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Saturday March 02 , 2024

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 - Colour - Let's hear it for riotous red!

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using red in a borderRed – evocative of so many emotions, often extreme but always powerful; some find red a really difficult colour to use in a garden but when it is used well it can really add a zing factor to your outdoor space.

Red, of course, is one of the primary colours (along with blue and yellow) but unlike blue – a cool colour – which recedes, red – a hot colour – tends to advance, or look closer than it really is.  That quality can be used to great effect in a garden, for instance you can trick the eye into thinking something is narrower than it is by the use of hot colours.  For instance by planting hot colours at the back of a border with cooler colours at the front, it would look like the border wasn’t as deep as it is, and the reverse is true too – plant hot colours at the front and cooler colours behind to make a border look deeper.  Red will help you accentuate an area too because it will draw the eye and grab the attention of the viewer so if you want to bring attention to a certain area, swathe it with red.  

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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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Using Plants to Create Movement in your Garden

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plants-for-movementOne of the questions I get asked the most is ‘how can I make my garden more interesting’ and there are a few elements to consider for example form, texture and colour but here we are looking at movement.  What is important to remember is it really doesn’t matter whether you have a small urban garden or a big estate the same design principles can be applied albeit in different quantities.

Quite a few gardens that I visit often appear static, with plants that look as though they have been placed like ornaments, rather than contributing to the ambience and dynamism of the garden.  

Movement doesn’t have to be drastic though it can be a subtle addition to the space you are trying to create. 

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