Hurrah - we’re nearly at the end of winter, in fact the Met office says spring begins on 1st of March so I’m counting it as spring already. During those dark days of winter, I bet the only bit of your garden you used regularly was the space between the front door and the street.
Whether you have a large front garden; just enough space to park the car; or only a doorstep, this space represents an opportunity. While there’s nothing wrong with seeing the front garden as purely a place to park the bins and the car, it’s really not difficult to take it to the next level.
Why bother? Because we all need as many uplifting and enriching experiences as we can get in the winter, especially during the slump after New Year. Making some simple, inexpensive changes to your front garden space could really help lift your mood. And now is a great time to get going with this project!
Just got a doorstep?
Plant up a pot – as large as you can find space for- to include winter interest plants such as hellebores and snowdrops. Snowdrops are available right now, as they finish flowering. Hellebores are evergreen, with gorgeous long-lasting flowers from December giving you some real winter uplift. After that they offer great foliage as a backdrop to your summer bedding plants - this way you have something of interest all year round. And, come September, you can add more bulbs such as daffodils and tulips to make the display even better next year.
Add boundary interest
If you have a classic suburban hedge, there is probably some space at the base which you can use for winter planting to brighten up the wider garden. Crocuses look fab sprinkled about, perhaps with ground-hugging periwinkle Vinca minor. This has lovely little starry flowers which in my experience open as early as February, and is often still blooming in November. Or you could try winter aconites which spread to make low-growing swathes of yellow stars over time, and gracefully fade back into the ground later in spring.
Car park planting
Low planting between the tyre tracks of your car is becoming a really popular way to liven up this area of the garden. It only works of course if there’s some earth to plant into, but many plants will grow surprisingly well in gravel, or in a small square where you have removed paving. Choose plants that prefer very well drained soil; sempervivums (aka houseleeks) are evergreen and can do well here; also species tulip Turkestanica; or even the prostrate form of rosemary which of course is also evergreen.
You may be surprised to hear that there are scented plants which flower over the winter season. Wintersweet is a very aptly named shrub, with tiny but strongly-scented flowers. Plant near your path or door to make sure you enjoy its fragrance every day. If you have room then consider planting a witch hazel; these hamamelis produce tiny yellow or dark orange tufted filaments on bare twigs from January, and many are beautifully scented. They are fairly slow-growing small trees but you will still need some space for them. Go to the garden centre soon, while they are still flowering, to give you an opportunity to try the scent before you buy.
For larger gardens
How about sprinkling swathes of crocuses in yellow, purple and white across a lawn? This looks simply stunning in February and into March. Once planted, they look after themselves and any foliage can be cut down at the first lawn mowing in April.
In the flower beds, try adding some new shrubs especially for winter interest. Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ is a tall shrub with yellow flower spikes from November to March and has a lovely scent a bit like lily of the valley. It prefers some shade so best towards the back of the border. Or try cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’, best planted in a group. This twiggy shrub is leafless in winter but the winter but the stems are an amazing zingy orange! Both these shrubs look great underplanted with snowdrops, or something low and spreading like Epimedium rubrum. Position where you can see these plants from your front windows and you will be able to enjoy them when tucked up indoors too!