Garden inspiration

Designing a garden

How to Design a Garden from Scratch

Practical Tips on how to Design a Garden

It might sound a little daunting to design a garden from scratch. Perhaps your garden is overgrown and wild, a blank canvas and uninspired or designed for another purpose and you’d rather use it in a different way. It could be the children have left home, the trampoline dismantled, and it’s time to take back control or you may have your first garden and don’t know where to start. Whatever the current state of your garden, with a bit of inspiration, thought and planning, it can be transformed into your ideal outdoor space.


The first thing to do when designing your own garden is decide what it is you want. Begin by making a full assessment of your garden. What do you want to keep or lose?

Planning a garden

Use this list as a starting point to help you decide what you need from your outdoor space:


  1. Who is going to use the garden? Children/ pets/ elderly/ disabled? It’s important to consider everyone, even the wildlife, for example , do you want to attract birds and into the garden?
  2. Are there any good aspects to your garden? Usual examples are trees/ a view/ privacy/ hedges/ some of the planting. What sort of boundaries do you like, fencing or hedging?
  3. What it is you would like to change or improve? Usual examples are screening/ better lawns/ nicer planting/ more all year round interest.
  4. Do you want a water feature or garden building, greenhouse, sculpture?
  5. How much time do you have for gardening? You may need to consider low maintenance plants and an irrigation system if your time is limited.
  6. What sort of plants do you like? Usual examples are plants for scent/cottage planting/formal hedges/evergreen shrub borders.7
  7. Practical considerations, e.g. parking, access to the garage, routes to the house , storage, a compost bin. Do you need a windbreak or screening?
  8. Seating area/s. How many people will use the terrace? Do you want a barbecue? Do you want to sit in the sun or shade? What sort of material do you like? Does it link to the house? Do you need lighting for the seating or other areas of the garden?

Once you have made your list on how you want to use your garden, it’s time to decide on the style of your garden. To some extent, the style of your house will determine the style of your garden. If you’re lucky enough to own a thatched cottage, a more relaxed informal style is probably appropriate. The opposite applies to a very modern property, where a contemporary style is much more in keeping.

Contemporary Garden Design


Contemporary garden design

The classic cottage garden with roses climbing around the door and relaxed style is quite tricky to achieve effectively. Too often gardens turn into a hotchpotch of planting. The true cottage style is a combination of the shapes, textures and colours of the building materials and the softer tones of the planting to give a harmonious look and feel. Local stone and plants are usually the best combinations.

Cottage Garden Design

A cottage garden

Every architectural style can be mimicked in some way in the garden, for example in the colour of the stone, cement or brick. The choice of containers, and furniture can be an extension of that style, as can the plants. A bold, modern property will suit a minimalist style of planting, with just a few, carefully chosen architectural specimen shrubs or trees.

The amount of time you want to spend gardening is an important factor to consider when planning. Formal layouts with neatly clipped hedging will take time to maintain. For an easy care garden, think about what you can do without. Is a lawn absolutely necessary? Perhaps you can forgo the vegetable patch? Cover as much bare earth as possible with ground cover plants or mulch with bark or gravel to reduce the weeds.

Topiary in the garden

Before you decide on the plants you want to include in your garden, you need to know whether the soil is acid or alkaline, as different plants thrive in different soils. Soil testing kits are easily available online or in garden centres. It is best  to tailor plants so the colours blend harmoniously. Bear in mind the extent to which each plant will grow and how this will affect the distribution of colour in your scheme. It is critical to ensure that you know how much sun each area of your garden will receive. Some plants require full sun, others a shady spot. Look up their requirements BEFORE making any final decisions. At this planning stage anything can be changed. It is much more difficult once plants are in the ground.


Think of your garden, as an extension of your home. The principles are very similar to designing the interior of your house and the most important thing you have to do is simply to enjoy using your outdoor ‘room!’

The morning sun

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