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Thursday October 17 , 2019

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

Fabulous front gardens - the benefits

Posted by on in Garden Design

front-garden-designIn all of the years we’ve been designing gardens we’re rarely asked to do anything with a front garden.  We seem to think long and hard about what we want from our back gardens but rarely approach our front gardens with the same level of gusto – or indeed with any level of gusto to be fair – which is a shame.  

When we ask clients what they want from their back gardens the lists we get back are usually long and multi-faceted  but ask somebody what they want from their front garden and most people tend to lean towards the ‘somewhere to park the car’ and ‘somewhere to hide the bins’ approach, and don’t take their thoughts any further. But why stop there?  We may not want to sit out and entertain in the front garden but a fabulous front garden is in reach of anyone who has one and in this first article of two I’m going to try to convince you why it’s worth going beyond the total paving approach to our front gardens and opting instead for a beautiful, planted but still functional space. 

So, in no particular order here are our top 5 reasons to choose a fabulous front garden...

  • Aesthetics. Put simply, a street full of lovely front gardens is a nicer place to be and see, but aesthetics have an economic trade off as well because that kerbside appeal translates into improved house prices.  A well kept front garden tops the list of the top 5 exterior must-haves for homebuyers with almost a third of us being willing to pay up to 25% more for a home with kerbside-appeal.  
  • Supporting wildlife.  While gardens will never replace natural habitats they are an important nature reserve that can support a substantial range of wildlife. Evidence is growing that some species that were once common in low-intensity farmland are now more abundant in urban areas and particularly in domestic gardens.
  • Mitigate flooding. More and more of us are increasing the amount of paving we have in our gardens, especially our front gardens; a trend that has been linked to a higher frequency and magnitude of flooding in those areas with increased levels of impervious paving. Recognising these problems the UK now has legislation relating to front gardens and flooding.  Simply put, permeable surfaces and planted up front gardens help prevent flooding.  Vegetation, especially trees, acts like a storm water management tool.  It captures intense rainfall and temporarily holds it in its canopy which eases demands on urban drains. At its other end vegetation encourages better infiltration of water into the soil which reduces surface water flows.  
  • Reduce urban temperatures.  Urban areas – dominated by dark and impervious surfaces – absorb considerably more heat and reflect considerably less than planted surfaces; which makes them warmer than planted areas. This is essentially what causes the urban heat island effect where cities experience higher than normal temperatures as compared to surrounding rural areas. Current research suggests that a 10% increase in vegetated surfaces in urban areas would help manage the rise of summertime air temperatures due to climate change; our front gardens have the potential to significantly contribute to this goal.
  • Improve human health. Much research points to the benefit of green spaces in human health terms – alleviating stress, improving cognitive function, improved self discipline; reduced illness levels, better relaxation and being able to cope with trauma have all been evidenced, while the act of gardening brings with it physical health benefits too.

This list isn’t exhaustive but when so many positive consequences can come from reconsidering and treating your front garden as a garden rather than a car park and bin store why wouldn’t you opt for a fabulous front garden?  Tips for how to achieve one though is an article for another day so please look out for part 2 coming soon!

 

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Garden Design Quick Tip - Man Made Texture

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20150720-111210Good use of texture in the garden is often the thing that brings that final touch of finesse to your design – it is a key tool for designers in creating visual excitement and emotional response when viewing a garden, and often a key element in achieving a good textural tapestry is the planting.  

But while plant shape (form); colour; leaf size, shape and texture; along with positioning all combine texturally, plants alone don’t always create the ‘whole’ textural picture in a garden – it is often the man-made things that we put with them that add to the mix and creates the fuller view.  Think patios, pathways, containers, structures, sculptures, etc – these elements can all add harmony, impact and depth to the textural scene.

Along with function and form, the texture of these man-made elements help define the feel and visual impact of a garden, for instance, if you want a contemporary space then smooth, sleek surfaces with sharp edges add that touch of ‘precision’ that many contemporary gardens exhibit. Conversely if you long for a more relaxed, cottage garden style then reclaimed brick, cobbles or rivened finishes lend themselves well here.  

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Garden Design Quick Tip - Focal Points - Lines and Frames

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focal point - leading lines

Focal points are brilliant tools for bringing your garden ‘into focus’ – focal points add context to a garden.  By giving a viewer something distinct to look at, it somehow manages to bring the setting around it – the wider garden – into focus too.  

Focal points work best when there is a clear line of sight to them; by clearing the way of any other distractions the viewer’s eye is inexorably drawn to the focal point at ‘the end of the line’.  The focal point can be anything – an urn, a bench, a plant, a sculpture, etc but it needs to be distinct enough from its surroundings to hold the attention of the viewer for a while once their gaze reaches it.  It’s that ‘pause’ of attention that then allows the focal point’s surroundings to then be thrown into focus too.

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Garden Design Quick Tip - Colour - The Benefits of Blue

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echinops ritro veitch's blueDid you know that blue is a fantastic colour to use in the garden because it's so versatile? It has a recessive quality to it which some people may find ambiguous but it is that exact quality that makes it such a useful colour to use in a garden design.  Simply by receding, it can be used to blend other colours together in planting; or to create an illusion of depth be that in planting or within the landscaping materials; it also has an ability to pick up the mood of its neighbouring plants too.

Blue can add depth and space to a garden so it’s a great colour to use at the back of a border to make it seem like the vista is extending even further.  There are so many different hues and tones of colours but pale blue for example, can add lightness through intense saturated hues – think of cornflowers on a hot-summers day!  

It also works really well in shady areas as it picks up the light and this colour is well known for creating calm, restful and contemplative spaces.  So with that in mind it’s really important to use the right colour in your garden to obtain the right feel and ambience that you are trying to create.

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Garden Design Quick Tip - Design for Structure

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structure1I thought I’d take a slightly different angle than my usual garden design topic and actually look at the garden design process itself in terms of structure since above all else having your garden designed adds structure to your project.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) the word structure has many meanings and all of them are valid in relation to garden design.

Firstly, structure is ‘the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex’.  Make no mistake, your garden design is a complex undertaking requiring skills across a number of disciplines – even the ‘simplest’ looking garden design requires the designer to wear many hats ranging from land surveyer to plantsman; creative to structural engineer; sociologist to psychologist (yes, really!); soil scientist to environmentalist, visionary to pragmatist,  and more;  and sure, we can all have a go ourselves but we each have to weigh up the cost of hiring a professional garden designer against whether or not our own skills can produce results as well, or as efficiently, or as knowledgably, or as thoroughly, or as creatively, etc.  In the vast majority of cases the investment is well rewarded. 

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