House facades that feature thriving plants have been clinically proven to regulate stress for residents as well as passersby. So it is a wonder that so many people with the means to improve them leave their potentially lively spaces to languish. The Victorian terraces of London Fields, East London, are fairly generously proportioned, with the best front gardens drawing attention to texture, color, buzzing, and movement. Something else that they have in common: they tend to be the work of Izi Glover, garden designer and long-standing local resident.
Photography by Jim Powell for Gardenista.
When a client does decide to take the plunge, it is often the result of being talked into it by someone else. “They usually approach me after years of enduring an unloved space out front,” says Izi. “Mostly I’m replanting front as well as back gardens, both of which are exciting, but it is pretty thrilling when a customer really enjoys their new planting out front, and all the new social and ecological interactions it brings.”
A good front garden makes a neighborhood friendlier, not only to look at but because people suddenly find that they have common ground. “Customers are often pleasantly surprised by new conversations with passers-by, and are very happy about the arrival of bees, butterflies and birds,” continues Izi. “These things mean that they enjoy being outside in their gardens, rather than avoiding and dreading them—so things like watering and weeding are less of a chore.”
Given that clients might take a while to get used to the concept of pleasure in watering (and light weeding), Izi and her team make a visit a month after planting, followed by a few watering and weeding sessions over the season, before moving on to a different regime for winter and spring. “The general assumption is that the planting is low-maintenance.”
Izi’s sunny front gardens are a theme around the neighborhood, with a recognizable palette of plants that tolerate a certain amount of neglect. “My go-to drought-resistant plants in full sun are the woody salvias—Salvia x jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’ being number one. Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ and Perovskia ‘Little Spire’ [for smaller spaces]; Stipa tenuissima, for its self-seeding once established; and the redoubtable Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii.”
Tall, dense hedges of yew with security gates send out an unfriendly (and slightly paranoid) message in a residential neighborhood. There are so many other ways of distracting passersby from staring into front windows. Izi takes the pragmatic view. “Privacy and security are always borne in mind,” she says. “I try to align trees, shrubs and larger perennials to help screen direct views into rooms.”
A local designer is a good choice, ecologically and culturally. “I just work via word of mouth; it’s the simplest way of ensuring that what customers have in mind corresponds with what I can offer,” explains Izi. “I don’t do neat measures of hard landscaping, harsh outdoor lighting, monocultural planting—which unfortunately is what a lot of new garden owners desire.” This is the first thing to be clarified. “With out-of-town jobs, I try to use local suppliers of plants and materials.”
Trees bring in birds and pollinators, and there is plenty of scope for multiple small trees for well-considered privacy without too much shade. “I’m a huge fan of trees in front gardens, and use fastigiate varieties where possible to get a small grove in a limited space,” says Izi. “There is nothing more delightful than spring blossom, except maybe dappled green shade in summer, autumn color, wintering berries… I also use a variety of shrubs to achieve height and volume, and am very partial to a beech hedge.”
No matter how lovely the houses might be across the road, there is a middle view of cars (and gaping people) that is easily obscured with mounds of planting.
It is worth remembering that a well-resolved front garden improves an indoor space, not only in looks but light. Izi: “One person thought all her lights had been switched on, as daylight floods through the new planting.”
For more on curb appeal, see:
- Lawn Begone: 7 Ideas for Front Garden Landscapes
- Landscape Architecture: Curb Appeal and a Cactus Fence for a Modern LA Gem
- Steal This Look: Summery Curb Appeal in Martha’s Vineyard