A look at a newly planted urban front garden in West London.

We know that gardens play a crucial role in our urban and suburban areas, so potentially this will become even more important in the future as our climate changes. From helping protect us against flooding and extremes of temperature, to supporting wildlife and helping people to be healthy. Our gardens can provide an amazing range of benefits.

Through the RHS’s campaign ‘Greening Grey Britain’ the RHS wants to bring back colour and life to our streetscapes. Reversing the ever growing trend of paving over front gardens. The phrase ‘greening’ simply means growing plants wherever possible in towns and cities. Each individual may only have a small garden but, together, the amount of green space we look after really adds up – it’s about 25% of the land in most cities. We really can make a difference by ensuring that every available space in our front and back garden contains planting.

A refreshing change

Our clients asked to create a new front garden in West London. Previously the area had been covered with block paving. Looking extremely tired and barren, with not a single plant in sight.

Our design was heavily influenced by the style of the property, a 1900 Victorian villa, typical in this area of London. As a result we selected Victorian tiled paths for the hard landscaping. The main path leads to the front entrance while the side path gives access to the rear of the property. In keeping with the property and the local vernacular style, black and terracotta tiles were chosen and laid on a 45 deg, edged with a midnight blue traditional rope edging. The front wall was rebuilt in a more appropriate brick because we wanted to tie in the material with the property.

Planting the garden

Planting has been selected to deliver a long season of interest. The addition of topiary gives this small space a strong and interesting evergreen frame work. This provides height, balance and symmetry. The planting colour palette complements the hard landscaping elements as well as the property as a whole.

Heuchera ‘Silver Scrolls’ runs up the sides of each path, surrounding the Hebe topiary balls. The handsomely lobed leaves of this low-growing semi-evergreen perennial are a deep Burgundy. The tops of the leaves are generously dusted in silver. This creates quite a distinctive two tone effect, which is further enhanced by the darker veining running through the silver. Complementing the black and terracotta path tiles along with the midnight blue rope edging. The sprays of pinkish white flowers rise above the foliage in summer. These being semi-evergreen will give good groundcover, year round.

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ is an evergreen perennial which will give good groundcover. Delivering winter interest. A compact plant that has long-lasting, acid-yellow flowers in spring. However they contrast beautifully with the deep purple, strappy foliage strung in whorls around stiff stems.

Anemone x hybrid ‘Honorine Jobert’ (Japanese anemone) is a fast growing herbaceous perennial which will die back in winter. Up to 11 white petals, tinged pink, make up the glorious late summer and autumn flowers. The outer petals are broad and overlapping, while the inner ones are usually twisted and thinner. Placed at the front of the garden they will achieve a height of approx. 1.2m. As well as giving a lovely display above the front wall.

Bulb selection

Bulb planting of Allium sphaerocephalon is intended to be viewed from inside the property as well as outside, being planted in drifts en-masse around the front bay window. Small, egg-shaped, claret-coloured flowerheads appear like drumsticks on tall, slender stems above strap-like, mid-green leaves in mid to late summer. These diminutive claret flowers look great emerging from the screen of foliage, they gently fade as summer comes to a close.

Bulb planting of Allium stipitatum ‘Mount Everest’ provides some striking architectural interest in late spring and early summer, before the Japanese anemones come into flower. Tightly packed spherical umbels of 50 or more, white, star-shaped flowers appear on upright, ribbed stems in early summer, and can be left on the plant for many months.

Finally, we were touched by the amount of passers-by who would stop and comment on this amazing transformation. Demonstrating that a beautifully planted front garden doesn’t just provide for the property, but for the street as a whole.