This article contains affiliate links
Landscaping ideas for front gardens can sometimes be a little overlooked which is not surprising.
Typically more emphasis is focused on developing back gardens can which provide a larger more private space. However it is crucial to point out that front gardens offer the very first impression to your property for others. A well thought out and designed front garden dramatically improves the first impressions of the property and the occupants who reside there.
There is an element of functionality which needs to be considered with front garden landscaping. Bin stores, easy access and security are all factors that should be considered and planned for. However with functionality in mind there is no reason your front garden can not be practical and beautiful at the same time.
Front gardens can really add some greenery to dull, urban streets and encourage wildlife to the streetscape. A newly landscaped front garden can provide a tropical paradise perhaps or a place to sit out and watch the world go by.
In this article I will set out some of the fundamentals of landscaping front gardens, what you should think about and what are the possibilities.
Frame the home
Framing the home is a great way to enhance its appearance using landscape elements. This is commonly achieved using horizontal and vertical elements. A well cut hedge or regimental trees can both soften buildings and frame the homes geometric aesthetics.
One of the most striking ways to do this is with vertical lines at either sides of the building. Using tubular trees like Italian Cypress you can really compliment the architecture of the home. Well trimmed Box hedging can mirror the right angles of the house visually connecting home and garden.
Vertical structures such as pergolas, trellis and screens can also help to frame the home.
One of the things that bring visual order to a front garden is spatial hierarchy. This can create a comfortable aesthetic to the eye and influence how people use and perceive the space. Spatial hierarchy can be achieved by using bold lines to guide the eye to landscaped focal points.
With front gardens typically a structure is created which builds emphasis towards the entrance of the home. Occasionally a central area is given more importance with a water feature or statue providing a focal point.
When designing your front garden space try to think about what you want to emphasise, the home, the centre of the garden, or a specific feature. Sketch out what landscape elements you want and build them up in layers in order of importance.
Show off your attention to detail
Front gardens are usually much smaller than back yard garden spaces. They also provide a greater opportunity to impress and create a show to the outside world. This is where you can make a statement about yourself and how you see the world.
Clean lines and intricate details can really make a house and garden look amazing. By integrating visual textures and smooth surfaces small details and juxtaposition can be celebrated. There is no better way to show you are an organised, perfectionist to the world than with your front gardens landscape design.
Watch the world go by
This is often thought of as a front garden pursuit by those only living in the Mediterranean. The fact is front gardens provide a fantastic opportunity to relax and watch the world go by.
Many don’t even think this is a socially expectable thing to do but can be liberating in so many ways. You will have positive conversations with neighbours you never knew you had, make new friends and start a social revolution.
The best way to start watching the world go by is to simply make the front garden a great place to sit. A new patio or deck is a great way to make a front garden appealing. Raised beds and a cool planting scheme can provoke impact and evoke compliments and conversation. This landscape approach is even more effective if your front garden gets afternoon sun.
Security is something that should always be taken into account when landscaping your front garden. It is important to recognise that not everyone will be stopping by your home to appreciate the landscaping.
The important thing to remember is criminals like places to hide so large shrubs and climbing plants should be avoided. Try not to give them anything to climb on directly next to the home. The use of gravels that are noisy to walk are a put off for burglars.
Hence if crime is high in your area you may want to consider gravel in the front garden. Security is always a worthy factor when planning a front garden. Although it is usually rare some opportunistic crime can occur in any area.
Gravel gardens are a great way to implement free draining, attractive surfaces to a front garden. Gravel can create a very attractive effect especially if it is combined with architectural planting.
Gravel gardens are one of the most affordable ways to create a hard wearing surface. To create a gravel garden all perennial weeds must be removed and a robust weed resistant membrane installed. An aggregate of choice should then spread to a depth of around 50mm.
If you wish to make a gravel garden more interesting you can combine different zones with varying colours and textures. These can be separated by some form of edging usually steel or treated timber gravel board. Gravel front gardens are effective for security purposes and also look great!
Lawns are not always the first choice when planning a front garden but can be very effective. Usually the practicality of dragging a mower through to the front is too much for some people.
However if you like to show the world you are regimentally neat, tidy and organised a front lawn could be just the thing for you. When landscaping a new lawn in a front garden it is good to go for a small and formal shape. These lawns benefit from a well planned edging such as a brick on edge or steel border.
These allow you to set the perfect level, a good quality soil loam can then be spread and a good quality turf laid. Make sure your lawn has at least six hours of sun a day and is in a relatively free draining area.
Tropical front gardens
Tropical gardens are the ultimate wow factor in a garden. It is surprising just how realistic some tropical gardens are in colder climates. There are many frost hardy palms, yuccas and other shrubs which give that exotic touch to the garden.
This is no less the case in a front garden. A combination of palms, bamboos, grasses and large leaved shrubs can make the perfect jungle paradise. This really requires a south facing front garden in colder climates but can make a real statement.
Be cautious of making your tropical garden too much of a dense jungle. With front gardens there is always the threat of litter and giving places for people to hide. Why not check out our article on Tropical looking plants for jungle gardens here.
Mediterranean front gardens
For front gardens a Mediterranean garden could be just the thing to celebrate your properties entrance. These gardens typical of Greece and Italy have a beautiful rustic charm with simplistic, architectural planting, warm colours and textures.
Perhaps you could build a dry stone wall planted with aromatic herbs or succulents. You could plant drought resistant trees such as Olives and Almonds. These gardens work very well with a combination of paving, gravel and rocks.
Perhaps you would like a more formal Mediterranean theme such as a Moroccan courtyard. Mediterranean gardens should really have a south facing aspect to be successful. The benefit with most Mediterranean plants is they usually require little water and are generally low maintenance.
For further reading on how to make a Mediterranean garden why not read our article on the subject here.
Victorian front gardens
Victorian gardens are a classic theme for the English town house but can be applied into any garden. Victorian gardens are typified by their geometric lines and decorative pathways. Victorian gardens are neat, tidy and orderly using hedging and edgings to create strong lines and order. This theme is great for small courtyards and urban gardens.
For more information on Victorian gardens, The Victorian Garden is a great book to read.
Go potty with pots
Front gardens are fun to landscape and can become great places for decoration. However the typically hard surfaces and rain shadows can mean planting them is not always easy. This is where pots can add a floral boost to front gardens.
Pots are decorative within their own right but with a cool planting scheme they can be an exceptional delight. In sunny positions architectural palms, grasses and succulents can be grown while in shaded damp corners ferns are a great choice.
The benefit of landscaping your front garden with pots is you can move them around and change the planting scheme at will.
Add colour with hanging baskets
Hanging baskets can really add a special effect to the front of your home. Traditionally thought of as a thing of summer hanging baskets do not just have to be for summer flowers. Baskets can also be planted with bulbs, small shrubs and perennials for all year round interest. Hanging baskets now come in some differing forms including hanging green walls and cascading pots.
Soften the home with climbers
Landscaping for impact can often be challenging with the home being such a bold feature. Sometimes it is good to find ways to soften the hard lines of the building to maximise the gardens impact. One of the best ways to pursue this strategy is to grow climbing plants up the front of the home.
This can be done with a cable system or trellis. Some climbers offer seasonal blooms, some fruit and some offer attractive foliage. When choosing the best climbers for your home be cautious, Some can grow very robustly and damage the integrity of the building. Try to use climbers which to not develop a very thick trunk and that grow slowly and delicately.
Frame the door with Italian Cypress
A really flavoursome method of giving hierarchy to your homes entrance is to plant two tall, structural plants on either side. This in effect frames the entrance giving it more importance and focus within the landscape.
This is no better executed than with Italian Cypress trees. These tubular evergreens have a fantastic, vertical line which is perfect to compliment the geometry of the building. Furthermore this helps to integrate and harmonise the garden and home. Italian Cypress is perfect for framing a doorway or creating a corridor along a path.
Create a focal point
A really effective way to add interest into your front garden is to create a focal point. This can be a religious ornament, mosaic or water feature. Creating focal points can allow you to dazzle onlookers and emphasise a point of interest. Having such a feature will allow you to organise the surrounding landscaping to stage the focal point.
This can be done with bold lines, planting and visual textures. For example in Japanese gardens upright boulders can be set into circular zones of gravels. These can be raked in a circular pattern to give the impression of water ripples.
Create a rain garden
The idea of celebrating the hydraulic cycle through front garden landscaping may sound a little crazy but it is an ecologically sound one. Rain gardens collect seasonal storm water and channel it through the landscape creating a feature.
This can be a dry river bed, gravel system or a seasonal flooding pond. Most ecological degradation of our rivers and fresh water ecosystems is due to urban water runoff. To be as ecological as possible it is recommended to retain as much storm water runoff on your property as possible.
This allows rain to slowly permeate back into the ground naturally. This means pollutants from our surfaces and motor cars do not run directly into the drainage network. Rain from our roof gutter systems and hard surfaces can be collected in our front gardens as rain gardens. These can become a spectacular feature as a series of small gravel pools or even a wildlife pond.
We have included a link here to a great book on the subject of rain gardens and sustainable landscape water management.
Create a cool pathway
One of the best landscaping ideas for front gardens can be a pathway. Even though this can seem an extremely obvious idea there are so many ways they can be executed. If you want to celebrate the entrance to your home you can have a straight and direct path with bold lines and decorative borders.
Many Victorian and Georgian homes have decorative tiled pathways which have become typically associated with London town houses. Pathways can be bordered with high garden elements such as raised beds or edging features. If you have a larger front garden perhaps you may wish to make a less direct garden pathway.
This could even be a meandering journey which takes people through interesting planting and garden features. Pathways can be realised in a multitude of varying materials and styles, why not search for precedent images of great garden pathways for ideas?
Create a feature wall
Creating a feature wall can be a great addition to your front garden landscaping. This can either be a wall of the home or a separate wall which is just a part of the landscaping.
Feature walls can be smooth, or textured and provide a back drop for other elements inside the garden. Feature walls can be built using timber, brick or concrete and tiled or clad with external cladding. Feature walls can also have small recesses to allow extra decoration with lights or candles.
The colour of a feature wall can allow for contrast when using planting types in front. For instance a climbing red rose can be the perfect accompaniment to a smooth white wall. External cladding such as stack slate cladding can also be very effective.
Create a green wall
Green walls are slowly becoming more accepted within the world of domestic landscaping. These now come in so many forms from simple cable structures with climbers to modular systems. Most of the time a green wall is simply trying to cover a building with vegetation.
This has many benefits including providing wildlife habitat, cleaning the air, insulating the building and helping to keep the building cool in hot summers. Green walls for front gardens can visually soften the building and help green the wider urban landscape.
A variety of planting colours, patterns and even numerals can be created. This is even more plausible using modular green wall systems. These consist of individual planting pockets fixed on to walls. These are the most expensive systems and do require intensive irrigation. They do however also look the most effective.
There are now basic green wall pocket and modular systems available on Amazon here.
Grow a scented garden
It is amazing just how scent can change your experience of an outside space. Scented gardens can create a sense of beauty and serenity for all who visit them. Do you remember the last time you were stopped in your tracks by a fantastic fragrance from a nearby plant?
When landscaping front gardens planting scented plants can really add that little bit of magic to a space. This can even help to improve the mood of people journeying from the street and into your home. Scented plants do not just have to be effective in summer.
There are also many winter flowering plants and with careful planning can experience floral aromas all year round. Many front gardens are reasonably sheltered making them perfect for pleasant smells to linger.
Add a water feature
Water can transform a space like no other element. Water features can capture your attention both visually and with sound. From water fountains to vertical rocks water features come in a wide array of interesting forms and styles.
These are perfect for creating a central focal point in your front garden. If considering a water feature you may need to install an external electricity supply so consult an experienced and qualified electrician.
Incorporate hidden rock speakers
Music is not always the first thought when considering landscaping a front garden. However the ability to play music at will can dramatically enhance the mood and feel of a space.
External speakers like these rock speakers are perfect for integrating into a rockery or flowerbed. Being inconspicuous can make them perfect for adding music to your front garden during get-togethers or just sitting back and watching the world go by.
These speakers can even be set up to play a security message if anyone enters your front garden at night. They can hook up to your mobile device and be activated at the touch of a button.
The rock speakers below can be found on Amazon here.
Thinking about designing and landscaping your front garden yourself? Why not go to our recommended landscaping tools page and resources page here.
If you require landscaping services including design & construction please do not hesitate to contact Buckinghamshire landscape gardeners today. We cover Buckinghamshire and the surrounding Chiltern area. Many of our typical project locations include:
Amersham, Aylesbury, Beaconsfield, Berkhamsted, Chalfont, Chesham, Gerard's Cross, Great Missenden, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough and Wendover.
Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.