Front Garden vs Parking Space

 In Garden Design, News

1991 – 16% of homes turned front gardens into hard-standing

2011 – this had increased to 30%

2012 – Out of 20.8 million homes, 7 million homes have turned front gardens into hard-standing. That equates to roughly 100 Hyde Parks.

We are losing 7,410 acres of greenery per year. That is the equivalent of 2.5 Hyde Parks per year.

Do we find these figures frightening? Well we should.

When I came to live in the UK this was a nation of gardeners. Front gardens were a thing of pride. There was healthy competition to have the best front garden in the street. Property boundaries were defined by beautifully clipped hedges. We seem to have lost that pride over the years. More and more properties are getting rid of their front gardens to create off road parking spaces. This is making our streets look sterile and lifeless. What we fail to understand is the detrimental effect this is having on our water courses through vehicle pollution and flash flooding. If we all paved our front drives, imagine how much vehicle pollution enters our water courses because surface water has nowhere else to go. Is this the legacy we want to leave for our future generations? We are all responsible for protecting our environment.

front gardens

Credit: Azara Landcsapes

This is a stunning transformation of a front garden which provides parking space, bin & bicycle storage and planting that enhances the property. The gravel makes it permeable allowing surface water to penetrate the soil.

Streets seem to have lost their pride and kerb appeal. This can often effect drop in the value of properties. Would we not pay more money for a property in a tree lined street with beautiful gardens compared to that with paved fronts, no trees and no planting? A property in an environment like this is not just likely to hold but more importantly increase its value. However, value is not just to do with money. It is also about how we appreciation our green spaces.

green garden


In the 1970’s gardens used to have kerb appeal. This garden has been designed to for a parking space and lush planting. It makes the entrance to the property warm and welcoming.

Our mind set needs to change. The frontage of our house is a garden first and foremost not a parking space. Increasing hard-standing prevents rain water (surface water) from penetrating the soil. Sewage systems cannot cope with all the surface run off, causing flash flooding. Water entering the soil helps cool the environment. Hard-standing absorbs heat during the day releasing it at night. This is called the ‘Heat Island Effect’, making streets uncomfortable and air quality poor. Children suffering from asthma continues to increase.

We can still create parking spaces within our front gardens. It just requires careful thought and planning.

Useful Ideas

  1. Rather than fences think hedges. We associate hedges with rural areas. Hedges help to reduce noise and traffic pollution, create instant impact and provide habitat for wildlife making them perfect for city gardens.
  2. If you do not have space for a hedge but want to disguise your fence, a good alternative to climbers are ready screens or espaliered wall shrubs.
  3. Use permeable surfaces such as gravel or resin bonded gravel. If you choose to use slabs or setts, think about leaving spaces in-between that can filled with gravel or planting. Clay pavers are another great option. Make sure foundations constructed are also permeable.
  4. If you have a small front garden, think about vertical planting using climbers along the house wall, boundary walls or fencing. Leaving small planting pockets will allow you to do this.
  5. If space is limited use slim line containers to green up the front of a property. Pots planted either side of the front door make a house look welcoming.
  6. A parking space can be created in a small garden by laying tracks for the car wheels. Be sure to use suitable materials for the car to drive onto. Wider tracks allow of easier access. The surrounding space can still be planted with low level matt forming plants.
  7. Plant small trees if space allows. Trees cool the environment by converting water taken up from the soil to water vapor in the atmosphere. Trees also create shade.
  8. Pleached trees are great not only for creating screening but they don’t take up space. These days you can get trees where the canopy is trained as a cube or parasol.
  9. We all have to cope with those dreadful wheelie bins. Why not get them out of site in a bin store with a sedum or alpine roof. The same can be installed on top of a bike shed.

parking space

Credit: Amanda Broughton Garden Design

This is a simple but very effective design. The parking space and the pathway are defined by the use of dark clay pavers whilst the gravel keeps the surface permeable allowing rainwater to go back down into the earth. The planting scheme makes a welcoming entry to the home.

Planting Suggestions


  • Amelanchier lamarkii
  • Arbutus unedo
  • Euonymus europaeus Red Cascade
  • Prunus serrula Tibetica
  • Sorbus hupehensis Pink Pagoda


  • Carpinus betulus
  • Fagus sylvatica (Beech)
  • Prunus lusitanica
  • Griselinia littoralis
  • Taxus baccata

patio front garden

Credit: Fenton Roberts Garden Design

A beautiful front garden. The corten steel edges define the planting areas. The gravel helps to keep the surface permeable but also connects the different areas of the garden as it has also been used between the stone slabs. The planting in this garden provides kerb appeal and softens the hard landscaping and the brick walls of the house.


  • Euonymus japonica
  • Hebe Youngii
  • Hebe Red Edge
  • Lavandula angustifolia Little Lady
  • Lonicera nitida Tidy Tips (great alternative to box edging)
  • Pittosporum Golf Ball
  • Sarcococcoa hookeriana var. humilis


  • Clematis Armandii Apple Blossom
  • Clematis Sweet Summer Love
  • Hydrangea anomola petiolaris
  • Pilostegia viburnoides
  • Rosa Gertrude Jekyll
  • Rosa banksia normalis
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides


  • Acorus gramineus Ogon
  • Carex testacea
  • Hakonechloa macra
  • Miscanthus sinensis Little Kitten
  • Ophiopogan japonica

Herbaceous Perennials

  • Anemone x hybrida Honorine Jobert
  • Astrantia Roma
  • Erigeron karvinskianus
  • Geranium Ballerina
  • Penstemon Sour Grapes
  • Sanguisorba Tanna
  • Verbena rigida
  • Viola labrodorica

NB: These plants are suggestions and you must check if they are appropriate for the conditions and aspect of your garden.

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