Help me design a new formal front garden / potager

(17 Posts)
ThoughtFox Fri 17-Jan-14 20:34:16

I have a fairly large front garden (approx 5m deep x 25m wide) which I currently use for vegetables. The previous owners just had the whole lot as lawn, so my veg beds are pretty much just plonked he middle of grass.

The downside is that it looks an incredible mess in winter, especially as DH won't mow the grass and I can't manage it.

I'm thinking about a major design overhall so that it has clear structure but is low maintenance and attractive throughout the year.

I'm thinking about a row of white hydrangeas all the way along the front of the house.

In terms of getting rid of the grass, I love the mix of cobbles and gravel they have here:
http://www.perennial.org.uk/case_studies/folly.aspx

Then I could have the 3 raised beds down the middle, as they currently are, with gravel around them, and perhaps some formal plants in tubs for winter height and colour.

What do people think?

Jaffacakesallround Sun 19-Jan-14 17:44:56

Do you mean raised bed- with the soil above the ground- or just islands with an edging made from wood or other materials?

raised beds that size would take a huge amount of top soil.

Hydrangeas lose their foliage in winter and could look quite drab. I'd go for a range of bulbs or evergreen small shrubs, like box or hebes.

ThoughtFox Wed 22-Jan-14 19:37:38

Thanks JaffaCakes. Lots of food for thought.

I think you might be right about mixing hydrangeas with box and bulbs for spring and winter interest. At the moment we've got the grass for green in winter, but if I get rid of that for gravel, then I will need more green plants to counterbalance it. I've been taking various box cuttings anyway, so can just grow those on (slowly...)

The raised beds are there already, so soil's no problem. When we moved in the previous owner had the most enormous compost heap, and DH devoted a weekend to moving it around the garden. Plus our council gives away as much compost as you can load into a car, and we regularly collect this. On the other hand, the soil does seem to need topping up again... but the compost heap is waiting.

Rhubarbgarden Wed 22-Jan-14 20:20:44

I personally hate to see front lawns replaced with gravel; I think it looks really depressing. It is also surprisingly high maintenance - weeds love self seeding in it, and you'll have to be on the ball raking up leaves before they start to break down or go soggy or you'll get patches of leaf mould/embryonic soil developing which looks scruffy and leads to more weeds. A quick whiz round with a lawnmower once a week is much quicker and easier, imo.

Sorry that's not very positive. Potagers are lovely, however! You could have lots of sweet peas and Calendula - both go beautifully with veg.

ThoughtFox Wed 22-Jan-14 21:51:31

I do know what you mean, Rhubarb, especially with a front garden!

The grass is low maintenance in theory, but in practice I just can't manage it on top of the rest of the garden (I can't lift the big lawnmower and the mini mower takes me about 45 mins to do the front properly) and so it hasn't been mown for several months. It's actually more work to do the grass each week than to do all the veg weeding!

I'm thinking that it has to look like broad gravel paths surrounding very definite beds, rather than like a gravelled over lawn, though. Which may mean extending the beds somewhat, and having paths of approx 1.5m wide?

Selks Wed 22-Jan-14 22:01:22

How about something like this? I'd have some evergreen shrubs around the side, as it could look quite bare in winter, and add some structure such as a rose arch in the middle or a couple of small standard cherry or apple trees. If you plant a mix of vegetables (interesting to look at ones such as runner bean wigwams, purple kale, rainbow chard etc) and flowers for companion planting (calendula, nasturtiums etc) and herbs (chives, rosemary, lavender) it would look stunning, and be great for bees and butterflies.

Selks Wed 22-Jan-14 22:03:13

Or instead of grass how about a chamomile lawn for the paths? No mowing, and it would keep the greenness of grass.

ThoughtFox Thu 23-Jan-14 21:24:34

Selkie - that's just what it's like in my mind! Paths around large raised beds, packed full of lovely flowers and vegetables.

I love your idea of the rose arch but I think it would probably end up looking a bit twee with the house (old country cottage type building).

A chamomile lawn's an intriguing idea too.

I might try and do a plan and perhaps take some photos, and then you can all take a more detailed look!

Bearleigh Thu 23-Jan-14 21:30:41

An arch or other rose support need not look twee, if you choose tougher-looking materials, but it might give a nice structure, and focus in the winter.

I think it all sounds a lovely idea and not one I would have thought of.

Have to say though I would be afraid of people nicking my veg: I would be interested to know why you don't have the potager in the back, and flowers in the front.

ThoughtFox Thu 23-Jan-14 22:13:42

Did you have any particular ideas for a support in mind, Bearleigh? A couple of neighbours have those black metal arches with roses trained over them, and they really do look a bit twee in the context of a country cottage. (Or at least, I think so - it reminds me of a particular PG Wodehouse story about a man who goes to a sinister country cottage...)

No-one nicks my veg, they just peer in and comment on how badly they're doing! I live in a small village but our house is right on the bus route so everyone can see in over the hedge.

It's quite a big garden, and the back garden is a big south-facing slope, so I have most of that as a big prairie-garden inspired planting, plus a gravel garden and a mini-orchard. So the veg are relegated to the north-facing front garden where I don't want to sit out (because a) the bus goes past and b) I have the world's chattiest elderly neighbour).

Selks Thu 23-Jan-14 22:42:08

How about something more chunky and less twee such as this? You could have any climbers over it such as golden hop, or clematis, or even runner beans.

ThoughtFox Thu 23-Jan-14 22:47:41

grin Selks! My friend the carpenter is continually trying to persuade me to let him build me one of those - I'm just concerned it would end up looking more like this one!

Selks Thu 23-Jan-14 23:05:48

Do you mean you don't fancy having a hot tub in your front garden? grin

horsetowater Thu 23-Jan-14 23:07:13

You can get a great looking veg garden if you make sure you have things like cavolo nero, purple sprouting broccoli and rainbow chard.

It sounds as though you have a great garden but if it's so large you might need to get a gardener in to do the lawn - I'm sure it won't cost too much if it's a regular job.

I agree with others that gravel will be too much work - perhaps some gravel around the outside of the veg beds would be helpful but gravel all over won't suit an old cottage. You need to be aware of planning rules if your building is listed or in a conservation area.

Bearleigh Fri 24-Jan-14 02:32:34

It sounds super, Fox. If you google images of 'rustic garden arch' there are some not so twee ideas, and also 'rustic garden support' , as maybe big wigwams would do the job as well. Did you see the series that Monty Don did on French gardens? I have a memory of a lovely potager, on that; a bit formal a bit messy.

Rhubarbgarden Sun 26-Jan-14 13:07:40

Article in today's Sunday Times gardening section on 'how to make a potager look pretty'

ThoughtFox Sun 26-Jan-14 17:17:51

Thanks, rhubarb! I'll get the inlaws to cut it out for me.

I spent some time looking at ideas I more detail, and I think you're all right about not too much gravel. We need to have at least a path for the postman to reach the front door though, and for me to get round the edge of the house in soggy weather!

I've actually popped up a couple of plans on my profile to show you - its taken from Google Earth and shows the shape fairly well. What so people think?

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