End of Month View – January 2013 – The Front Garden


Well this is a bit of a leap of faith for me as I have a love/hate relationship with my front garden and have perfected the art of passing by it without seeing it for some six years now and I certainly hardly ever show it on the blog. Last year I decided that it was ridiculous that I had such a large front garden and potential for planting which I was ignoring and it was time to get over my phobia.  I am such a private person that I don’t really like gardening in the front garden as I feel self-conscious.

When we moved here some seven or eight years ago the front garden had no hedges but contained a vast Leylandii which was at  least two storeys high and a strange small island bed with a very  sad tiny hydrangea in it.  The conifer came out within weeks of us moving in, bringing lots of light  into the house.  The Silver Birch (Betula jacquemontii) was a present from my sons probably within a year of us moving in and this was followed by a Sorbus, the beech hedge and laurel hedge; planted one Christmas Eve.  The short conifer looking plant to the right of the Birch is a Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’.  I love the Grevillea. It has stood up to two winters of -18C temperature and being smothered in snow and it reminds me of my sister as I bought it from a nursery she had discovered near her and was excited to show me.


This was the view of the front garden back in November 2010 when I posted wondering what to do with it.  After much mumbling and staring out of the window I decided that the lawn would remain.  I had considered replacing it with gravel, maybe with grasses through it or just planting up the whole thing but I am more old school that I care to really acknowledge and the traditionalist me felt that some grass was needed. So the lawn was staying but it needed tidying up and formalising.  Back last Spring I started to mark out the new lawn which was to be a rectangle and meant making the borders deeper.  Well with the weather so wet last year I never got as far as lifting the turf nearest the house but this is one of my first jobs as soon as it is dry enough.


The front garden has been covered in snow most of this month so there was no chance of making progress.  I have tried to emphasis the formality of the lawn by edging it on the long sides with Alchemilla mollis and across the bottom with Deschampsia and this will be repeated in the house end border.  I have also planted lots of Tulipa Ballerina, Alliums and Narcissus.  The  colour theme is going to be strongly red focussed to pick up on the Grevillea flowers but with other rich colours such as deep blues and burgandies.  I have already added Peonies, Salvias and Irises.

You will see in the picture below that the border to the left of the lawn is more of a triangle and I need to really sort this border out this year.  There is a lot of random planting in here on the driveway side and I need to clear it out and pull it together with the extension along the lawn.  I have some Echinops which I might add here.  I  am trying to be bold with the planting, planting with repeats and larger groups to make more of an effect.  I am keeping my plant collection and impulse  buys for the back garden.  I need to remove the three Cornus that are just in front of the Birch as they have been in for at least three years and have just sat there.  I don’t think they get enough moisture as they are in competition with the Birch and Laurel.  I have a large number of Phlomis russelina which need a new home and I am thinking of relocating them to this area as the foliage should provide a good contrast to the Grevillea.  I have also to sort out the right hand side of the Grevillea but I am still pondering on this.


So that is what my Front Garden looks like at the moment.  I am focussing on it for this year’s End of Month view so I will have to get my act together and finish off last year’s project.

If  you would like to join in this meme you are very welcome.  You can use it however you like – some people show the same view each month, others go on a tour of their garden.  Whatever works for you.  But if you do join in please do leave a link in the comments box so we can all come and have a nose.


31 Comments Add yours

  1. sophiecussen says:

    I know how you feel about front gardens. I spent years trying to tame the shrubs the last house owners left behind and now I’m in the process of creating a wildlife habitat and further extend my vegetable garden, all of which are tricky because it’s north facing!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Sophie
      My front garden gets a lot of shade in the morning and it takes quite a while for the end near the house to dry out whereas the furthest end is very sunny so it does give me a range of aspects to play with

  2. Alison says:

    Front garden’s seem to be more difficult than back gardens to me. I think I am happy with mine now, but that took a long time and I am not totally sure yet. Yours is coming along well, looks good.

    My EoMR is here http://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk/2013/01/end-of-month-review-january-2013.html

    Hope all is well with you?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Alison
      I am very well thank you. I have left a comment over at yours and thank you for joining in again

  3. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Progress! I checked on my 400 plants today where they are having a holiday at No3 daughter’s house – It has been very dry and hot especially out the end of Whangaparoa Peninsula. My daughter has done very well and they all look as tho’ they have survived. I am moving to her house over the weekend so instead of having a lovely NZ bush view – pungas, nikaus etc and swooping Kereru’s (native wood pigeon – white breast and gorgeous green/blue – large) will have amazing gulf view back to Auckland. It is closer to the Hospice my husband is in – his liver is giving up pretty rapidly. My sister and her husband flew up from Christchurch today to see him – a day to day process. A lovely Hospice and fabulous staff. They handle him correctly so don’t hurt him, like we seemed to do. Hope the snow has melted – I am hoping I can have a few more swims as have been so busy with sick husband but now being cared for maybe can fit some in – my therepy!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Yvonne
      I am so sorry tohear about your husband but I am pleased you have support from your family. Look after yourself

  4. Mark and Gaz says:

    Front gardens can be tricky to sort out, especially as it tends to be ‘exposed’ which can add extra challenge to usually private gardeners. Glad to see some progress and looking forward to seeing what changes you will give it this year. Hopefully the weather will be more cooperative this year too.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Guys
      you are right and I also think that we are more aware of others opinions of our front gardens than we are of our back gardens

  5. annannstar says:

    I also ignore the front – it get blizted in May-June. Just a thought, blue geraniums line up well behind alchemilla – Orion & Rozanne flower May thro to Sept/October & are trouble free but may not be a deep enough blue for your colour scheme: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/Plant-trials-and-awards/Plant-awards/10-AGM-plants/10-AGM-hardy-geraniums. I’ve Nimbus with alchemilla but it does get leggy.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Anna
      Thank you for the suggestion, I do like geraniums so I will definately think about adding those

  6. hillwards says:

    I look forward to watching your progress. Our young front garden is still much more sparse than our rear, and I too restrict the range of plants here for a more formal look, though it will take a few years to get there I think. Your rectangular lawn shape is still looking so much sharper than the previous. Hope we get some spring weather soon and you can get back outside and start things moving again.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      hi Sara – yes I think the rectangle lawn looks a lot sharper than the blob, it will look even better when I have cut the grass and edged it properly

  7. Good for you for overcoming your reluctance to really get the most out of your front garden. It looks like you are off to a fine start, and I am eager to see how things develop. For myself, I have really come to enjoy gardening in the front – I’ve met a lot of children, dogs, and other neighbors this way.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi GIC – I am waiting to see how all the plants and bulbs I planted last year fare and whether they give the effect I am hoping for

  8. It will be interesting to see how your front garden develops this year Helen, perhaps I should make 2013 the year of “my front garden” – all 2 foot of it, which as you know is completely empty. I love grevillea – it is such an unlikely looking plant to do so well in the UK. Grevillea victoriae is also nice if you come across it in your travels.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Karen – I think you should make 2013 the year of your front garden, it lets doesnt reflect the splendours behind the house. I will keep an eye out for Grevillea victoriae

  9. Cathy says:

    I look forward to watching your progress on this, Helen – a front garden is not something I have to contend with these days as we front directly onto the street. Not sure if I miss it or not – I just love our property as it is. My EOMV is now posted at http://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/hidden-promises/. Thanks for hosting.

  10. Holleygarden says:

    It is such a beautiful space! And as you say – it’s a place to garden. Although, I understand not wanting to be on “display” when you are gardening. I think you are doing a great job, and very smart of you to think about drifts and masses of flowers in front, and keep the collecting to the back area. I’m joining in this month at:

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi HG – thank you for joining in with the meme

  11. I hope you (we all) get some weather suitable for moving and planting, you have some good plans for your front garden I look forward to seeing it develope during the year,
    thanks for hosting this meme Helen I enjoy it, my post is at:
    a bit of a ramble, Frances

  12. Shirley says:

    Hello Helen, I loved “Well this is a bit of a leap of faith for me as I have a love/hate relationship with my front garden and have perfected the art of passing by it without seeing it for some six years now and I certainly hardly ever show it on the blog.” You could say that my wildlife pond is the same for me – I could take a leap of faith with it and join you with it in a few days. I’ve taken a photo today – that’s the first step over 😉

    I completely understand what you say about working in your front garden. Fortunately I’m in the corner of a cul de sac and I don’t have a lot of space anyway. I’ve revamped it many times though (usually with a car parked in a way to give some privacy) and I’ll be revisiting previous planting schemes during a bit of a Memory Lane Month for February – I’m taking a break from the birds. Your invitation will be out on Sunday when I give this some more thought 😉

    Off to have a nose now – thanks for hosting this 😀

  13. Anny says:

    It looks from the photos, as if our front gardens are a similar size. My guilty ‘not a secret at all’ is that I have a gardening friend who comes about once a month to tart it up and stop it letting down the side down (as it were). My work space overlooks the front and I hear lots of people say how nice it is, but they’d all be horrified if they saw what I’m responsible for at the back of the house.

  14. easygardener says:

    I am self conscious working in the front garden too – I always do the jobs in a rush which isn’t fair on the front garden but I am not going to change the habits of a lifetime. Ideally you want a garden that is tidied up once a year then admired for the rest of it…never easy to achieve.
    I agree with you about the Grevillia, it is a lovely shrub with exotic flowers that look slightly odd on such a prickly looking plant.

    My post is up at http://greenforks.com/2013/02/end-of-the-month-view-january-2013/

  15. Hi Helen, the rectangular lawn makes such a difference, and the birch with the Grevillea is a lovely combination even at this time of year. I do so know what you mean about feeling exposed when gardening out the front. I am fortunate here in that it is really quite quiet, so hopefully I will be so excited about creating a new garden I will forget to feel vulnerable and faintly embarassed. Good luck getting to grips with yours, the plan sounds good, interesting that so many of us are aiming for more repetition and less bittiness in our planting. My EOMV post is now up, thanks again for hosting, such a useful meme.

  16. Roger brook says:

    My latest post suggests you can turn a lawn into a gravel garden….but perhaps you are not an enthusiastic user of glyphosate like me!

  17. I love what you have been doing with your front garden. I look forward to seeing all your changes and seeing the garden as it blooms. I will link in on Monday.

  18. I, too, prefer to garden in the back, but I do have some plantings in the front that require me to be up there from time to time. It will be nice to see all of your changes. Thank you for hosting!

  19. Hi Helen, a little late but here is my monthly review http://wp.me/p1jkAI-28k. I have a mental block when it comes to spending money on my front garden, don’t ask why. So I fill it with cuttings from the back and cheap annuals from B&Q, all seem to do well. It’s a bit like a bargin basement front garden!! I am looking forward to seeing the summer photos of your front garden.

  20. constantgardenerblog says:

    Hah! Not as late as me Ronnie 😀 Here’s my end of month view for January – all a bit dramatic this month: http://sallynex.com/2013/02/05/end-of-month-view-january-2/

    Can’t wait to see what you do with your little front garden – it’s a space full of promise and I have a feeling you’ll do it full justice!

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s