Bob and Mavis’ ‘living walls and floors’ garden

When I first spotted this front garden a few months ago, it thrilled me. The house walls are dressed in Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), changing the grey pebbledash exterior in to a grand old manor house. The garden in delineated by the perfectly cut hedge with formal straight lines linking to curved archways. The flooring is a reinforced grass product, which allows rain to pass through the surface, but is still strong enough for cars to park on the surface, even throughout winter. The carport appears to float with all supports hidden by hedging.

The garden works well all year, but the Boston Ivy creates a stunning autumnal display, and the grasscrete is planted with crocuses for a spring extravaganza.

Bob and Mavis have lived in the same house for the last 40 years. Bob is a retired electrician and Mavis works part-time at AG Meek Shoes on Albany Road.

How did you design your front garden?

We needed a driveway but I didn’t want it to be concrete or tarmac. I looked around for alternatives and noticed the grasscrete in the BBC Studios in Llandaff and the green roadways in Bute Park, and thought that would be perfect. It was easy to install and can handle quite a weight, so that couldn’t have gone better. I really like it because the rain can soak through, and all these solid drives mean that the water has nowhere to go, and can lead to flooding downstream.

The drive does require some maintenance, as the grass areas need to be filled up at intervals and weeded. The council did accidentally kill off a swathe of the grass by the entrance when they weedkillered the footpath, but I phoned them, they apologised, replaced the grass section and promised they wouldn’t do it again (which they haven’t).

The boston ivy was chosen because I thought the house looked bare. I planted one on either side of the house, which is almost fully covered. The climber requires cutting around the windows and to keep it from getting in the gutters. We have two wren nests on the front of the house this year, which are great to watch.

The car port hedging idea came following discussions with the neighbour who suggested growing the hedge.

The garden is very wildlife-friendly. Is this how you choose your plants?

Not really. I get a lot of the plants for the garden from the Christian Aid plant sale, where gardeners have dug up plants from their garden to pass on to others. The plants therefore tend to be robust, and very suitable for Cardiff weather. I get recommendations from friends about what would be good for the garden.

Bob has created a perfect green framework for Mavis’ planting choices. This friendly couple seem to subconsciously make decisions to positively impact their community from their choices of materials, to where they buy their plants from. Bob’s decision 35 years ago to reject conventional paving and opt for a more sustainable solution has resulted in a green and pleasant front garden space. I am a big fan!

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A garden bench sited to enjoy the last of the evening sunshine

If you need to replace or would like to extend a driveway of greater than 5 m², you are now required to apply for planning permission, unless you use a permeable material. This is to reduce the impact of urban creep, which is a major factor in increased risk of flooding in urban areas. For more information, see Isonomia’s blog post Crazy PavingGuidance on the permeable surfacing of front gardens, and advice from the Planning Portal. The RHS have also produced really good advice about designing front gardens to use permeable paving and to avoid causing a detriment to neighbours.

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