Driveway Design With Practical Appeal For Both Cars and Plants

The design of driveways might increasingly be subject to planning approval/permission, but if we are to avoid the ‘Shopping Mall car park’ look owners need to carefully plan and creatively consider both the car parking requirements as well as providing a garden area which incorporates a healthy and attractive environment for plants to thrive. Professional advice and assistance will most likely be required, but the opportunity is too important not to develop a driveway that is practical for parking cars but also providing an appealing garden that is easy or requires little effort to maintain. Good driveway design is all about being practical (car) and appealing (garden) which combined probably means improved asset value (pocket), which are all very important returns for the householder but there is also the prospect of some improved residual value even for the local community Driveway parking post.

In recent years a number of factors, many beyond the control of householders, have critically influenced the design of the residential driveway. These trends ranging from changes in socio-economic demographics, work/life-style patterns, significant dependence (increasing in some respects) on the ‘car’ as the preferred or indeed the only practical mode of transport, architectural/town planning developments which are demanding increased population densities, reduced availability of ‘off-street’ parking options, smaller gardens etc. Meanwhile car ownership continues to grow but with less space available and many owners with busy ‘time poor’ lifestyles preferring a low/zero maintenance front garden solution, has seen front garden been replaced by nothing more than what is effectively an area for parking cars only.

In the course of determining allocation of spaces for parking, pedestrian, garden, services etc, first priority will most likely be given to parking. Type, size and number of cars will largely determine the area needs, but as an average rule of thumb, spaces in shopping mall car parks are typically 2.5-3.0m wide and 4.5m – 5.0m long. Most would agree such spaces tend not to be too generous and bearing in mind that parking in a car park can be easier given the wider access and generally better manouverability options which are available. In a private residential driveway the situation is very different, frequently the approach is not straight but can be complicated by nearby junctions, bends etc. Therefore the space calculations must take wider cognisance of the local geography, site topography (sloping sites need careful attention), turning room, driver skill, age and even obstructions/potential hazards (such as post boxers, street lighting, narrow pedestrian pathways, driver visibility, refuse bins, screening trees/hedges etc all influence the calculations.

Where space is plentiful the calculations are generally straightforward, but frequently there is pressure on available space and compromises must be reached over priorities. Ultimately it is most likely a case whereby most of the space is allocated to the ‘car’ but no matter how small the residual area is, it is possible to develop a planting scheme that is lush, complementary and requiring little maintenance. In such instances where space is limited, I would advise that owners utilise as much evergreen plant material, and supplement this with bulbs or seasonal flowers for additional colour display. It is very important that the planting looks good and lush all year round. There is a wide range of plant style and sizes to suit practically every site condition.

In instances where planting beds are narrow but screening is required, owners might consider using standards/half-standard shrubs, essentially ‘mophead’ style shrubs which are eye catching, providing visual breaks/screening at eyelevel but attractive displays. Popular choices would include Olive, Photinia, Laurus Nobilis, and Camellia to name a few. This is a much more satisfactory solution than expecting a traditional shrub/hedge such as Viburnum or Grisellinia to grow to 6′ 0″ (1800mm) tall in a narrow bed of 2′ 0″ (600mm) wide. This will involve considerable and continuous effort to maintain and frequently the results are poor despite all the efforts.

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