Designing front gardens and driveways is often challenging. Never mind the practicalities of a car parking space or manoeuvring space for the car or cars (it often takes more space then you think) and access routes from A to B and Sustainable Urban Drainage issues (SUDS). It is the actual design itself.
What is the design balance? You have to decide does the design enhance a property, compliment it or add interest?
If a house has character or architectural interest, then don’t let the design compete, it should quietly enhance it – let the house be the ‘star’.
Our house is not a ‘star’ but there is quite a bit going on, with some decorative brick detailing, two bay windows, large doorway area, so I kept the design simple and complimentary.
On the other hand if the house exterior is the opposite then let the design add interest, detail, flair, contrast and focus.
You can do this by the choice and mix of materials you choose and how you design the space. From hard surfacing, e.g. paving, driveway surfaces, gravel types and planting choices to name a few. Don’t under-estimate the role of planting to add to the mix – either giving evergreen colourful structure, or acting as a contrast to the house exterior. You will walk through this space every day – so it should work hard 365 days a year to give you something interesting to look at and be seen from the house.
I see too many front gardens that remind me of what I call the ‘prison yard effect’. Boundary to boundary hard surfacing with not a plant in sight. Practical – perhaps, but it is rarely complimentary to the house exterior, not climate friendly, and misses a trick.
The planting above was for a shady front garden border by the side of an Arts & Crafts house, built in 1914 by Sir Robert Lorimer. (To read more about this garden, please click on the link: https://www.polleygardendesign.com/case-studies/a-strong-but-simple-design-for-an-arts–crafts-house-front-garden–driveway.html ). The planting in this area of the front garden provides a contrast to the exterior stone walls of the house, in colour and leaf form. I choose purple leafed Acers, Hellebores, Pulmonarias, Epimediums, Geraniums and grasses. Existing Azaleas and spring provide early spring colour and a Mahonia, winter structure and scent.
In this design, the 1930’s house had distinctive decorative brickwork and the edging setts were chosen to match the house brickwork and laid throughout the design to give a cohesive feel and compliment the house. The repeated Hebe planting gives structural interest. This front garden also has a seat from which to enjoy the planting.
In this small front garden low maintenance was key, and the planting is very simple one of Box balls and an existing beautiful purple leafed low Acer, with wall climbers for seasonal interest. The design was inspired by a Japanese theme.