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Elevate your front garden with these plants

Clare Foster recommends the best plants for greening up the front of your house. However big or small your front garden may be, you can make it more environmentally friendly by minimising non-permeable surfaces and introducing more planting.

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By House & Garden | March 5, 2024 | Gardens

Front gardens are often overlooked, covered in tarmac for cars or swathed in paving for minimal maintenance. Yet these small spaces provide invaluable potential for extra planting, particularly in towns and cities, helping to reduce pollution, increase biodiversity and provide habitats for wildlife. The most important first step in any front garden is to ensure that your hard surfaces are permeable.

Flooding is becoming an increasing problem as weather events become more extreme with global warming, and rainwater needs somewhere to go, so the more permeable surfaces and flower beds you can have in your garden the better. Plan a gravel driveway that you can soften round the edges with self-seeding plants such as poppies, fennel or valerian, or choose permeable block paving from a company such as Marshalls with space for flower beds all around. Any area of mixed planting will also improve the soil underneath, acting like a sponge to soak up run-off after heavy rain.

Image Sourced: Unsplash

In terms of planting, choose tough, low maintenance plants that will give as much seasonal interest as possible. Plan a simple layout to give continuity, starting with structural shrubs. Frame a path or front door with yew spheres or a low hedge of lavender, and then infill with colourful seasonal planting: tulips and honesty for spring, geums and salvias for summer, and Japanese anemones for autumn. Add a low-growing grass such as Stipa tenuissima or Anemanthele lessoniana, and a climbing wisteria (or Hydrangea petiolaris for a north-facing facade), and you already have a scheme that will transform the front of your house.

If you have more space, choose a small tree or shrub such as Magnolia stellata as a centrepiece, perhaps surrounded by a parterre of Euonymus japonicus (a good alternative to the more problematic Buxus sempervirens). Instead of fences for your boundaries, consider planting a hedge which will further boost biodiversity. Hawthorn, beech and are particularly good for wildlife, or even better, a mixed native hedge that will provide shelter and food for insects, birds and small mammals.

Image Sourced: Unsplash/Taxus baccata

As well as improving your own views out of your house, your front garden is on view to everyone who passes by. Plant-filled front gardens provide an opportunity to bring colour, health and happiness into a neighbourhood and if you take the first step to transform yours, you might find all your neighbours following suit.

Low-maintenance plants for front gardens

For structure

  • Taxus baccata (yew): one of the easiest and most resilient of shrubs. Clip it into balls, cubes or hedges to form an evergreen framework that will give year-round structure.
  • Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom): a fantastic evergreen shrub for shade, and it can be clipped into tighter shapes if desired.
  • Lavandula (lavender): a classic sun-loving front garden plant, often used to border a path.
  • Laurus nobilis: often clipped into lollipops and used in large containers either side of a front door.
  • Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’: one of the best hydrangeas for a bed against the house as it thrives in partial shade.
  • Viburnum opulus: an easy shrub that will thrive in sun or partial shade, with white pom-pom flowers in spring and subtly coloured foliage in autumn.
  • Magnolia stellata: a classic small tree for a front garden, reaching an eventual height of 2-2.5m. The cultivar ‘Rosea’ has beautiful pink-tinged flowers.

For seasonal flowers

  • Tulipa ‘Spring Green’: a wonderful tulip that is more perennial than others, returning reliably year after year. For a colourful alternative try orange ‘Ballerina’.
  • Narcissus ‘Thalia’: an understated daffodil with delicate creamy-white flowers.
  • Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’: this purple-blue honesty has a bushier habit than the common honesty, providing the perfect foil for tulips. A biennial, it will self seed to flower again in alternate years.
  • Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’: with silver-blotched leaves and deep purple-blue flowers, this is a reliable perennial for shade.
  • Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’: one of the showiest and most reliable geums, flowering in mid spring.
  • Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’: this failsafe early summer salvia provides good strong colour in a sunny spot and is a magnet for bees and butterflies.
  • Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’: a mid- to late-summer flowering plant with rusty orange flowers.
  • Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’: needing very little care, this is one of the easiest asters to grow, with vibrant lavender-blue flowers.
  • Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’: happy in shade, this Japanese anemone offers a profusion of pretty white flowers on wiry stems.


  • Stipa tenuissima: the easiest low grass for a sunny spot, this wispy grass will self seed in gravel.
  • Pennisetum ‘Hameln’: an elegant grass with soft silvery flower heads that move in the breeze.
  • Anemanthele lessoniana: growing to 80-90cm, this invaluable grass is happy in sun or shade.

This originally appeared on House & Garden UK | Clare Foster.