Whenever we hear the word ‘garden’, I suspect most of us immediately think of the back garden, not the front.
Two reasons spring to mind:
First: the front garden itself is a relatively modern idea, dating from latter part of Victoria’s reign when it became customary to build new homes with front gardens.
Second: the inexorable rise of the automobile has led to countless of those front gardens metamorphosing into car parks.
But it wasn’t always so…
Early 20th Century
In the 1930s, an article on suburbia described a model front garden in Kenton, northwest London: “The grass is neatly mown. There is a flowering cherry and a privet hedge, behind which lurks a plaster gnome.” The jury’s still out on the gnome but up until the late 1940s, the front garden was where you proudly showed off your horticultural skills leaving the back garden, unless you were well-off or well-to-do, as an essentially functional area for doing the washing, storing the coal and, of course, housing the privy.
Post War Decline
But, after WW2, urban and semi-rural front gardens in particular began to disappear and have continued to do so ever since.
And when a front garden goes, so too does its hedge. This decline may not have not caught the popular imagination in the way the uprooting of miles upon miles of hedgerows to accommodate expanding towns and mega-field farming has, but it is still a sad loss.
Realistically, I know nothing I say will dissuade those drivers who live on, say, a busy road from eying up the space in front of their house with malice aforethought – to paraphrase Jane Austen: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single house in possession of a good front garden must be in want of off-street parking.
But even then, all is not lost because…
a) If your garden is wider than you need to get the car in and out, the remainder will be room enough for a hedge
b) There’s nearly always space for one or two specimen plants in large (and well-secured) containers
Small Front Gardens
And for those who have a front garden that is just too small to give a car a home, there really is no excuse. What better way to hide the bins than planting a simple hedge of, say, Box, Privet or Laurel?
Those three plants may be the traditional choice for a front garden hedge but, Beech, Photina or Yew will be equally happy. It’s what estate agents, in their own inimitable way, call kerb appeal. The horticultural equivalent of brewing coffee just before your prospective buyers are due to come round.
So, take a look at the space in front of your home, imagine how a hedge could make a difference and do your bit to help bring back a British tradition.