For some time now I've been wanting to mention other people's gardens. I don't mean the gardens you can arrange to go to visit, I mean the front gardens I pass as I'm walking around this town. I'm fascinated by other people's front gardens, as we've just had to reorganise ours. I guess your front garden says a lot about your attitude to gardening: unless, like ours, it is where the wheelie bin lives, in which case the logistics of weekly bin collections mean you decide to dispense with plants - thereby disguising the fact that you have a jungle out the back.

A few gardens I've met on my walks

The windowbox in the central part of a bay window of a tall Victorian terraced town house overlooking the railway line. A tightly-clipped square-topped miniature evergreen hedge, in a long windowbox, with magenta petunias with a dark eye spilling out in front. Just those two colours, green and magenta, and two forms, clipped formality and luxuriance. Suiting this street of very smart houses, built when the fashionable railway hit this part of town. Many of them, like the railway industry itself in these parts, a shadow of their former selves.


The street where the gardens are higher than the pavement, greeting you at almost head height, and walled in where they meet the street. Walking to my mother's, in April, past a scruffy, brown tumbledown garden, all grass and weeds. A flash of red, yellow and black rising from the apparent desolation, as a group of startled goldfinches fly up, twittering, from the thistle heads they were feasting on. Even the dead-looking gardens are full of life.


The 1940s semi-detached house with its small front garden full of shrubs. Neglect suits. A ceanothus, some choisya ternata, and other unnamed evergreens fight it out for space, but there is none left - the shrubs are enmeshed, neglected perhaps, but a fine verdant tapestry nonetheless. Underneath and amongst them, behind the low wall, I imagine wildlife in abundance, protected and undisturbed.


A tiny narrow forecourt, like mine, in front of another tall Victorian house. Under the bay window, the startling magenta of Lychnis coronaria perfect against the blue-grey of a mulch of slate chippings, glimpsed through black-painted railings.


More railings. The otherwise dull garden: mainly lawn, with clipped ivy up the housefront. Very tidy. At the pavement end of the lawn, a long narrow bed behind the railings each year sends wands of lavender flowers through the railings to the pavements beyond, so you brush against them as you pass. This garden shares itself with the street.


The townhouses just built around the corner, an exclusive development with pre-planted gardens, apparently to aid the busy new homeowner. Each tiny forecourt has a tiny lawn, and a tiny strip of grass divides each front door. I do hope they have some kind of on-site gardening warden, or will be advised to club together and buy a communal Flymo. Perhaps it is a clever ploy on the part of a lawnmower company, indeed. Astroturf may have been more practical.

Delphinium 'Summer Skies'