Pondering on the Front Garden project

I suspect I was unconsciously thinking about taking up the front lawn when I decided to feature the front garden this year as the End of Month view.  It made me smile that I made no reference to lifting the lawn in my post but the view of commentators was unanimous that it should go and I should use the space to embrace my plant obsessions.  It didn’t take many such comments to win me round, I don’t think I actually needed persuading but it is always nice when someone else unwittingly confirms your view – its a vote of confidence and encouragement.

Since then there has been much pondering.  I look at the front garden when I do the weekly pile of ironing (yes I do the ironing weekly, I quite like ironing as it appeals to my neat-nick tendencies).  I also look at it each morning from my bedroom window while I get ready for work.  I have found in recent years that I need to have an image in my mind before I can start to develop part of the garden.  Not in the sense of knowing the structure, paths, borders etc but its more of a sense of the visual impact.  So having pondered a hardy exotic look I strangely found myself seeing the front garden in terms of bright and warm colours – very floriferous.

Driving back from Kate’s last week and pondering her generally late summer interest garden the idea of moving my asters to the front garden started to form.  If you recall the front garden is already home to a number of red shrubby salvias which do well and also crocosmia.  I could see how the asters would benefit from the sunny location and how finally I could create the late summer border I have tried to achieve in the Big Border.  This hasn’t worked as asters are generally tall and no matter how hard I try due to the slope I end up looking at their stems.  If I move the asters and the calmagrostis to the front garden then the image in my head might finally start to work.  I can augment them with more crocosmia and rudbeckias and maybe some echinacea.  I want to add a small tree or tall shrub to add some height and I am currently toying with a adding an eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’ which I have been admiring for some years, although I know it has a tendency to sucker.

But I also need to add some sort of access to this area to make it easier to work and I am currently thinking this will a slab and gravel path leading from near the beginning of the driveway partly into the front garden, with one path splitting off to the house and the other heading towards the large grevillea where there might be a large pot or a pot like water feature.  This will add a focal point and purpose to the paths – I think.

But I don’t want the front garden to only look good in late summer so I need another season of interest and I am thinking that this will come mainly from bulbs with orange and burgundy tulips, alliums and also bearded irises which I hope will benefit from the light levels.

So there seems to be a plan forming but as so often with such things one thing has lead to another and now I am having to re-think the back garden.  Not drasticly but if I move the majority of the asters, some of the grasses and other such plants to the front from the Big Border it will need a new identity.  I want to try and bring some sort of cohesion into the back garden.  My magpie approach to plants has led to a garden which can seem quite fragmented at times.  So I am trying to arrange the plants in such a way that they enhance each other rather than my usual ‘where is there a gap’ approach.  In the back I have been tending more and more towards foliage interest with some floral highlights. I am today, it may change tomorrow, currently toying with using the Big Border for adding to the exotic approach by adding tenders in the summer, after the bulbs have gone over.  I didn’t grow dahlias last year for the first time in years and I missed them so I could use this space for them along with some cannas and gingers and I have wanted an banana for some time but not had the space.

Who knew a simple blog post could lead to so much pondering and potentially upheaval!! I may have to change the focus of the end of month meme this year as I suspect there might not be much to see for a while. I’m now off to ponder dahlias in the Sarah Raven catalogue

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. It sounds as though you’re going to be playing sliding block puzzles with your plants. But it will be worth it when you’ve finished!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Rachel
      Yes, my plants often seem to have wheels in them as they get moved around

  2. Brian Skeys says:

    It sounds like a good plan to me Helen, I wish I had room for eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’ it is a lovely shrub.
    I have been given quite a few ginger plants to sell at the NGS open gardens, so long as they survive the winter.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Brian
      Now you have me wondering if I have room for Elaeagnus Quicksilver!

    2. Brian Skeys says:

      Be bold Helen, don’t be put of by me!

  3. Renee says:

    The planning stage is always a favorite… I hope you incorporate those dark irises you showed. Good luck with your plan!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Renee
      I have quite a few of the dark irises, I think it might be Langport Wren so yes they will definitely be included

  4. Jim Stephens says:

    Seems to me there’s a bit of move going to get more strong colour back into gardens, which I think is great. The power of cheerfully coloured flowers (you’d never describe foliage as cheerful) to lift ones spirits is a great natural gift and undervalued.
    As for the grass, you will not miss the drudgery of mowing and edging for a moment, you’ll likely wonder why you kept it for so long.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Jim
      You are right I need some strong colours and I know I won’t miss the lawn, just been putting off digging it all up

  5. I got rid of my lawn several years back, best move I ever made, it made room for a bit more garden.

  6. annamadeit says:

    I have the same “magpie approach” (great expression!) to plants and do a lot of vignette plantings in my learning lab/test garden. I’m constantly moving things around, and right now I’m going through my customary spring “this year is going to be different” phase. Fat chance…! I wish you a fun and happy journey as you wrestle the temptations of your new front yard! 🙂

    1. hillwards says:

      The National Dahlia Collection send out rooted cuttings at half the price of corms, and their choice is staggering. Easy to while away hours on their website. We’ve ordered some for my husband’s birthday, should arrive in a couple of months.
      Look forward to following your front garden redesign x

  7. Jean says:

    I love the way that changing one thing (like moving your asters to the front) can then trigger a whole set of new garden ideas. I’ll be looking forward to seeing your new front garden take shape this year.

  8. Cathy says:

    What an exciting time this will be – especially now you have decided (well, I think you have!) that the grass is going to go. I remember the dilemma at the back too – but most of us gardeners go through the same sort of thing at some time or another. It will be fascinating for us to watch its progression

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.

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