Every neighbourhood has one: a deliciously eccentric resident who lets their freak flag fly out the front of their house.
You know the type: the old woman who collects gnomes from around the world and insists on putting them all on display, or the trainspotter who builds a miniature railway through his front garden or the total whacko who digs a moat around his bungalow.
Or perhaps they recreate the Leaning Tower of Piza in 1970s brown brick and PVC pipe, like this nutter.
Let me say right now, these sorts of people bring me unalloyed joy. I like to imagine the drunken conversation that saw the idea burst into life. I like to imagine how, over a few more bottles of Chianti, they discussed the intricacies of achieving it. And then I just absolutely adore that they went through with it. Was it an all-in family “busy bee” and built in a weekend? Or was it a slowly-erected labour of love — one man with a dream, a trowel, and a palette of surplus brown bricks.
This weekend, while wandering around the neighbourhood looking for inspiration for the front garden, I stumbled across our local Front Garden Nutter. And I could not be more thrilled. But more on him in a minute, because this post is meant to be about finding inspiration for our front garden.
Finding front garden inspiration from our neighbours
The houses in our street are 114 years old. That’s 114 years the local residents have been working out what to do with the patch of dirt out the front.
So, in deciding what will work in our front garden, it seemed smart to take a walk around the neighbourhood and see how other people have solved some of the issues.
Here are the issues as I see them:
- Space is at a premium, so wasting 8.3 square metres is a luxury we can’t afford. How have they used the space?
- The space has to fit four rubbish bins, requiring Tardis-like qualities (unless they stack like Russian Dolls, but I haven’t as yet seen that tried successfully)
- Plants. What have they planted and how have they used them?
- Privacy. We’re on the ground floor. I don’t want people walking past seeing our knickers on the clothes airer. Or seeing their knickers on our clothes airer, which would be harder to explain.
So here’s what I discovered, peeping over privet hedges this weekend.
1. The “I bought everything from the B&Q discount corner” garden
Frosting your window in order to gain privacy is one common option, but just seems stifling to me. I want to see out.
Also, I don’t want to overstate things but if you’ve bought a lovely Edwardian terrace house, potting up a dracena and some bamboo and sticking it out the front is an act of terrorism.
2. The “nicely trimmed box” garden
My old flat, in the Perth inner-city, used to have a low brick wall like this out front. The sex workers used to sit on it and tout for business. But this one in my new neighbourhood has a nicely-trimmed box.
It seems like progress. I’m leaning towards this look.
3. The “potted Floriade” garden
This is quite practical. The hedge provides privacy while the pots (planted with geraniums, marigolds and fuchsia) provide a reckless use of colour normally only seen when a four-year-old decides to use her textas as make-up.
4. The “everything looks rosy” garden
I’m really tempted by this look. The roses are just so cheery, peeking over the fence. It doesn’t really tackle the privacy issue though, especially in winter, after pruning.
5. The “wow, I’m a loose bitch” garden
So, this house, like ours, is actually two flats. Downstairs owns the front garden. So my best guess is that about 20 years ago whoever lived downstairs really hated whoever lived upstairs. To block one window with a tree the other with a climbing rose is wonderfully aggressive. Although as an act of revenge, it’s a bit of a slow burn.
6. The “urban Amazon” garden
There are a few of these gardens in the neighbourhood and I’m drawn to them. They cram as many plants into the space as possible, usually in pots. The pots mean you can change the display to suit the season or move plants that aren’t happy. And the great thing is the pots will be easy to pinch in the middle of the night and put in my own garden.
I promise I’m joking.
(Or am I?)
OK, here it is…
7. The “Front Garden Nutter” garden
(Or The “Seven Leagues Under the Blue Metal” garden)
At first glance, this is quite simply a stunning garden. And it really is. It’s vibrant, it’s colourful and it crams so much into a small space.
But then, things get a little… bonkers.
I’m guessing this little masonry alcove used to house a bin. The bins no longer fit, so it’s rendered useless.
Most people would rip it out. But why rip it out when you can, instead, use it to recreate the Battle of Trafalgar?
Marvelous. Arresting. Nuts. An ornament to our particular avenue’s escutcheon.
My front garden, however, is probably bringing the neighbours a lot less joy. This is the current state of it.
Join my garden journey progress from the start, here.
Read the next blog post in this series here.