Eco parking an electric car in Acton

Cover image

The permeable driveway they created has a lot of plants, plus pea shingle that is durable and lets rainfall percolate through. It's a design that can be widely adopted.

Juliet writes:

Our front garden full of roses was a source of great joy to us, so when we got our electric car, I was pretty upset that the flowers would have to go simply because the car had to be charged. We’ve always been against block paving, as it is not nice if used in excessive quantity and causes ecological problems.

a front garden with flowers, a wall and a path to the door
The original front garden, complete with roses and brick wall (photo: Juliet McDonald)

In fact, when we bought the house, it originally had a concrete slab driveway, which we spent a considerable sum taking out.

Several years on, I phoned up the contractors we’d used to break up that concrete to say “You know the front garden you helped us create, well it’s coming out”.

My husband and I did a lot of research into a solution. We found technical advice in Guidance on Permeable Surfacing of Front Gardens, a document on our local council’s (Ealing) website. Our aim was to keep as many of the existing features as we could including our evergreen shrubs Choisya ternata, Nandina and Japanese quince. The Photinia ‘Red Robin’ hedge was retained as well as some Spanish porcelain tiles.

It was fortunate we had in mind that our garden might be needed for a car at a future date, so we’d designed the space to be easily updated. To create an eco drive, we would need to remove planting in the central area, dig up the soil, add shingled strips for the car’s tyres, cut back the brick wall, resize an iron railing and fix a new pillar.

a diagram of a front garden redesign
Juliet and Neal's plan for a new front garden with parking for their electric car

We repurposed plants by giving them to neighbours and rose bushes were moved to a community garden. It was hard work transplanting so many well-established shrubs, but by the time the contractor came a 2m by 6m section had been cleared.

The contractors interpreted our design very well. They brought in machinery to remove soil, filled the space with Type 1 crushed stone, where the wheels of the vehicle would go, compacted it and overlaid each 600mm-wide area with strong plastic mesh. These strips were edged with mortar otherwise the surface would not have supported the car.

Front garden with plants dug out and parking surface being created
The new parking surface being prepared (photo: Juliet McDonald)
A front garden being prepared to support a parked electric car
The porous plastic mesh in place (photo: Juliet McDonald)

Once this had set, pea shingles were poured over, creating a natural, permeable surface.

We also applied to Ealing Council for a vehicle crossover to the road. We’d found out that a dropped kerb is only granted by the council when a driveway is finished and meets criteria for drainage. With so little hardstanding, we had no worries about flooding.

a car parked in a front garden on a newly-created porous surface
With the kerb drop in place, the couple's electric car parked ready for charging (photo: Juliet McDonald)

The council also required us to have a row of bricks between our drive and the pavement, with a lip of about 50mm high, to prevent gravel spilling over, causing a trip hazard for passers-by.

We planted up the large central section of the driveway, choosing low-growing varieties of succulents, mostly sedums.

a woman putting plants in a front garden
Juliet planting up between the parking area with low-growing sedums and succulents (photo: Neal McDonald)
A person planting between two parking strips in a front garden
Neal adding low-growing plants between the parking strips (photo: Juliet McDonald)

In the spring we had anemones poking out everywhere, which toned with the purple blue muscari and pink tulips in the lefthand border. In the future we will have seasonal planting; tulips in spring and dahlias in summer. The evergreen shrubs provide greenery all year round.

It has been a delight to open the shutters each morning to see birds flitting about on our driveway including robins, sparrows and wagtails. We often see bees buzzing about, too. Most importantly, we feel a sense of calm looking at it, which we wouldn’t have got with hard surfacing.

Spring bulbs flowering next to the parking surface in a front garden
Bulbs flowering the following spring, next to the parking surface (photo: Juliet McDonald)