Caro Sanders turned a paved front drive into a sustainable parking space garden
This unique project came about when I was contacted by a local charity, Ealing LA21, who were looking for a garden designer to do some pro bono work on a front garden project. They wanted to show that it is possible to park cars in front of a house but to have a garden, too.
Although the charity had some funding, they needed more, and they also wanted the project to reach a wider audience. So they approached the RHS, who were happy to be involved – it tied in well with their Greening Grey Britain campaign.
Dozens of houses were leafleted in the Greenford area of London – chosen as it has many paved-over front gardens. In conjunction with the RHS, a house was picked. We treated the family as a client, asking about their needs and likes and dislikes. They needed parking for two cars, and liked plants with pink or purple flowers and foliage, in a garden not too contemporary in style. The planting also needed to cope with a northeast facing aspect, with a large street tree in front.
The existing paving was replaced with a permeable grid, topped with gravel. We replaced one wall, alongside a communal grass alleyway, with an evergreen flowering hedge of Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’. We couldn’t take down the other wall as it belonged to the neighbour but we added tall, slender planting in front of it, including Verbena bonariensis and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silver Arrow’, and a trellis for climbers.
The paved front garden before the project. Photo: RHS
Triangular planting pockets around the three boundaries (to maximise space for parking) were filled with plants for year-round interest, including euphorbias, Euonymus ‘Green Rocket’, campanulas, Alchemilla mollis, astrantia and Lamium maculatum ‘Pink Pearls’. Climbers included Clematis, Parthenocissus henryana, plus Trachelospermum jasminoides either side of the front door. Larger beds either side of the bay window were planted with Nandina domestica and Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’.
We also planted the space between the cars with Campanula poscharskyana and Thymus officinalis, and the spaces beneath them, with low-growing Lysimachia nummularia, Acaena saccaticupula and Campanula portenschlagiana – the cars are not there during the day.
The RHS filmed the project, and the video is now on the website. I hope it reaches a wide audience, showing that a front garden can be more than just a car park. I’m delighted I got involved – it’s an issue that really resonates with me. And when clients say, “We won’t bother with the front garden, it’s just somewhere to park the cars”, we point out there’s a number of things they can do to make the space both functional and attractive.