Most people have a front garden no matter how small but they’re not the easiest of spaces to tackle – you want them to look attractive and inviting but at the same time they need to be practical, somewhere for bins, parking the car (more often than not 2 or 3) with easy access in and out preferably without having to shuffle the cars about. It is a shame that front gardens have to end up as parking spaces but understandable – guaranteed parking space and cheaper car insurance – who wouldn’t pave it over!
So how to work this awkward space while keeping it both practical and attractive…firstly don’t totally pave or concrete over the whole area, it doesn’t look very attractive (municipal even) and heavy rain can lead to flash flooding. Go for a combination of surfaces, the different textures add interest, and rather than having the hard standing as a rectangular block how about putting it on a diagonal and breaking up the “hard straight line” of the rectangle by adding a few extra random slabs or pavers on the edges.
Pavers are semi porous so do let the rain through to the soil below, while gravel is very porous (cheap) and great round a hard standing area giving another texture as well as being able to plant through it, although if the whole area is put over to gravel it can be difficult to walk on especially if it’s really thick. Sleepers can be used very effectively as a hard standing set into the ground, staggered in different ways and lengths. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t install the slabs / pavers / sleepers yourself but if you’re not the most DIY savvy get someone in who knows what they’re up to, it does save money and time in the long run!
By putting plants in you not only add colour and interest but they have the effect of “softening” the hard straight edges. As for deciding what to plant really depends on where they’re to be actually planted, ones in the corners and along fence lines are going to be protected way more than the central ones which will have to put up with being knocked and bashed by feet or even bumpers and tyres. I would also mainly go for plants that look good most of the time and require little in the way of maintenance, so that will tend to be evergreen shrubs and perennials. For the corners / fence line try Euonymus fortunei varieties, Pittosporums, Fatsia, Mahonia, Phormium, Hebes, Berberis, Choisya, Oleria, and Cistus but there’s many more. For round the edge of paving that will put up with a little traffic try creeping thyme, creeping jenny, Ajuga, Mexican fleabane, lesser periwinkle and stonecrop.