Don’t lose your kerb appeal – Choose plants over paving

Recently an increasing number of Britain’s front gardens have been transformed from a burst of greenery that welcomes you home into a dull, concrete block that’s damaging more than kerb appeal. The RHS have raised their concerns following a survey that revealed 4.5 million front gardens are now completely paved.

And, this is not a new trend; a 2005 report from London refers to a “crazy paving” phase when two-thirds of London’s front gardens were replaced with paving. Although a dramatic number of London gardens have now disappeared, rural areas are also suffering, with the total number of paved front gardens having tripled in the last decade.

This topic has sparked a lot of interest in the media lately and was even the focus for a recent TV series, The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge, in which the RHS were offering an amateur gardener a place in the Chelsea Flower Show, based on their design for a garden using a brief motivated by The RHS’s Campaign to get Greening Grey Britain. The show garden designed by Sean Murray featured at Chelsea and demonstrated how a front garden can maintain its greenery whilst still making room for a car.

The need to conserve the classic front garden is becoming increasingly more important as we acknowledge the impact on the environment. Not only do lawns and soil beds absorb the moisture that can run down paving into drains causing flash floods, they also help to regulate urban temperatures. Hedges and shrubs absorb dust, reducing pollution, and the advantages for wildlife are endless as lawns, hedges, shrubs and flowers all play a part in providing food and shelter for birds, insects and other common garden visitors such as hedgehogs.

Britain's front gardens

Another advantage of a front garden filled with plants instead of paving is the social aspect. Tending to a garden at the front of your house creates more opportunities to interact with your neighbours, something that was very highly valued in the past and seems to have been lost in the paving plague.

It seems that practicality is slowly taking over aesthetics as home owners need a place to park and the simple solution seems to be to pave over a garden. However, as the RHS prove with the Great Chelsea Garden Challenge show garden, there is room in a front garden for both plants and a parking space. With a little bit of planning, it’s easy to achieve something that’s practical and still beneficial to the environment. But, if you find your only option is to pave over your garden completely, you could always add interest by planting a Box hedge along the bottom of your new driveway or use potted topiary either side of the door. These are great low maintenance options so you won’t have to worry about adding extra jobs onto your gardening list – a quick prune once a year will keep them looking fantastic.

There are plenty of ways to add some green back into your grey and get your front garden back to that classic British standard. And, if you’re struggling for ideas, our #InstantGarden competition could be the perfect solution – enter here for your chance to win topiary shapes that can create instant kerb appeal and give your front garden that much needed boost.

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