Small front garden ideas – 15 ways to maximize compact spaces
Create a charming entrance to your home with these small front garden ideas – from colorful planting to low maintenance luxuries
With the right small front garden ideas, you can create an inviting first impression for guests, and grow a variety of plants.
Your front garden ideas are key to maximizing your home's curb appeal, and have the power to transform it into a warm and welcoming place to be.
‘People need people,’ says garden designer Helen Elks-Smith, 'and for adults and children alike, front gardens have the potential to be a great way to meet neighbors and the wider community, and are often very social spaces.’
‘Having something to garden can be very welcome, and as the front and rear of a house will have different shade levels, it offers the opportunity to grow a different palette of plants.’
Some of the best garden ideas are born out of constraint, so use your imagination – your small front garden may be a much more rewarding space than you think.
Small front garden ideas
Whether you’re looking to make your front garden feel bigger, more welcoming, or even more private, these stunning small front garden ideas will help make yours a space to be proud of.
Use these alongside the most creative small garden ideas, and you can use them to enhance your back yard, too.
1. Plant up hanging baskets
Planting in a hanging basket is so simple and is the perfect solution for a small front garden. Not only does it take advantage of the vertical plane, adding color and interest at eye level, but it keeps the ground free for paving or more plants.
'You can easily make an attractive display in hanging baskets, and planting needn't be restrained by the seasons, as the techniques used to create winter baskets are essentially the same as for summer ones,' says Mick Lavelle, senior horticulture lecturer at Writtle University College.
'If your baskets are the standard wire type, these need to be lined and half filled with compost. When planting, start with one, central plant before positioning two or three trailing plants around the edge. Fill the gaps with showy plants.'
When choosing the best plants for hanging baskets, think about what will add the most color and texture. A restrained palette of one to three shades is more elegant than a riot of color, while the best trailing plants for hanging baskets will add a soft, romantic edge to the display.
2. Create shade and privacy with a small tree
You might think of trees as being the preserve of large yards, but many of the best trees for small gardens will be in proportion and offer a number of benefits – in particular enhancing privacy and introducing shade.
Dan Lambe of the Arbor Day Foundation, and author of Now is the Time for Trees, recommends sticking to species that are less than 25ft at mature height, such as serviceberry, flowering dogwood, and redwood. These an be planted as close as 10 feet to the house.
'Ideally, align trees to shade windows but prune lower branches to prevent blocking views, especially if your shade tree is located in the front yard,' he says. 'You can also plant a tree to shade an air conditioner to keep it cool and running more efficiently.
'Shading patios, sidewalks, and the driveway cools the pavement, the entire yard, and even brings down the temperature of the neighborhood.'
3. Add a low picket fence
There are so many stylish garden fence ideas that will enable you to define your home's boundaries, but one of the best solutions for small front yards has to be the picket fence.
With its open structure and low height, picket fencing provides an unobtrusive border that still lets in light and views. Yet it's also brimming with charm, providing an idyllic country feel.
Picket fences are also great for providing support for plants, including many shrubs and smaller climbers.
4. Plant up a window box
Window boxes are not only a great solution if you are looking for small front garden ideas – they are also brilliant for homes with no front garden at all.
Take a cue from plantswoman Sarah Raven, and opt for a fragrant star plant that will provide a feast for all the senses, such as heliotrope, mixed with romantic trailers such as calibrachoa and pelargonium.
'This makes a blow-away incredible window box, with the heliotrope filling the whole space with that delicious, vanilla, cherry-pie scent and the calibrachoa and pelargonium tumbling curtains below,' she says. 'This is now an automatic repeat for us, year on year.'
5. Introduce drama with ornamental grasses
'While they might conjure up images of prairie-style planting and vast, rustling borders, ornamental grasses are every bit as impressive in a small space,' says gardening expert Tamsin Hope Thomson.
'The qualities they bring to large displays – movement, height, sound and color – are also vital in gardens where space is at a premium and every plant must justify its place.'
Luckily, there are many beautiful, compact grasses that are compatible with small front garden ideas, as well as upright ones that, while they may be tall, will take up little ground space.
Try Stipa tenuissima, Anemanthele lessoniana, sesleria and Hakonechloa macra.
It's easy to learn how to grow ornamental grasses, and once established they are also low maintenance, and rarely suffer from pests or disease.
6. Ensure there are no planting gaps
In small front garden ideas, making the most of space is everything – so strategize your planting to make sure there are no gaps at any time of year.
When considering how to plan a garden, Elks-Smith advises: ‘Small gardens work well if they have a single simple idea rather than trying to cram too much into it.
'Choose plants carefully, and select those that offer something in three seasons out of four. If less, they need to have the wow factor and not leave big gaps.
'In small spaces, gaps tend to throw the composition out of balance. Bulbs are really useful for seasonal gaps and take up little space.’
7. Add impact with climbing plants – without taking up ground space
If planting space is really at a premium, think vertically for some of the best small front garden ideas.
‘Drape the terraces and perimeter walls with the best climbing plants, such as vines, like jasmine and honeysuckle,’ suggests Mintee Kalra, landscape designer and Peruse co-founder.
Vertical garden ideas, including climber plants, will cater for your floral desires by using your home's walls as a structure upon which to bloom. In this example, plants wind their way up the walls of the house to provide a charming frame to the entrance.
8. No grass? Balance pebbles, planting and paving
‘Small front gardens do not need grass,’ says garden designer Rosemary Coldstream, who has plenty of alternative small front garden ideas.
‘Replace the lawn with plants, and create breathing space with lower plants and paved or gravel areas. It is always a balance of ‘mass’ – the vertical plane of plants and structures – to the ‘void’, or horizontal plane, and you need both in varying amounts.’
‘Carpets of Del Rio gravel in ¼ inch looks very chic, tailored and gives the eye a place to rest,’ adds Kalra. ‘For garden path ideas and front walkway ideas, work with a humble masonry like a reclaimed brick, but you can play with how it is applied. You can put it on edge, or do a pattern like herringbone to make it feel precious.’
9. Soften fences with hedges and climbers
A key concern with any small front garden ideas is always maintaining a boundary between you and the (very nearby) outside world.
‘Privacy can be important,’ says Coldstream. ‘A wall or hedge defines the edge of the property, but also stops rubbish coming into the garden!’
You don’t, however, want to make that boundary too opaque. ‘Garden fences in front gardens – as everywhere – can often look harsh, and are best softened with climbers and shrubs,’ says Elks Smith.
‘It’s even better to replace them with hedges, if space permits, which then become a haven for wildlife and an easy way to add much needed green to our street scene.’
Choose from the best fast-growing hedges for a speedy boundary.
10. Create interest with stepped levels
For gardens that are short in length but feature a dramatic change in height, think about garden landscaping ideas that include stepped levels, making the most of flat planting opportunities.
‘If you have a very steep front entrance then consider using a less direct path route to make the approach easy to walk up,’ says Coldstream.
‘Stepped borders or lawns are great for adding interest and work in with the steps.’
11. Prune statement topiary for low-maintenance luxury
‘Low maintenance is often interpreted as hard surfaces or grass,’ says Elks-Smith. ‘Hard surfaces need cleaning, sweeping and maintaining and lawns need cutting.
'But what could be lower maintenance than a small tree or specimen shrub, underplanted with hardworking ornamental grasses and seasonal bulbs?’
Potted trees are great ways to add greenery and vertical interest to your small front garden ideas, so consider the best trees to grow in pots.
Another low-maintenance option is topiary, which can be grown in a planter if required, and adds a sense of luxury to a small space.
12. Ditch your narrow path to make a small front garden feel bigger
When planning a garden path, don’t be confined by the width of your front door – a skinny path will make a small garden feel smaller, so open it up and take inspiration from patio ideas.
‘Paths shouldn’t be too narrow, and leaving a bit of breathing space, such as an open area surrounded by plants, can help’, says Coldstream. ‘A bench or a sculpture can also add interest while creating a focal point in small front garden ideas.’
‘Don’t overcrowd the space, but also don’t leave completely blank. Plants make a garden look bigger and disguising boundaries helps with this.’
13. Keep it compact with planters
If your front garden really offers little more ground space than a path, or the majority of it needs to be used as a driveway, consider keeping your planting neatly contained and plant flowers in a pot.
There are so many wonderful container gardening ideas. Planters or pots placed on either the exterior window sills, below the sills, or either side of the doorway can brighten up even the tiniest of entrances, all while keeping your planting compact.
Small containers are also great for herb planter ideas, meaning you can get some practical benefits out of your small space too.
14. Plant across three levels
When thinking about flower bed ideas in a garden, think in three dimensions – even in small front garden ideas.
‘Make sure the borders have three levels of planting – the tall shrubs and trees, mid-levels and perennials and lots of ground-cover to stop the weeds,' advises Coldstream.
'Choose flowering evergreen shrubs, such as hebes, that provide interest in every season and a once a year prune, or grasses which mostly need a spring cut-back or clean out.’
15. Create a floral archway
Don’t just plant up – plant up and over. This stepped front garden features a stunning rose arch over the pathway, which adds another vertical level to the scheme and will create the sense of a journey through long garden ideas.
Remember to check your local regulations to see if you need a planning or building permit to build a tall structure in your front garden.
If it’s not possible to erect an arch or you don’t have space, simply run climbers – roses or otherwise – via a trellis around your front door to create an all-encompassing floral welcome for visitors.
How do you make a small front garden look good?
Just because your front garden is small, it doesn’t mean it deserves any less thought and attention than a larger one. Just as you would any other garden, think about focal points, variety, repetition, height and depth.
‘Create symmetry around the perimeter using minimal, restrained repetition of colors,’ recommends Kalra. ‘Then contrast the textures, patchworking three to four species for it to feel expansive. Centralize on one focus point, like a dwarf fruit tree, a single stem olive tree or even a natural stone carved fountain.’
‘A more formal garden – or a touch of it – often looks best,’ says Coldstream. ‘Make sure the entrance is clearly defined and symmetrical where possible. Planting or planters can frame the front door, while borders next to the house soften architecture and provide drainage.
'Planting should have a rhythm and repetition to it so it leads you to the entrance.’
What can I do with a small front garden?
There are many small front garden ideas and tricks you can use to make your space feel welcoming, larger, or even cozier. Think about seasonality, use of space, and how much of the outside world you want to let in.
‘A hedged green perimeter wall will immediately anchor the space by cocooning it,’ says Kalra. ‘Add a natural stone carved trough with a low bubbling water to drown out any sound. It will make the garden feel very private.’
‘Ditch any lawn and plant well, with a good path and entrance delineation,’ recommends Coldstream. ‘Be as colorful or subdued as you like, but include lots of evergreens so the garden looks good even in the depths of winter.
'You want to feel calm, happy and uplifted coming home at any time of the year. Design it so it achieves this for you.’
Ailis started out at British GQ, where a month of work experience turned into 18 months of working on all sorts of projects, writing about everything from motorsport to interiors, and helping to put together the GQ Food & Drink Awards. She then spent three years at the London Evening Standard, covering restaurants and bars. After a period of freelancing, writing about food, drink and homes for publications including Conde Nast Traveller, Luxury London and Departures, she started at Homes & Gardens as a Digital Writer, allowing her to fully indulge her love of good interior design. She is now a fully fledged food PR but still writes for Homes & Gardens as a contributing editor.
- Melanie GriffithsEditor of Period Living
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