Give it some FRONT!
Ilove walking around neighbourhoods looking at front gardens, wherever I am in the world. As soon as I arrive somewhere, I tend to ignore the main tourist attractions and am at my happiest ambling around with my camera, peering into other people's gardens.
Back gardens remain mysterious behind high walls and fences but out front it's for all to enjoy. And that, I think, is one of the great joys of gardening - sharing what you have achieved with others, whether it is a colourful bedding scheme or simply inhaling the delicious scents of roses in bloom.
Often it is the simplest schemes that catch my eye - I saw a North London garden full of Zantedeschia aethiopica, the Arum lily, their purest white flowers and lush green leaves creating a tropical and arresting sight.
A wild west of Ireland garden overlooking the Atlantic had ornamental grasses and vivid orange Crocosmia intermingling freely. And in Venice, Los Angeles, I saw gorgeous, succulent gardens.
Of course, it is the local climate that dictates the kind of plants that will do well, so perusing other front gardens is a good way of finding out what will work in your plot. But there are practical issues to overcome first when planning a front garden.
It may be the only space you have to park your car, motorbike or bicycle so a hard surface will be necessary. Choose paving that will complement the architecture and colour of the house. If there is no room for borders, there is still the option of pots and containers.
Depending on your style, these may be very elegant, single-species affairs, such as topiary box or bay trees or a mass of exuberant colour of annuals and perennials. I have opted for a mix of the two, combining box balls, ferns and grasses alongside hardy Gerbera Carmine, which is bright pink, Pericallis senetti, a purple daisy, lavender and hostas.
The most important thing to remember here is to keep pots well watered. They rely on your care as rain cannot always be depended on to keep them moist.
As well as being an expression of your style, plants in the front garden add colour, texture and freshness and can provide some shield against traffic pollution, as well as providing valuable habitats for wildlife.
For a final finish, installing lights along the driveway adds security and just a simple up light among the larger architectural plants will set off your home beautifully.
ask Diarmuid You mentioned agapanthus in an article. It's one of my favourite flowers. You said there is one called black pantha. Where can I buy this? Mrs Beach, West Yorks Dear Mrs Beach, Whenever I need to find out where I can buy a particular plant, I visit the Royal Horticultural Society website, ww.rhs.org.uk.
If you click on their Plant Finder section and enter the one you are looking for, in this case agapanthus, black pantha, the website throws up a list of suppliers. In this case, there are 49 suppliers and the one that seems the nearest to you is Hoyland Plant Centre, in Barnsley, South Yorks. Call: 01226 744 466.
They are open all year round, by appointment only, and they also do mail order. This may be the best option for you.
Best wishes, Diarmuid
ORNAMENTAL: A topiary tree