How to green your grey front garden

It's a pleasure coming home to a green and welcoming front garden, and it's great for biodiversity and the local environment too. Here we guide you through some easy and low-maintenance ways to green up your front garden.

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A front-garden can have space for plants and parking
A front-garden can have space for plants and parking

Quick facts

  • Over a quarter of all front gardens are completely paved over
  • Having plants in your front garden helps wildlife, improves your wellbeing and is good for the environment
  • There are simple ways to make even the smallest front gardens greener
  • A well-designed front garden can look attractive, be low-maintenance and feature plants as well as space for parking

The benefits of a green front garden

Aside from adding kerb appeal, there are several reasons to ditch the pavers and get adding plants to your front garden.

These include:

  • Preventing localised flooding - exposed soil in beds and borders soaks up water, unlike concrete, tarmac and impermeable paving, reducing rainwater run-off
  • Cleaning the air we breathe - plants hold and remove dust and pollutants from the air, improving its quality. This is particularly important in cities, where there are higher levels of air pollution from traffic and industry
  • Regulating the air temperature around our homes - plants cool the local environment by providing shading and releasing water from their leaves, helping us to cope with rising summer temperatures. They also help insulate our homes in winter, potentially saving us as much as 15% on heating bills
  • Providing food and shelter for wildlife - gardens act as havens for wildlife in towns and cities, protecting our native species, like hedgehogs, that are in decline
  • Improving our physical and mental wellbeing - studies have found that coming home to a green front garden reduces stress, and that tending a garden reduces anxiety and helps keep us fit and healthy
    Top Tip

    Create a green roof on a bin store or bicycle shed to utilise space in your front garden.   

Simple ways you can make your front garden greener

You don't have to completely transform your garden to see the benefits, so if you're keen to have a go but aren't sure where to start, consider these simple projects:

Swap a brick wall or fence for a hedge

Hedges provide birds, insects and small mammals with a place to shelter and find food. They also help trap air pollution and reduce road noise. There's a wide variety of hedging plants to consider, from low-growing flowering hedges to tall ones you can trim regularly.

See our guide to selecting hedges and advice on hedges for environmental benefits for help choosing the right one for your garden.

Make the driveway part of the garden

Low-growing plants can be planted in the centre of a driveway, to use the wasted space between car wheels. This option works well if you regularly use your car for a large period of the day, as the plants still get plenty of light.

Use permeable paving  

Unlike concrete, tarmac and traditional paving, permeable options allow rainwater to soak through into the ground below, reducing rainwater runoff.

See our guide to permeable paving for information on the different types available.

Make the most of vertical space

As well as maximising growing space and providing attractive flowers and foliage to clothe the house, growing plants against house walls helps to insulate them, keeping the house cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

There are a wide range of climbers and wall shrubs that can be grown up trellis or wires, or you could consider installing a green wall

Use all available space for planting

Cultivating spare space, such as at the base of house walls, under bay windows, next to bin stores and along walkways, is an easy way to squeeze in additional plants. These locations are often dry and shady, so make sure to choose tough plants that grow well in these conditions. See our article on dry shade champions for ideas.

Greening a grey front garden: A case study

In 2017, we helped Malcolm transform his grey front garden in Greenford, West London into a practical green one, with lots of planting and space to park two cars. We utilised as much planting space as possible, installed permeable recycled plastic and gravel paving and planted a wildlife-friendly hedge. 

The planting plan, by Caro Garden Design, featured evergreen plants to provide structure and year-round interest, as well as seasonal flowers. Low-maintenance was a key requirement, so the plants chosen only need around 1-3 hours of general weeding and tidying per month to keep them looking good. 

Low-growing thymes, creeping Jenny (Lysimmachia nummularia) and chives were chosen for the middle of the driveway, tolerating occasional foot and wheel traffic and being able to cope with hot and dry conditions. 

To see the project from start to finish, and have a look at how well the garden is doing six months on, see:

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.