Front Garden Competition Revival

Once upon a time many years ago, in fact only as far back as 1979, a group of keen gardeners walked round the Grid twice a year and looked at the front gardens. They then decided which was the best and a silver platter was awarded. It was held for one year and then the whole process began again. This silver platter was ‘dug up’ and ‘unearthed’ recently after being buried in a loft. It is quite a splendid platter and we would like to reintroduce the best front garden competition again.

Are you a keen gardener? Would you like to be a judge? We would love to hear from anybody who would like to help. Please contact Tina Thompson via this site.

Mary Newstead – just one of our resident expert gardeners – offers some advice on what the judges may be looking for and how you can ensure your garden turns their heads. First impressions are important, and the many lovingly tended front gardens on The Grid are a sign that residents are responsive to this old adage. The forewarning comes at a good time as it will allow you the opportunity to make any changes and/or improvements over the winter months. Here are some ideas of things that can be done that will spruce-up and improve your lot with a view to attracting the attention of the judges next year.

  • If you don’t already have a flower bed, think about creating one. If your front is paved, just lift a few slabs here and there and add some new soil before planting.
  • If you have a specimen tree, consider cutting away lower branches to lift the canopy so you can create a new bed underneath with roses and lavender – a lovely combination – or low box edging to contain plants within the bed like evergreen liriopes, hardy geraniums, box balls and bulbs.
  • Plant a new, low maintenance evergreen hedge like Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’, Griselinia littoralis, Buxus sempervirens or Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ for flowers and scent. All will need only a gentle prune once a year.
  • Plant roses. Now is a good time to buy bare-root roses direct from the supplier – much cheaper than buying them in containers. Roses make a wonderful hedge if you choose the right variety such as Queen of Sweden and Harlow Carr both highly fragrant and repeat flowering. The species Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’ is also fragrant and has the added bonus of orange hips in autumn/winter. Go to for more choice.
  • It’s still not too late to plant bulbs for a window box or container display. Try for a fabulous choice of tulips and alliums. Although a little more expensive, you can buy bulbs already growing ‘in the green’ next spring from garden centres.
  • As judging time approaches, last minute jobs would be to add a top-dressing of compost to beds to show off plants, freshen up shingle by adding more and keep vigilant for weeds. If you already have a hedge, a gentle trim a few weeks in advance will allow it time to settle into its new haircut before judging.
  • Window boxes and containers may need replanting and shingle on top of the soil will really set off the plants.
  • General tidiness can be tackled nearer the time like sweeping paths and hosing down for an extra gleam. If you have painted walls, maybe a quick lick of fresh paint and, finally, a new front door mat if it takes your fancy.
  • It might be a good idea to make sure your bin isn’t overflowing and, if possible, move it to the back garden until judging is complete.

Mary Newstead
(Read her garden blog for more inspiration

Planning Rules

Meanwhile as the number of sheds in front gardens on the Grid is on the increase, Cllr Guy Humphries explains what is and what is not permissible re front gardens and home extensions. In the first instance if you have queries about whether planning permission is required, a great starting place is the Planning portal web site:

This has a number of the most common projects and covers many of the types of work we see in the Grid. You can also ring, email or see a planning officer at Wandsworth Town Hall. The more information you provide the planners, the more accurate the advice they can provide.

Outbuildings/Sheds Sheds in front gardens do need planning permission and this includes bicycle boxes. The rules for outbuildings in the rear garden are more complex and the planning portal web site again is a good starting point.

Walls You will need to apply for planning permission if you wish to erect or add to a fence, wall or gate and, for a front boundary wall (ie next to the road) depending on the height.

Paving of front gardens You will not need planning permission if a new or replacement paving of any size uses permeable (or porous) surfacing which allows water to drain through, such as gravel, permeable concrete block paving or porous asphalt, or if the rainwater is directed to a lawn or border to drain naturally unless the surface is more than five square metres.

Extensions The Grid is not in a conservation area, unlike Sutherland Grove for instance, so this makes some common types of extension a little easier. As can be seen, this whole area is fairly complex, so the general advice has to be; if in doubt, ask. The Planning Department at Wandsworth Town Hall are a pretty helpful team, so please refer to them with your queries.

General enquiries: 020 8871 6636