Dulwich is a green oasis bejewelled by its gardens. In reality, it is the back gardens of Dulwich - hidden from view - that are the jewels. Visible to all, many of its front gardens are also lovely - but some are distinctly unimpressive.
The purpose of this article is to encourage members give their front gardens a facelift in 2016, and to provide some pointers on how to do this. Our Spring talk in 2016 will have advice from three professional garden designers - see the box below - and we will have a front gardens competition with awards later in the year.
What are the ingredients of front garden design?
Because a front garden fills a number of roles and space is normally limited, its design can be challenging. Luckily, there is an enormous palette available to help achieve attractive designs and planting.
Ingredients in the palette include hedges, which also introduce vertical lines to balance the horizontals of hard landscaping; evergreen shrubs; screens for cars and bins (see below); suitable trees; plants that have different coloured foliage, textures and height; perennials and spring and autumn bulbs; scented plants that can add fragrance throughout the year; climbers for walls or grown over screens; ground covering plants and grasses; and containers to allow planting where there is no soil. Aim to have some interest throughout the year. And don’t forget wildlife, for which shrubs, trees, hedges and ivies can provide shelter and food, and flowering plants which attract and provide nectar for bees and butterflies.
What grows best depends on soil, sun and shade - neighbouring gardens can give ideas on what is likely to grow well in your own garden. A note of caution on trees - check their likely fully-grown size and root spread to avoid future problems.
What advice is available?
There are local garden designers - ask around or look at the many excellent front gardens in Dulwich to get names, as well as ideas. The RHS website (www.rhs.org.uk) has advice on designs, materials and planting ideas (search “front gardens”). For suitable trees, advice is available from the Scheme of Management’s Tree Consultant. And of course garden centres can help.
These can be screened behind evergreen shrubs, trellis panels or “hurdle” screens, covered with climbers; or they can be hidden in bin stores, preferably of wood - with or without that green roof. If all else fails, ivy and floral stickers are available. Google “wheelie bin stores/screens/stickers” for ideas and suppliers.
Hard surfaces - and the rules
Hard surfaces should be kept to a minimum, with interesting and (to help minimise the risk of flooding) permeable materials used.
In Dulwich, the Dulwich Estate’s Scheme of Management requires its prior approval to hardstanding for off-street parking, with the aim of conserving the traditional character of Dulwich’s front boundaries. Approval generally requires that at least half the garden area be retained as a planted area, and that the landscaping and materials used are in sympathy with the property and adjoining streetscape. Planning permission is required from Southwark Council if an area of more than five square metres is to be covered with non-permeable materials - the Council’s planning portal has the detailed rules and some practical advice.
Spring Gardens talk - “Let’s be front garden proud”
7.30pm, Wednesday 9th March 2016 at Alleyn’s School, Townley Road, SE22 8SU
We are delighted to have an expert panel of speakers, Pamela Johnson, Nigel Watts and Anthony Noel. All are professional garden designers. There will be time for questions and also for informal discussion after the talks over a glass of wine. All are welcome but booking is essential - more detail with an application form is set out on page 37.
A resolution for 2016?
Do spend more time and effort on your front garden in 2016. You will meet more people, and your efforts will undoubtedly provide pleasure to many - and yourself!