Having a place to park a car by your home is important, there’s no arguing that. But is it more important than having an open green space to welcome you, visitors and nature to your front door?
As traffic increases and time-hungry householders opt to pave or concrete their driveway to avoid garden maintenance, there’s little doubt the state of our front gardens is spiralling downwards.
Yet, points out horticulturist Joe Swift, the front garden should be the first point of a welcoming haven.
Swift, one of many gardening experts appearing in Great British Garden Revival, a new 10-part BBC2 series starting on December 9, visited one such haven in award-winning Rockcliffe Avenue, Whitley Bay, north Tyneside, where residents have transformed their paved street with colourful plants and containers overflowing with flowers.
The result isn’t just aesthetic, residents have also reported a much greater sense of community, with kids no longer ‘causing havoc’ in the street and people no longer dropping litter because the beautiful gardens have given them a sense of pride.
“A lot of people just concrete or pave their gardens over and just forget about the plants, but research shows how important plants are in reducing pollution, for wellbeing and house prices,” says Swift.
Creating a planting buffer between your home and traffic is also like putting a filter paper between you and the pollution, explains Rob MacKenzie, professor of atmospheric science at Birmingham University.
“If you put plants very close to the traffic then they have a greater chance of soaking up the pollution and making a significant reduction, perhaps as much as 10 or 20 per cent,” he explains.
Some three-quarters of households in Britain have cars - 40 per cent of those have two cars - and the increased use of concrete or paving to accommodate them has led to huge drainage problems in some areas.
Swift says there are products out there which can accommodate both plants and vehicles. In the BBC programme, he looks at reinforced hexagonal plastic mesh which goes into the ground, and you can park your car on it when it has been filled with either gravel or plants. You lay it by firstly putting landscaping fabric over the soil to allow water to drain through and suppress weeds. Then place a layer of sand on to the fabric and embed your mesh into it. Then you fill your hexagonal slots with loamy topsoil and sand, which is perfect for sowing grass seed. Sow the seed in late summer, early autumn or spring. Before long, the grass will be growing above the mesh, but you can drive a car over it.
Alternatively, use gravel or use a combination of gravel and grass seed or other low-growing plant, like thyme or camomile.