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On your doorstep

By garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin. There's one area of people's gardens that seems to be the most neglected and I can never understand why.

It's the front garden, probably the most important area for improving the appearance of your property and certainly the part of your garden that you will see every day.

Recent research and the evidence from numerous property shows and estate agents is that a great front garden can add as much as 10% to the value of a property. That must be reason enough to spend a little money and improve your front garden!

More and more homeowners are recognising the value of a great front garden and have different requirements that will help improve the front of your house. Off street parking, renovated tiled paths, bike storage and hiding bins are all major requirements but what are the essential elements to be aware of?

Keep it simple
There's nothing worse than a confused front garden with difficult walks to the front door and too many different materials. For example if you've got a red brick front to the house then don't use a yellow stock for the new walls.

Keep it easy
Sometimes a simple metal railing keeps the front looking light and open and is a simpler, cheaper alternative to walls and more classy than a fence.

Don't remove all the greenery
Huge areas of hard surfacing make a home look drab and boring. Remember to keep some planting to soften the impact especially if you are putting in parking spaces. A small garden tree such as a Sorbus cashmiriana or Amelanchier lamarkii can really bring some scale into the space. Small terraced front gardens often benefit from a hedge, something like Beech or Holly add some extra interest and even the smallest space benefits from window boxes or a specimen plant in a pot by the front door.

Cars and parking
Don't forget the pedestrians! Cars parked directly in front of entrances are hazards and make it difficult for everyone who arrives on foot from the milkman to visitors. Make sure that there is parking space away from the front door and try to get it level so that you can get out of the car easily and unpack the boot.

Gates
There is a huge range of gates available off the shelf and bespoke. Make sure that any gates for cars can either open inwards or slide sideways. Automated gates are a boon but can be awkward and expensive to install. The most common mistake with these is to forget to put a postbox in because the postman can't always get to the front door when they are locked.

Tiled paths
Tiled paths were originally installed in many front gardens especially terraced houses. If you are thinking of renovating an original path it can be quite expensive to match new tiles to old. Complete new paths are easier and whilst not cheap are highly sought after. They are relatively easily to lay with complicated borders coming ready to lay these days but remember the essential aim is to be in keeping with your house so don't go too grand on a simple terraced house.

Planning
I'm sorry to have to bring this up but there is a good chance that whatever you do to the front boundary you will need to check planning requirements. If you live in a conservation area you will definitely need permission both to remove a boundary as well as put a new boundary up whether it be a fence or wall. Even if you don't live in a conservation area new boundaries often require permission, especially if they are over 1m in height and off street parking will require the involvement of the local authority to drop the public path from the roadside. Check your local authority website for full details and application forms.

The good news is that almost anything you do to the front garden, especially off street parking, will add value to your property. Take a walk down your road and see how different people have designed their gardens. What would work for you and what materials would be in keeping with your house? Just remember the simple rule to make it green and inviting.

By Andrew Fisher Tomlin

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