Size isn’t everything – getting smart with your small front garden ideas means you can offer a grand welcome to visitors using even the tiniest of plots
Just because your favorite garden ideas won’t fit in your space, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan, nurture and care for it. Not only is a front garden the first impression any visitor will have of your home, but it’s also a more rewarding space than you may think.
‘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.’
Small front garden ideas
Whether you’re looking to make your front garden feel bigger, more welcoming, or even more private, we asked the experts for their tips, and sought out some stunning small front garden ideas to help make yours a space to be proud of. And, of course, you can use front garden ideas for spaces large and small to enhance your back garden, too.
1. Ensuring their are no planting gaps is vital
In small front gardens, making the most of space is everything – so strategize your planting to make sure there are no gaps at any time of year.
‘Small gardens work well if they have a single simple idea rather than trying to cram too much into it,’ says Elks-Smith, on how to plan a garden. ‘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.’
2. Climber plants add impact without taking up ground space
If planting space is really at a premium, think vertically for some of the best small garden ideas.
‘Drape the terraces and perimeter walls with 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, wisteria winds its way across the front of the house, while a climbing shrub welcomes visitors at the doorway.
3. No grass? Balance pebbles, planting and paving
‘Small front gardens do not need grass,’ says garden designer Rosemary Coldstream, who has plenty of alternative 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 look very chic, tailored and give the eye a place to rest,’ adds Kalra. ‘For paths, 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.’
4. Soften fences with hedges and climbers
A key concern with small front gardens 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. ‘Fences in front gardens – as everywhere – can often look very 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.’
5. 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.’
6. Pick 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. What could be lower maintenance than a small tree or specimen shrub, underplanted with hard working ornamental grasses and seasonal bulbs?’
Small trees are great ways to add greenery and vertical interest to your small front garden. 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.
7. 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.
‘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 a small garden.’
‘Don’t overcrowd the front garden but also don’t leave completely blank. Plants make a garden look bigger and disguising boundaries helps with this.’
8. 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.
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 planters are also great for growing herbs, meaning you can get some practical benefits out of your small space too.
9. Plant across three levels
When thinking about planting in a garden, think in three dimensions – even in a small space. ‘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,’ says Coldstream.
‘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. 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.’
10. 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 creates the sense of a journey through the garden. 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 nice?
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 tricks you can use to make a small front garden feel welcoming, larger, or even cosier. 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 colourful or subdued as you like but include lots of evergreens so the garden looks good 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.’
I 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. I then spent three years at the Evening Standard on the GO London team, covering restaurants and bars, and getting to eat and drink a veritable smorgasbord of wonderful things around the city. I left the paper in 2020 and went freelance, writing about food, drink and homes for publications including Conde Nast Traveller, Luxury London and Departures. A little less than a year later, I started at Homes & Gardens as a Digital Writer, allowing me to fully indulge my love of good interior design.
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