Front Garden – adding curb appeal on a tight budget.

Hi, remember me? I used to write a blog, reasonably regularly called Alice in Scandiland? Doesn’t ring any bells? I wouldn’t have thought so, you can practically see the tumble weed rolling around these virtual pages. Safe to say Lockdown has really taken it’s toll on my ability to be creative and the words just don’t come as easily as they once did. But more on that another time.

A little over 2 years ago I decided to tackle the front of our house. We had basically no money for the project, at the same time as this I was also in the throws of opening the Alice in Scandiland Shop. Looking back I’m not entirely sure why I decided to dig up the front garden at the same time as growing my business, fitting out a shop and all the admin that comes with that. Somehow I always end up stacking up the big things, it’s a bit of a bad habit of mine.

2 years later I thought it was about time I wrote about it here, especially as next week Phase 2 of the garden starts, with a beautiful hardwood deck being built. Thankfully I’ve called in professional help this time, I can’t wait to share the progress as a bystander for once.

If you haven’t already, you can read about Phase 1 of the back garden here.

We’re 1 of 9 houses, set around a grass square, which is THE best parenting win of all time. This is where the girls learnt to ride bikes, where they can play football, cartwheel to their hearts content…

I’ve never made any secret of the fact our home isn’t exactly a looker, from the outside at least. It’s an end of terrace, late 60s house and very far from my dream frontage. But it’s ours, we own it, we made the decision to stay put, rather than mortgage ourselves up to the eyeballs to go bigger and more beautiful and we’re kind of OK with that decision. I have plans for more cosmetic tweaks I want to make to the outside (clad the porch + also cover those weird ass tiles below Eula’s window with wood, running vertically, starting from the ground below the kitchen window + replacing the windows with a darkish grey, thinner frame) BUT, we’re very much not in a financial position to do any of those things anytime soon, so we’re getting on with living our lives and focusing elsewhere.

Read Our Home, for us for more about our decision to stay put and not size up.

The front door was replaced around the time we had the whole downstairs floor done with engineered oak. That was a complete saga and please don’t ask me where it was from, I will not be recommending!

The sorry excuse for a lawn was crying out to be ripped up and once I decided I was going for the revamp, I wasted no time in lifting the top couple of inches.

I remember it being incredibly hot the week I decided to get stuck in, I was sweaty, filthy but I really enjoyed the process. The physicality of it, but also how quickly things started to look better, visually. I was so happy to finally be rid of that super sad grass.

There are several tricky elements to the area at the front of our house. These drain covers here are right in the middle and there’s nothing that can be done about it. There is also a damp issue with the porch (which houses the tiny downstairs loo), it’s just single skin brick and the soil was originally right up to it, holding in the moisture and sending it straight through the wall. Before the new floor was put down Stu dug a trench around the front of the house and filled with gravel, to allow better air flow.

As I mentioned before, we had pretty much no money for this project and the kind of planting I wanted isn’t always a budget option. Tree ferns, large Agave, I was asking a bit much, but I struck it lucky with a few Facebook Marketplace finds which got things started.

The above Agave was about £25 and the slightly battered one below was maybe £10. This is quite a huge saving, considering their size.

Weed suppressant membrane, an absolute must.

Once the soil was levelled as well as could be, I popped down a layer of weed suppressant membrane, then cut through in the places I wanted to plant.

I’d gone back and forth with what ground cover I wanted to use, but with budget in mind and ease, I decided to go with gravel. But which gravel?!

I popped to Contec, a local exterior Paving + flooring specialist and after much gravel based deliberation decided on the Flamingo. Of course, this turned out to be the most expensive but I loved the subtle pink tones, so I found a way to make it work. Note to all, you always need way more than you think!

Flamingo Gravel
Thankfully the ugly waterbutt has since been moved.
Look at the state of my feet! I do a lot of my gardening either barefoot or in flip-flops and actually, I bloody love getting my feet filthy, really feeling connected to the ground you are working. Here I’d been wearing flip-flops, thankfully that wasn’t tan lines, just grime lines!

With the gravel in place it was much improved, but I won’t lie, it was what it was, but I wasn’t in love. There was no money to tile the concrete path in front of the door, an idea I’d still like to see through one day. I’m also not wonderful at waiting for plants to become more mature, I’m all about the instant impact me, so the effect of smaller, budget friendly plants left me feeling a little blah.

The bamboo in a pot wasn’t staying, but more a temporary way of hiding the ugly plastic downpipe behind.
I called in Stu for this job!

A quick number upgrade, these were from eBay, I think I searched for something like Futura Modern House Numbers.

But still, not bad for about £250, a week’s work on my own, all whilst launching my shop!

Things have matured well since and it works better as time goes on. The addition of a Tree fern has made all the difference, it has such lovely impact.

Other plants that can be seen out the front are Aeoniums, Blue Echeveria, which shoot up the most vivid, beautiful flowers around this time of the year. Sisal Agave, Fan Palm and some ferns.

I’m still dreaming about some sexy Bert&May tiles and one day I’ll make that ugly path a beautiful thing.

Image –

So there we are, a cheap fix that’s standing the test of time. It’s very low maintenance and definitely an improvement on the sad, ugly grass, don’t you think?

Our home is far from the dream Instagram house, but with it comes security, safety and a springboard to take risks elsewhere in life. By staying put, I was able to open my shop and grow my ideas and creativity with that. We are so fortunate.

Thanks for reading x

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Nicola says:

    I love your posts. It’s lovely to see a real sized home and what can be done with a limited budget. Gardening is a hobby designed to develop ones patience and ability to see the long term results and your garden looks lovely.

    1. Thank you so much Nicola xx

    2. Thank you so much Nicola ♡♡♡

  2. Lesley Brown says:

    you could stencil the path ?

    1. Thanks Lesley but not sure it’s for me x

  3. Claire T says:

    I was going to say stencil the path too. Have a look at Dizzy Duck stencils and you might be converted. They look very effective. Front garden looks lovely and no more mowing! Yay! Look forward to seeing the decking reveal too.

    1. Thank you

  4. So lovely to hear from you again Alice. I want you to know that I take so much inspiration from you and have improved my own not quite ideal house so much because of you. My latest venture included a great deal of gravel and has made a spectacular upgrade to a very scrubby garden. Thanks Alice. Keep on doing what you do!

    1. Hello Lindy, thank you so much, that’s so wonderful to hear xx

  5. Sarah says:

    Hi Alice is it the door or the flooring you wouldn’t recommend? I’d been look for unfinished flooring and hoped I’d struck gold when you mentioned it in another post.

    1. The company I used for the door xxx

  6. Mel says:

    I love seeing the phases of all your projects. It gives me such hope for my own situation, which is slow and on a shoe string! Thank you for sharing

    1. Thank you so much Mel. Good luck with your own projects x

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.