A pretty front garden is a delight to behold, and whatever gate or entrance you pass through along the way should heighten the anticipation of arriving home. Pausing to dip under an arch of greenery or past a delightfully fragrant shrub is part of the appeal, and they can easily be incorporated to add both character and charm.
It’s important to make the path through the garden obvious, but this can be signaled in the most subtle way – by symmetrically placing box balls to mark the path, for example, or by putting focal points to aim for.
A reasonable proportion of conifers will provide year-round structure and should reduce maintenance. A relatively limited color palette of plants and paint colors will help keep the overall look harmonious, but don’t forget the element of surprise either. Front gardens are potentially sociable places that encourage interaction with neighbors and passers-by, so take advantage of that too.
country life Gardening Editor Paula McWaters shares her tips on how to improve the curb appeal of your garden before…
1. Plant a climbing plant
Walls provide the perfect planting opportunity, especially where space is limited. A climbing rose is the ultimate cottage garden favourite, enhancing a pretty property or helping to conceal less than attractive architectural features.
Clematis armandii and wisteria have fragrant blooms, while on a sunny wall you can try star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) or flame trumpet vine Campsis x tagliabuana ‘Madame Galen’. For fall color, consider Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia, right), purple vine (Vitis coignetiae), or Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).
2. Entrance potted hornbeam
Containers can bring the garden right to your doorstep, delivering color and interest exactly where you want it. Rustic baskets are great for growing herbs to keep handy by the door, and because they’re lightweight, they can be easily moved or swapped around. Line the baskets with plastic cut from old compost bags and pierced with a few holes to improve drainage. Oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme and sage all thrive in pots.
3. Add a seasonal table
If you have a sunroom or space near your entryway that is protected by a porch, add an old painted piece of furniture like a table or dresser base. This is a great opportunity to create an outdoor display, mixing vintage pieces with small pots and containers showcasing plants worth admiring up close.
In winter, this could be a miniature cyclamen or a collection of heathers, to be exchanged in early spring for choice hellebores or favorite snowdrops. Later, the small ivory narcissus ‘Elka’ or the dwarf Iris reticulata would be good choices. In winter, include some fragrant plants that will surprise you along the way, such as candy box (Sarcococca confusa).
4. Pass under an arch
There’s something irresistible about an arch – place one above a path and you’ll always feel drawn to pass under it. Choose a ready-to-use version from agriframes.co.uk, tristenmay.co.uk, gardenaccessories.co.ukWhere furnituregardenssecrets.com or form cover crops such as yew to create an evergreen arch. Beech or deciduous hornbeam also adapt well to formation – either in a single arch or in repetition to form a tunnel. In winter, their bare branches add sturdy structure to an entryway.
5. Opt for an original door
An unusual rustic gate is a good way to give individuality to a garden. Greenwood, where the natural shape of the wood has not been altered, creates an original, organic effect that fits well in a country garden. Sustainable chestnut and oak are the most widely used species.
Look for local coppices to supply suitable timber (find one near you at coppice-products.co.uk), or try bespoke gate makers such as edbrooks.com and greenmanwoodcrafts.co.uk. Old tools can also find new life in the design of the gate, well protected by the exterior paint.
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6. Be bold with outdoor tiles
Particularly effective in narrow gardens, outdoor tiles can zone the approach to your front door and prevent guests from wandering into adjacent borders. A handy solution for smoothing out uneven ground, tiles can also give your potted plants a more stable surface to frame your entryway.
A clever effect seen here blurs the line between indoors and outdoors, with matching tiling in the entrance hall.
7. Slow down the approach
While a direct route to the front door might be the most convenient option, it’s good to have an excuse for a quick detour around some interesting plantations along the way. Where space permits, an island bed provides a good focal point and offers different layers of interest.
Use a majority of foliage plants with contrasting leaf shapes to provide a base, complementing them with seasonal flowering plants to punctuate the greenery. Even in a shady area, you can create a lush green space with ferns, hostas, heucheras and pachysanders to provide low-maintenance ground cover.
In a smaller space, a single topiary bush or pot full of flowers would work just as well. A change to hard surface helps define areas and gravel is a good option as it is permeable, allowing water to drain away which is an important environmental factor to consider.
8. Keep it simple
Subdued colors are pleasing to the eye and create a harmonious first impression, especially if you stick to a limited palette for planting and painting. The cool grays and natural creams used on the walls and doors provide a great backdrop for everything from clipped evergreens to more exuberant sun-bleached grasses and flowering perennials. Planting right against the house always helps to soften the look and will place your property in the garden.
9. Natural frame
Entering a garden under an arbor of foliage, its abundance setting the stage for planting elements that might lie beyond, is particularly pleasing. Placed above a doorway, it can transform even the simplest of entrances into something more substantial. When privacy is an issue, you can achieve a degree of seclusion by growing an evergreen hedge, such as yew, so that the path to your door can only be seen through the walkway.
On the brick door pillars you can grow something quite substantial, such as a climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris, which is self-clinging. Although slow to establish, it will be quite happy in a shady area, producing lacy white flowers among glossy, heart-shaped leaves. If you’re choosing a climbing rose for a frequently used arch, opt for a rose that’s relatively thornless, like Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’ or ‘A Shropshire Lad’ so you don’t snag your clothes as you pass by.