A front door doesn't need a pelmet of cascading wisteria to look fabulous. Give it some glamour and gravitas with a handsome container to either side, each holding a well-clipped evergreen.
© Marianne Majerus
Small containers holding wispy plants will have precisely the opposite effect, so spend as much cash on the pots as the plants, making both oversize for maximum impact. Keep the plants regularly fed, watered and manicured so they look pristine, and note they will need to be upgraded to larger pots after three or four years.
Instead of topiary box or bay, consider mopheads of Portuguese laurel or red-tinted photinia. Alternatively, pencil cypress or junipers make textural, aromatic pillars and look super-stylish with Italianate pots.
As contrast, and to release a welcoming fragrance as guests arrive, you could position two large planters of well-behaved rosemary Miss Jessop's Upright in front of the vertical conifers.
If you have planting space in your front garden, resist the temptation to install fashionable drifts of perennials, which will give you a whole lot of nothing from late autumn to spring; ditto bush roses.
Evergreen shrubs are the low-maintenance way to go — gorgeous, architectural mahonia, with its whorls of large, deep green leaves and bonus of yellow flowers scented with lily-of-the-valley; perfumed daphnes; glossy-leaved camellias; elegant, filigree-leaved Choisya Aztec Pearl.
The light pink flower sprays of Viburnum tinus last for months from winter to spring, and complement London brick perfectly. These are investment shrubs that will prove their worth in years to come, and are worth buying big so that they make a leafy statement from the start.
© Marianne Majerus
Window boxes packed with plants add great charm to a house façade and counteract hard edges. They're especially welcome if there is no other space for plants at the front of your house. As with pot and plant, the box itself is as important as what goes within.
If you favour a country-comes-to-town look, consider natural woven willow planters that look especially good with spring bulbs; if you prefer city-slick, choose zinc or lead-effect planters. And if you don't have an outside sill, use bolt-on brackets to secure window boxes, or install attractive wirework and steel balconettes that hold an average-size planter or even a series of pots.
Co-ordinate window box plants with your front door: if it's navy gloss, for instance, you might have yellow primroses and white violas in spring, scarlet verbena in summer, burnt orange pansies or icing-pink cyclamen in winter. An evergreen backbone, using several spheres of dwarf box Buxus Suffruti-cosa, only needs interspersing seasonally with ruffles of one-note bedding.
© Marianne Majerus
Bulbs can be buried in the compost, beneath the bedding, waiting to sprout come spring — or you can buy daffodils, grape hyacinth ready-budded, then just settle them into their new home. Make life easy by using woven polypropylene or plastic liners that you can plant up offstage, and drop into the boxes.
At the end of the season, just pull out the used one and drop in the next. Of course, if you can't be bothered to plant and maintain them — they need to be changed seasonally — there are companies who can (see below).
* Wide variety of containers: Capital Garden Products (01580 201092; capital-garden.com).
* Ready-planted and delivered window boxes, as well as brackets and boxes: The Balcony Gardener (020 7431 5553; thebalconygardener.com).
* Window boxes planted, installed and maintained: The Windowbox Company (020 7254 7217; thewindowboxcompany.com).
* Metal and wirework balconettes for holding window boxes: Garden Requisites (01225 851577; garden-requisites.co.uk).
* Woven willow window box with planting bag: Cox & Cox (0844 858 0734; coxandcox.co.uk).