Thursday, August 02, 2012

Front gardens, parking and poppies

click photo to enlarge
In 2008 legislation was introduced in England requiring any homeowner who wants to lay hardstanding of more than five square metres in their front garden to apply for planning permission if they propose to use a material that is not permeable. The proliferation of cars has resulted in quite a few front gardens being converted into parking spaces. The impermeable surfaces used for this purpose have increased the amount of urban run-off from rain and is a contributory factor to increased flooding. The legislation seeks to ameliorate this effect by encouraging the use of porous surfaces such as gravel, block paving, etc, rather than concrete.

I'm all in favour of this: flooding in built-up areas is something to be avoided. However, I'm also against turning front gardens into parking deserts. I recognise that quite a few houses have little or no off-street parking and that such a facility is desirable for a vehicle owner. But, the greenery that a front garden offers to the householder and the rest of the neighbourhood is desirable too, not only for the beauty that it can bestow, but for the habitat that it offers to our wildlife. It saddens me to see front gardens lost to parking, but it makes me annoyed when I see gravel, paving, tarmac and concrete put down because the owner doesn't want the "effort" and "inconvenience" of looking after a front garden. There are just as many eyesore gardens created for this reason as there are for parking, and with less justification.

Creating a front garden that more or less looks after itself is relatively easy. An area closely planted with shrubs, small trees, perennials and self-seeding annuals (such as the California poppies above) requires only a few hours maintenance per year and rewards the gardener with all-year-round beauty as well as the approving glances of the neighbourhood. The amount of work required is, in fact, less than if the garden is a lawn, the surface that is often chosen by ignoramuses who want a "labour-saving" garden. Of course, if you set your mind against more interesting gardening and are happy to remain blissfully ignorant then this knowledge will have escaped you. But, with a little effort anyone can learn enough to plant, maintain and - yes - enjoy, an attractive and environmentally beneficial front garden. Even if it has a car parked alongside it.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On