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IMG_0968Following our first article earlier this Summer  by ‘MATT plants and gardens’ on the importance of improving the look of Turney Road through the ‘greening’ of front gardens, we have asked another local garden designer, Barbara Samitier to give us her ideas.  

Barbara is a passionate garden designer with 11 years experience of creating beautiful gardens.


First impressions do count! A front garden provides the first impression your guests will get as they walk to your front door. How lovely is it to be welcomed by the scent of a Wisteria and the sound of foliage being brushed by the breeze? Not so inviting when the car or/and the bins are the main focus point, wouldn’t you agree?

Still according to the London assembly it is estimated that in London the area of front gardens being paved over is equivalent to 5,200 football pitches or 22 Hyde Parks. Shocking, right?!

While paving over one front garden might seem of little impact, the difficulties start when neighbours on both sides of the street do the same, effectively tripling the width of the road. Here are some of the consequences that the loss of front gardens for driveways bring:

  • Most drains in urban areas were built many years ago and were not designed to cope with increased rainfall. Paving over front gardens increases the risk of flooding. Gardens can soak up rain, while paving, tarmac and concrete are less porous and increase the amount of rainwater that runs off by as much as 50 per cent. This additional water usually flows into street drains, which can’t always cope with the thousands of extra litres in a storm. The excess can then go back up people’s front drives to floods their homes. RHS Principal Environmental Advisor, Rebecca Matthews Joyce, explains, “The water has to go somewhere and, even if you are not flooded, it might be affecting your neighbours downhill.”
  • Hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt collect pollution (oil, petrol, brake dust, etc) that is washed off into the drains. Many drains carry rainwater directly to streams and rivers.
  • Hard paving can cause severe subsidence as it reduces or stops rainfall getting into the ground. This can cause the soil to shrink, especially as it is predominantly clay around here, which has consequences for structures built on it. Garden walls, paths and houses may develop severe cracks.
  • Hard surfaces absorb heat in the day and release it at night, making it hot and difficult to sleep. This is part of the ‘urban heat island effect’, which can also be responsible for poorer air quality and localised weather conditions, such as thunderstorms.

If all the above still doesn’t make you want to tear up the tarmac, maybe a financial incentive will? I believe that green front gardens (as opposed to grey driveways) increase the value of your property. Indeed a series of lush front gardens lining the road makes the street a leafy one, which in real-estate terms is synonym with desirable, which is synonym with expansive. Each time one of your neighbours plants a hedge or a tree in front of their house, hear: kerching!

The importance and impact of the front garden is a perfect illustration of how little things can make a huge difference. If we all put an effort into our front gardens this can transform a whole area’s landscape and increase the quality of life of the local community.

So come on beautiful people of SE21, let’s unite and let’s have more green! Let’s get into action and dig this ugly concrete and paving slabs out. Start planting even if it’s just one beautiful shrub or small tree, or even just a climber on the house façade! Every little helps.

Barbara Samitier


Later this Summer, we will publish Barbara’s tips and ideas for beautiful front gardens.


Hi Barbara, Many thanks for your excellent article. I just wanted to make a comment about your suggestion of planting trees. Trees close to houses, in front gardens, have become a “no-no” as far as insurers are concerned. Hedges and shrubs are fine, but not trees. Do you have any suggestions for shrubs that would be acceptable to insurers? Kind regards Sue

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