From grey to green: ideas for your front garden

Joanna Cruddas

As part of its Greening Grey Britain campaign, the Royal Horticultural Society has commissioned a new study to understand how front gardens impact both homeowners and passers-by. However small the area outside your house, you can make it a spot to admire. 

Gardening joy to passersby

I used to disguise the dustbins that stood on a small paved area outside my house by surrounding them with pots of flowering bulbs in spring. In summer I grew annuals for colour. The year I gave up, complete strangers would stop and complain.

My house had become a highlight of the street, they insisted. Now I have compromised with fewer but larger pots and simpler plants. The local pedestrians are happy again! They stop and chat when they see me watering. I have acquired two new friends this way.

 

Not much time, not much space?

Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’

Many ornamental grasses are suitable for growing in pots as well as gardens. They are low maintenance, not dropping petals or requiring dead-heading.

Carex testacea will sway in the breeze, turn a coppery bronze in late summer and requires little care.

Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ has cream and green foliage. It is deciduous so needs cutting right back in early spring.

Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ (pictured above) has purplish flower spikes. They are useful for flower arrangements.

A bit of blue? Festuca glauca‘Elijah Blue’ is an elegant, compact plant which will perform best in full sun.

Stipa tenuissima needs a large container and will reward you with pale yellow-green leaves and fluffy silver-green flowers. Cut back in early spring.

 

Hiding behind your hedge?

Rosemary bush

If you use your hedge as protection against noise, wind, or nosey parkers, make sure it’s decorative. A lavender hedge (which works very well when grown out of the top of a low double wall) is a sight to behold in the summer. Its silver leaf can be attractive the year round.  

A Rosemary hedge will add style, aroma and a source of fresh leaves to enhance your cooking. Pale to mid-blue flowers will appear as early as February out of dense grey-green foliage. The neighbours will love it! Depending on the variety, your rosemary can grow from 1–5 feet.

Red flowering Escallonia is the answer if you live on the coast or in a sunny, sheltered spot. From June–October its glossy, evergreen leaves will be outshone by a mass of red flowers.

Jazz up the railings with Jasmine. It’s an obliging plant and is easy to train horizontally along a fence or railings. Tiny pink buds appear in spring and are followed by brilliant white flowers. The scent will follow you down the street.

 

Show-off ‘growing-your-own’

I have noticed more and more people growing vegetables in their front gardens. Diminutive spaces filled with potato bags, climbing beans next to sweet peas, a courgette winding its way across paving, tomatoes, salad leaves, herbs beside a couple of roses in pots. A true melange. Just for a moment, scurrying pedestrians stop, peer and forget their rush.

If you have a proper front garden, then nurture the space for yourself and for others. If it’s just a bit of front paving, remember that small can be beautiful too.

 

Joanna Cruddas lives in London and gardens at her plot in Fulham Palace Meadows Allotments, on her balcony, and in her window boxes. She is the author of The Three-Year Allotment Notebook with photographs by Edwina Sassoon.