Doorstep delights: why front gardens matter

Posted on Jun 11 2020 - 6:03am by UOG

Photograph: Pål Hansen/The Observer

Last month, with more time at home than usual, Charlotte Harris, one half of the landscape design duo Harris Bugg, decided to dig up her paved front garden in Newham, east London. “It was a discussion we’d been having for a while,” says Harris, who gardens with her girlfriend Catriona Knox. They’d already removed the paving from the back garden of their house, which is in a densely populated area of the city undergoing vast amounts of regeneration. “Around here every bit of green space feels precious,” she says. “Obviously there are parks, but I think each of us has to take responsibility for any space we have.”

As you’d expect in a city, the new front garden needs to work hard to accommodate bins, bikes and a composting hot bin, but Harris is determined to plant as much as possible in the rest of the space, including a small tree (on the shortlist are a Sichuan pepper tree, hawthorn or a Chinese fringe tree) underplanted with perennials and bulbs.

In an area where 50% of the front gardens have no plants, the ones that do provide moments of joy. Harris’s neighbors include a couple who boast “the most beautiful magnolia” in their shady spot, while on the opposite side another front garden has been turned over to an abundant veg patch complete with frames and climbing squash. “They were the inspiration, really,” adds Harris. “It’s a gift isn’t it? It’s the ultimate in gardening altruism, because your back garden is for you to enjoy, but your front garden is about improving everyone’s experience.”


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