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Landscaper Matt Biggs tells us to “Wise up and go green”

Turney and Burbage Road RAs are frequently asked about the rules for front gardens and drives.  See what we have said about the guidelines here…   

This month local landscaper and gardener Matt Biggs gives us his view:

“While off-road driving may be only a niche interest, it’s a sure bet that off-road parking enjoys far wider appeal for the residents of Dulwich. Cars will be parked in front gardens, end of.

So how does one make this as practical, easy on the eye and sensitive to the local environment as possible without inviting the opprobrium of the big house? It goes without saying that any changes to the layout of front gardens need to pay heed to Dulwich Estate Scheme of Management guidelines – as a garden designer and landscaper I have overseen the granting of approval for the redevelopment of several local front gardens/drives and it always comes down to the same thing – softly, softly does it. Think “plants” first and “paving” second and you will find it is possible to have the stylish, urban oasis of your, or your car’s, choosing.

One solution could be to embrace the natural look and welcome back wildlife to your front garden. And that does not mean shabby or unkempt… it means using a sound and well-designed framework within which to utilise wildflowers, native trees and shrubs for example, and an altogether more open-minded approach to redeveloping your front garden and driveway. Think stabilised gravel, with plants and flowers popping up here and there – and if you have to drive over something to use the drive, who cares, it will seed itself back somewhere else. If you like bedding plants, stay away from bouffant F1 hybrids – they have no pollen and so bees will pass them by. Think low hedging of box/sarcococca/berberis for example, in-filled with wildflowers, for a semi-formal approach. Travel up Turney Road and over the junction with Croxted Road to see something along these lines.

And don’t forget to think about working with what you have. Use every single square cm of space – that’s what the Estate does when it looks at your ideas for a new driveway.  Look at those weed-ridden corners, borders and tiny bits of ground that could readily be home to something more bee, bird or bug friendly than what you currently have. Rough up the ground and throw down some wildflower seed mix – the lower the fertility the better.

And a little guerrilla gardening would not up amiss either. Witness the planted pavement patches at the top end of Burbage Road.  (Editor: There’s also some great examples in Lancaster Avenue which Lambeth Council have encouraged)

The more you can keep planted, the more your roads will look like great places to live. And I have not even mentioned flooding!”

Matt Biggs

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