixture of heathers, can look very effective.

plant wheelIf preferred, try planting alpines (rock-garden plants), or annual bedding plants such as petunia, busy Lizzie and hyacinth which can be changed each year.

The wheel can be formed from bricks laid to end on firm, level soil, with a circular slab or container in the centre to form the hub. Such a bed is ideal in a paved or gravel area.



Visitors invariably tread on plants just inside the gate. To prevent this, widen the path just inside by laying an extra triangular-shaped area of cobblestones or bricks on each side of the gate. These should be bedded firmly into a layer of mortar or sand.


Add extra colour and a variety of heights to a front garden by growing plants in ornamental pots, hang­ing baskets and other containers, or a raised bed.

Add colour and variety with a succession of spring and summer annuals. Frost-tender plants such as fuchsia planted in pots can easily be moved indoors when the winter closes in.

Large tubs are also ideal for permanent plant­ings of small plants. Create interesting combinations using small shrubs, dwarf conifers, spring bulbs, perennial flowers, and miniature roses.

When planning contain­ers for a front garden, bear in mind that they will require regular watering. If there is no outside tap, this may mean carrying watering-cans through the house.

Cottage-style garden

If you want an infor­mal front garden, a cottage-style garden is a lovely option. The basic design is simple. Lay a straight path from the gate to the front door. Make it extra wide to allow for dwarf plants spilling over the edges.

On each side of the path, plant borders with a mixture of traditional cottage garden flowers. There are plenty to choose from, including lavenders, mock orange (Philadelphus), old roses, delphiniums and lupins. Mix with bedding plants such as heliotrope and verbena, and ‘wild’ flowers like cornflower and marigold.

For the tradi­tional look, mark the boundary with a white-painted picket fence and grow a rambling rose around the front door.


Remember that the aim of a front garden is to provide a pleasant welcome for visitors. So never plant prickly plants right next to the path, or make access difficult by allowing large shrubs to overhang it. Make sure that the path is really firm, with no loose or cracked paving which could trip someone up.

Making a Gravel Garden

An alternative to paving a front garden is a planted gravel area. This easy-care design suits a modern setting but can be adapted to set off any house. Plants which look good in a gravel area include ornamental grasses, bamboos, New Zealand flaxes, yuccas with their sword-like leaves, and other grassy-leaved plants such as red hot pokers. If preferred, these can be mixed with evergreen shrubs, alpine flowers, easy-care peren­nials and spring bulbs.

1 Dig over the area and remove all the perennial weeds, complete with roots, or they may regrow through the gravel.

2 To make a path, lay a series of paving slabs to form stepping stones. Ram the soil down hard, then bed the slabs on 5 or more spots of mortar.

alpine plants for a gravel garden

3 Sort your plants into groups which contrast in shape, colour and texture. Plants in islands and around the edge.

4 Spread gravel over the areas between the plant groups and the path. Pea shingle is generally used and is readily available from builder’s merchants. Lay no more than about 5cm of shingle. This is enough to control most weeds, and any more is difficult to walk on.

Alpine Plants for a Gravel Garden

Many alpines (rock-garden plants) are suitable for growing in a gravel garden, as long as it is fairly sunny. Gold dust (Alyssum saxatile), thrift (Armeria maritima), carpet-forming thyme varieties and aubretia are reliable and attractive. Dwarf shrubs and ornamental grasses are also suitable and create a pleasing contrast in shape.

24. August 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Front Gardens, Gardening Ideas | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Planning and Designing Front Gardens


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