How To Design A Garden

How To Design A Garden

Winter is the best time to start preparing a re-design of your garden. By planning early you have a better chance of booking a garden designer and contractors if required. Additionally you will have time to organise your planting schedule.

Do you need a garden designer?

We recommend employing one if you have a large area to renovate or if you have very limited experience of gardening. Also if you have a complicated garden design in mind or would like a large variety of plants, a garden designer can take a lot of the stress out of the experience. They will understand all the seasonal aspects in the design of a garden. Additionally they should be able to recommend reliable contractors to carry out the work if necessary.

Employing a landscape designer will increase the cost of your garden design because of the expertise they provide. We suggest searching for a local designer first as this will keep travel costs lower. Furthermore ask to see their portfolio and if possible talk to a previous client.

If you’re looking to create a lower budget DIY project or garden makeover then take a look at our top tips for how to design a garden.

Where to start?

If you are planning to design a garden, the best advice we can give is to think of what you like doing best in your space and concentrate your scheme around that. This could be anything from somewhere to grow fruit and vegetables to an area to sit and relax.

This doesn’t mean that has to be the sole focus, but it is good to decide what the majority of your space should be allocated to. You can then work out what other elements you would like to feature in your garden design.

White Cobbles in a Mediterranean Style Courtyard Garden
White Cobbles in a Mediterranean Style Courtyard Garden

Set a Budget

The first thing we suggest doing is setting a budget. You need to have at least a rough idea of how much you are willing to spend. It may be that you can’t afford to do everything straight away. In which case you could prioritise changing the areas that you think will be used the most, or perhaps the area that looks the worst.

Get Inspired

Once you know the focus of your garden design there are countless sources for inspiration. Online is a good place to start with sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Houzz.

Magazines are also a great resource and titles such as Modern Garden feature gardens created by their readers. Therefore you can see what is achievable when you are creating your own.

We also suggest visiting parks and gardens as it can help to see how things might look in real life. Remember to take a camera so you can record the things you like.

Park with a wooden bridge running over a stream. Lots of trees.

All of these sources can help you design a garden. They can shape your garden design in terms of colour, style and accessories.

Decide on a colour scheme

From your research and the images you like, there should hopefully be an emerging colour scheme. By now you should know if you favour cool contemporary tones or bold and bright colours.

Additionally if your garden is designed to be an outside room and therefore an extension of your house, you may want to replicate colours you have used interiorly.

Knowing the colours you want to use will make it much easier when deciding on the hard and soft landscaping.

Sketch your garden

Creating a plan of your garden (complete with measurements) will aid in allocating space to each area. It will also help to visualise how the garden will look and you can check everything will fit.

Scetched drawing of garden.

Mark on your plan which parts of your garden receive the most sunlight as an area for seating or a vegetable patch should be located there. Also be sure to mark any areas that are lower and might flood.

Furthermore you should note any man holes or where the drains are. Ideally you want water to run off in the direction of the drain, especially if you are planning a patio. Finally mark anything you would like to keep such as trees and features.

Attractive seating area in a garden with cream paths made from limestone gravel

When considering how to design a garden, you will need to think of solutions to problems. Such as turning a low area that floods into a pond. Or choosing light coloured stones to brighten dark and shady spots.

If you have a very sloped area, you could create different levels in your garden, or use a gravel grid to keep your gravel in place.

If you are planning to dig down deep, check the location of any underground pipes or cables. You can rent a CAT (cable avoidance tool) to assist in this and ensure these are also indicated on your garden design.

Planning your planting

Checking the type of soil you have is vital before you start thinking about growing anything in your garden. Some plants survive better in ericaceous soil (acidic) while others prefer lime (alkaline) soil. There are various different kits you can use to test the soil in your garden.

You could also talk to neighbours about what plants they have found grow well in your area.

However if your soil isn’t suited to what you want to grow there is always the option of using pots and tubs filled with topsoil. Alternatively you can add compost, topsoil or organic material to the earth to improve the quality.

Trowel with soil on and a small pot to the side.

You could also create raised beds and fill these with topsoil and compost. All planting is seasonal so the sooner you decide what you would like in the garden the better. You can then create a planting schedule so you know what needs to be planted throughout the year.

Turf is a great solution if you want an instant lawn. You do still have to prepare the ground but is ideal for situations where you can’t keep off a lawn for the two or three weeks you need with seeds.

Choosing your hardscape materials

Gravel or paving are both great low maintenance solutions. There are so many colour options for both of these products that you will find something to fit your colour scheme.

You can also enhance graveled areas with other decorative aggregates such as pebbles, cobbles or boulders to height and interest to your space.

You could use a feature stone or monolith to create a focal point in your garden. A water feature will also draw the eye and can bring a soothing and calming atmosphere to your space.

Blue/ grey gravelled path with a grey boulder to the side. Pink and purple flowers line the path.
Feature Boulder

A couple of things to note if you are using gravel. Hard wearing chippings such as basalt, granite, flint or quartz are more suitable for use in areas that will be driven over or that receive high volumes of foot traffic. These products also take longer to discolour so are better for use in damper areas too.

Paving or decking work well under seating areas and both are easy to clean with a power hose if there are any spills! If you want to design a garden with ultimate low maintenance, then we recommend porcelain. It can be quite expensive but it is an absolute dream all year round.

Pale porcelain tile with Scottish Pebbles in a split level garden.
Porcelain Paving with Scottish Pebbles

If you want a seating area, again there are a huge range of colours and styles available. Choose something that compliments your colour scheme and fits your space.

Design a garden with lights

Outside lights are a great way to ensure your flower beds or focal points are lit beautifully at night. Lights can also help you to enjoy your outside space even when the sun has gone down.

Whether the lights are required to be subtle and ensure key areas are well lit, or are a focal point in themselves. There are such a huge range of lighting styles and colours available you will be spoilt for choice. We recommend choosing solar powered lights as these don’t require an electricity source so are much easier to place.

Starting your garden

Once you have the plan for your garden and have sourced all the materials then it is time to bring your design to life.

You may want to do everything yourself or hire contractors, either way check with your local Council Planning Department that there are no restrictions on altering your garden.

If you have the space we would suggest ensuring all the main materials are onsite and ready for the start of your project. Especially if you are using contractors as the last thing you want is people onsite with nothing to do.

However if you don’t have storage room we would always recommend ordering materials to arrive the day before they are required in case of any delivery delays.

Bulk Bag being delivered by Hiab.
Bulk Bag being delivered

Also any work that involves moving or installing gas, electricity or water pipes must be carried out by a professional.

The main thing is to enjoy your garden makeover! It may seem like hard work at times but hopefully the pride you feel in completion will make it worth all the effort. Furthermore you will have your dream garden, or at least a garden that makes the most of the space you have and is better than your old garden….

We hope you have enjoyed reading our, how to design a garden blog and we wish you good luck!

Our video below features tips on doing your own DIY Garden Makeover and Design.

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