Planning Your Spring Front Garden Makeover

Have you been wishing for a blooming, colourful front garden makeover but don't have green fingers? Well, it's easier than you may think. As winter edges towards spring, we'll help you to plan that front garden you've been dreaming of. From bulbs to borders, here's how to do it.

Planning Your Spring Front Garden Makeover

Which bulbs flower in spring?

When you’re starting to plan for front gardens in the UK, bulbs are the first plants that come to mind. There’s something so simple about them. Dig a hole, drop it in, forget about it for a while and, hey presto, up pops a flower. But not all bulbs are the same. Let’s start with the ones that flower in spring and will guarantee you the colourful seasonal cheer you’re looking for. That way, you could be in for a months-long dazzling display in pots, beds and borders.

Which bulbs flower in spring
  • Daffodils (their formal name is narcissus) must be the most familiar – and best loved – of all the spring-flowering bulbs. For something so delicate-looking, these cheery yellow blooms are actually as tough as old boots and will thrive almost anywhere you put them.
  • Crocuses are multitalented little bowls of bright colour that are happy around trees, planted in grass or on display in pots. Once established in your front garden, they’ll keep coming back year after year.
  • Tulips are another showy welcome to the new season. When they finally burst into bloom – sometimes flowering a little later than daffodils – you’ll know that summer is just around the corner.

These are the three basics to a sweet and simple front garden. You could always branch out into less well-known but equally appealing blooms, all of them bulbs. These include delicate bluebells, orange crocosmia, purple grape hyacinths and yellow, blue or white irises. You could even try your hand at wild garlic, with its small sprays of white flowers in late spring. Why not browse through a mixture of flowering bulbs to see what grabs you?

When should I buy spring bulbs in the UK

When should I buy spring bulbs in the UK?

This is where the planning part comes in. Ideally, your best time for developing spring garden ideas is the previous autumn, around October to December. And it’s not just about getting your selection of spring-flowering bulbs ordered and delivered in time for planting. It’s also the best time to think about all of the other spring gardening jobs that may need some advance planning.

For example, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got everything you need well in advance. Plant pots and containers give you flexibility about where to position your plants for the best display. Autumn is the time to make sure you’ve got a good stash of pots of different sizes – small ones for crocuses and snowdrops, larger ones for daffodils and tulips. You can make real front-garden impact by rotating your display to show off the best blooms as they come into flower. You’ll also need all-purpose compost to plant up your bulbs. Many gardeners try to avoid compost containing peat, to reduce the carbon impact, and there are plenty of good-quality peat-free alternatives that do the job well. One thing to bear in mind is that you always need a little bit more than you think. If you stock up well, you’ll not be getting stuck during your planting spree.

Anything else? You might need some garden tools such as a fork and trowel set, especially if you’re planting straight into the ground. Looking forward to spring, you’ll also probably find some secateurs useful when the time comes to deadhead the daffodils that have finished flowering. (It’s great to leave the daffodils’ foliage alone, though, so that the bulbs can build up for even better flowering next spring.)

How and when to plant spring bulbs

How and when to plant spring bulbs

September to late November is the best time for planting spring bulbs, but if that ship’s sailed and you’re really keen to have some sort of display, you can always get hold of some flowering bulbs that are already planted in their pots. That’s the “when” – but what about the “how”? Here’s our simple, step-by-step guide that applies to all spring-flowering bulbs.

  • If your outside space faces south or west, you’re in luck. Most bulbs are happy in full sun or partial shade. If you don’t have any sun at all, though, don’t worry. Some bulbs, like snowdrops, narcissus and crocuses, are fine in the shade.
  • The hole you dig needs to be twice as deep as the height of your bulb.
  • If the bulb has a pointed side, it’s best to keep this facing upwards when planting. But don’t despair if you miss this. A lot of bulbs will manage to send shoots in the right direction, although it might take them a bit longer.
  • Each bulb should occupy a single hole, unless you’re planting small flowers like crocuses or dwarf irises, in which case you could put a few in the same hole for company.
  • Then you’ll need to cover your bulbs over with soil or compost and leave them until spring. If the soil is dry, you could water them straight after planting. There’s typically enough moisture in a UK winter to keep them happy otherwise.

And that’s it. The waiting is the hardest part. But the best thing is, after all your hard work, you won’t need to do it again. Spring flowering bulbs will come back year after year, often in larger clumps.

Front garden border ideas

We’re guessing you don’t want your front garden makeover to be a one-season wonder. So for the summer you could think about adding other garden plants to the mix for extra variety.

  • If you’ve got a small space, or for the front of a larger border, tiny, sweet-smelling alyssum is a popular hardy plant. Or, for an intense splash of orange and red, nasturtiums are easy to grow. They have seeds the size of peas, so you don’t have to fiddle about with scattering them and hoping for the best. Just make a finger-size hole in the ground, pop in a seed and Mother Nature will do the rest.
  • Medium-height shrubby plants like lavender and rosemary work well and give off an invigorating scent as you brush by them.
  • Taller plants for the back of the border could include cottage-garden-style staples like hollyhocks or even sunflowers. You can grow these from seed with patience or take the fast track by sourcing ready-grown plants you can put straight into your garden.

New-build front garden ideas

If you’ve moved into a new-build house, the great thing is you can start your garden from scratch. The not-so-great thing is that there won’t be any established perennial plants or flowering shrubs to give it a framework. The soil could be sparse, too, or not very fertile. Here are some tips for instant impact in your brand-new garden.

  • First up, if you’re planning any paving slabs or gravel paths, it’s best to do these first. This will enable you to move around on your creations instead of getting bogged down in a muddy wasteland as you begin the planting. It’s also easier to work on this sort of job when there are no plants around, because you don’t need to worry about damaging them.
  • Before planting, the soil probably needs a good dig over. You knew that digging had to come into it somewhere, didn’t you? Digging will help you to remove any large bits of builders’ rubble and buried rubbish. Then you might want to mix in some well-rotted organic fertiliser to help get things going.
  • Next, consider any architectural plants like large shrubs that’ll become garden landmarks. If you get the large items in first, you’ll have the immediate reward of your space starting to look like an actual garden.
  • Now at last you can start to think about flowers. If you need some quick flower-power to transform your new-build garden, it’s worth considering some tough, fast-growing plants like buddleia and mallow, and some hardy annuals for that all-important pop of colour. Cornflowers and poppies will fit this bill – and while they’re annuals, they’ll probably self-seed and come back to greet you next year.

Happy with your front garden makeover? It’s sure to be worth it for the pleasure you’ll feel every time you use the front door. If now you’re hungry for more tips and tricks, we’ve got a simple guide to gardening to help you along. Feeling even more confident? Learn about the low-maintenance ground cover plants that are ideal for filling out your creation.