Want to update your front garden? Here are some easy tips on how to make a great first impression
A front garden is the first introduction any visitor or passerby will have of your home, so it makes sense to make sure it’s a good one. After all, first impressions are important. Read on for some design tips that will have your front garden brimful of curb appeal in no time.
Size things up
Before you begin, it is always a good idea to take into account what you have to work with. Is your front area large or small? Do you need a car space or do you have a garage? Is the front garden on a slope or is it exposed to lots of passing traffic and therefore noise and air pollution? Giving some thought to your specific local environment can help the design process run smoothly and efficiently.
“In terms of design considerations, it will always depend on what the space is going to be used for, whether it’s an open front yard or a more intimate private setting. Screening and fencing to cut down on road noise is also important, but not always required,” says Tim Van Der Horst of Eden Landscape.
Make it flow
“Primarily a front garden must provide practical pedestrian access and vehicular connections if applicable. It’s important that it flows well and is usable,” says Johanna MacMinn of My Verandah. “The role of the front garden is also to buffer your home from the outside world and to provide a setting that shows your home in the best way.”
When designing your front garden, pay heed to the architecture of your home so that the garden you create will work in harmony with the overall residence. You may also want similarities between your front and back gardens to create a sense of unity and flow. “Front gardens tend to be on show and can set off your home to its best advantage by connecting it to its overall environment,” explains Johanna.
If you live on a busy street with high levels of foot or car traffic, tall fencing and screening can be your best friend. High fencing allows for privacy, and when paired with greenery such as climbers, trees or shrubs can cut down on noise pollution and act as a filter for air pollution.
“Fencing can be quite tricky as council laws around fence design vary widely all over Australia, but don’t scrimp on the front fence as this is what will set off your street appeal,” says Tim. “One of the latest trends is vertical hardwood timber battens with small spacings, which is a modern take on the old-fashioned picket fence. This can look great with hedging plants behind to complete the privacy.”
Lawn or no lawn?
It’s no secret that Australians love their lawns, but with sustainability a growing concern, are the days of natural turf coming to an end? If you live in an area prone to long periods without rain, or your front yard is short on space, paving may be your best bet. Mix things up with different types of paving, textures and colours to create interest.
“I am taking a lot of inspiration from the beautiful front gardens being designed in California, where water usage is an issue,” says Johanna. “The lawn is out and a fantastic array of succulents is in, with a beautiful floor of pea gravel or decomposed granite. This has a wonderful effect, especially for mid-20th-century homes.”
Pebbles, river stones, crushed granite and locally quarried feature rocks mixed with native grasses and plantings seem to be right on trend, but for many, Australia’s love affair with natural turf is here to stay so if you want lawn in your front garden, go for it.
Take a hard line
Be it for a driveway, footpath, steps or boundary wall, there are myriad hardscape options for you to choose from, ranging from stone pavers to poured concrete.
“My preference is to always go for natural materials such as natural stone,” says Tim. “I prefer bluestone, granite or sandstone as opposed to concrete, although concrete can really set off a contemporary home. Another option is timber boardwalks or decking. Timber decking can work really well if you have elevation. A series of timber platforms at various heights leading you to the front door will give your space extra oomph.”
A good way to create interest and break up hardscapes is to add some greenery into the mix. Bluestone slab off-cuts can make for a striking front path, especially when paired with pebbles and hardy, low-growing plantings such as mondo grass. Or break up natural turf with organically shaped large-format pavers that lead to the front door.
When it comes to landscaping, plant choice depends on the style of your garden and how much time you are prepared to put into it. For a more formal affair, neutral pavers, immaculately trimmed grass and neatly manicured shrubs, evergreen hedges and small fruit trees can look sophisticated but will need upkeep.
For a modern garden, large-format pavers paired with a few streamlined architectural plantings create a striking look. Straight-edged planters adorned with bird of paradise, cycads, ferns or palms can add a contemporary structural element to your greenscape. For a more low-maintenance approach, opt for plants that are specifically suited to the climate, such as Australian native grasses, or choose native plants that fit with your locality.
Colour and interest
“Remember to add pops of colour with flowering plants, regardless of the style of garden,” says Tim. Or for interest and aroma you can add your own cook’s garden if you are short of space out the back. Herbs such as rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley are all durable and attractive plants to have front of house and can be very effective in pots or as border plantings. Low-growing, easy-care succulents can make for a stunning groundcover and an alternative to turf or having an abundance of planters. Varieties of Sempervivum, Senecio serpens and Echeveria look wonderful and don’t require a lot of maintenance. Plants can also be used for decorative as well as practical purposes, such as bamboo for screening or trees and climbers for shading purposes.
Find your path
To lead the eye to the front door and ensure ease of access, introduce a garden path that is wide enough for two people to comfortably walk side by side. When choosing the route of the path, consider where the most traffic comes from and what the most direct route is. If you have a front gate and a side driveway, it might be a good idea to have a split path that comes in from two directions and then joins into one just before the front door.
If you have the space, consider laying an extra square metre or so of paving at the front door to accommodate a group of people gathering to say hello and goodbye. Also think about the comfort of visitors to your home so avoid plants around the path that have thorns or a lot of pollen.
Follow these tips and your will have a front garden that will make you want to come home — and make your neighbours green with envy!
6 important questions to ask when renovating your front yard:
- Do you want a secluded front garden or one that enables full view of the front of your house from the street?
- Do you simply plan to walk through your front garden to get to the house or would you like to actually use it?
- How much time do you have to devote to upkeep and what is your skill level as a gardener? If you’re not a green thumb, a gardening service can take the hassle out of maintenance and visit as little or often as needed.
- Is there anything you’d like to hide, such as a mains box or drain pipe? If so, plan to mask these areas with plants or, perhaps, decorative screens.
- What have you already got to work with? Established trees or attractive shrubs can be incorporated into the new design.
- What sort of garden suits your house — formal, cottage, native or minimalist? If your house has a modern facade, for example, an old English-style rose garden probably isn’t the best choice.
Written by Kate McKee
Originally in Outdoor Design & Living Issue 34