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Thursday June 04 , 2020

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

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Fabulous front gardens - the benefits

Posted by on in Garden Design

front-garden-designIn all of the years we’ve been designing gardens we’re rarely asked to do anything with a front garden.  We seem to think long and hard about what we want from our back gardens but rarely approach our front gardens with the same level of gusto – or indeed with any level of gusto to be fair – which is a shame.  

When we ask clients what they want from their back gardens the lists we get back are usually long and multi-faceted  but ask somebody what they want from their front garden and most people tend to lean towards the ‘somewhere to park the car’ and ‘somewhere to hide the bins’ approach, and don’t take their thoughts any further. But why stop there?  We may not want to sit out and entertain in the front garden but a fabulous front garden is in reach of anyone who has one and in this first article of two I’m going to try to convince you why it’s worth going beyond the total paving approach to our front gardens and opting instead for a beautiful, planted but still functional space. 

So, in no particular order here are our top 5 reasons to choose a fabulous front garden...

  • Aesthetics. Put simply, a street full of lovely front gardens is a nicer place to be and see, but aesthetics have an economic trade off as well because that kerbside appeal translates into improved house prices.  A well kept front garden tops the list of the top 5 exterior must-haves for homebuyers with almost a third of us being willing to pay up to 25% more for a home with kerbside-appeal.  
  • Supporting wildlife.  While gardens will never replace natural habitats they are an important nature reserve that can support a substantial range of wildlife. Evidence is growing that some species that were once common in low-intensity farmland are now more abundant in urban areas and particularly in domestic gardens.
  • Mitigate flooding. More and more of us are increasing the amount of paving we have in our gardens, especially our front gardens; a trend that has been linked to a higher frequency and magnitude of flooding in those areas with increased levels of impervious paving. Recognising these problems the UK now has legislation relating to front gardens and flooding.  Simply put, permeable surfaces and planted up front gardens help prevent flooding.  Vegetation, especially trees, acts like a storm water management tool.  It captures intense rainfall and temporarily holds it in its canopy which eases demands on urban drains. At its other end vegetation encourages better infiltration of water into the soil which reduces surface water flows.  
  • Reduce urban temperatures.  Urban areas – dominated by dark and impervious surfaces – absorb considerably more heat and reflect considerably less than planted surfaces; which makes them warmer than planted areas. This is essentially what causes the urban heat island effect where cities experience higher than normal temperatures as compared to surrounding rural areas. Current research suggests that a 10% increase in vegetated surfaces in urban areas would help manage the rise of summertime air temperatures due to climate change; our front gardens have the potential to significantly contribute to this goal.
  • Improve human health. Much research points to the benefit of green spaces in human health terms – alleviating stress, improving cognitive function, improved self discipline; reduced illness levels, better relaxation and being able to cope with trauma have all been evidenced, while the act of gardening brings with it physical health benefits too.

This list isn’t exhaustive but when so many positive consequences can come from reconsidering and treating your front garden as a garden rather than a car park and bin store why wouldn’t you opt for a fabulous front garden?  Tips for how to achieve one though is an article for another day so please look out for part 2 coming soon!

 

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 1

Posted by on in News & Views

Episode 1:  Wildflowers and Front Gardens

Wildflowers - Monty Don

wild-poppiesDuring his childhood Monty grew up with wild flowers in abundance - as did many of us and our parents - but now a staggering  98% of our wildflower meadows have gone which has meant that our landscape has changed drastically.  He gave his tips for creating a wildflower area, including using yellow rattle which is semi-parasitic and will act as a grass suppressant thereby giving other seeds a chance to grow.  He also showed us how to prepare an area that is already laid to lawn by cutting it on it's lowest setting, raking thoroughly and exposing soil in some areas to make it impoverished before sowing seeds.  Monty also looked at the ancient ways of cutting the meadows down at the end of the season by using a scythe which whilst very Eco-friendly looked extremly hard work!

Interestingly we also got to see how wild flower seeds are mixed by specialist growers - super low tech but an incredibly bespoke approach - so anyone can buy seed to match the precise conditions in their garden.  He showed us his passion for wildflowers whether creating large or small patches regardless of the size of our gardens and he urged us to do so for the sheer pleasure of it as well as to help the ecosystms that rely on these types of flowers.

Front Gardens - Joe Swift

concrete-jungleFront gardens used to be places where we showed off our horticultural prowess but now they have become concrete jungles all across the country.  The decline of the front garden has been traced back to the 1960s largely due to the increase of cars and the need to park them. The result of all this paving though means that in heavy rain our sewers can't cope with the amount of water being run off into them and this often leads to flash flooding.  These paved over gardens whilst offering a practical solution, have proved to adversely affect our well-being, contribute to flooding and have reduced the biodiversity in our gardens.  Joe's message came through loud and clear, he wants us to breathe life into our front gardens not only for those reasons but also for social well-being and civic pride!  

It is true that we need hard standing areas for our cars but we can also have areas for our plants too and by directing water to those borders it will help our front gardens cope with run off.  If each householder made a conscious decision to mix both practical and environmental considerations it would have huge and positive repercussions for us as a country.   By placing plants next to the road they soak up a great proportion of pollution and therefore reduce the amount that gets through to our homes - I loved the idea that front garden plants act like filter paper, soaking up the pollutants before the nasty bits get to us. He showed viewers some ideas from grid system hard standing areas to using semicircular trellis that cover drain pipes so plants like clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine and other climbers can all grab on, work their way upwards and hide those ugly pipes.  

If not for the reasons mentioned above, improving your front garden can help you sell your house or rent it out so there really is no reason not to.   Read what we say about creating that kerbside appeal here.

 

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