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How to design my own garden

FAQ How to Design my own Garden?

Designing your own garden can be a fun and rewarding experience.  If you’ve ever asked yourself  “how to design my own garden?” this article may help!   Whether you have a large or small outdoor space, there are a few key steps you can follow to create a beautiful and functional garden that you can enjoy for years to come.

The Room Outside

Think of your garden, as an extension of your home. An outdoor room as it were. The principles are very similar to designing the interior of your house, and importantly, the two have to work together. Designing a garden, at its most basic is solving logistical problems with the style being dictated by the site in which the house sits. It is the relationship between the house and its setting that should pervade all aspects of the design. This might sound a little daunting, 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.


How to design my own garden| Step 1: Assess your space


Make a full assessment of your garden. What do you want to keep/loose? Then write it down.

Use this list as a starting point:

  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. What sort of plants do you NOT like?
  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 ?
  9. You’ll also want to consider the amount of sunlight and shade the area receives throughout the day, as this will affect which plants will thrive in your garden.

How to design my own garden|Step 2: Getting Inspiration

Once you have made your list on how you want to use your garden and who you are designing it for, it’s time to get some practical ideas. There are several ways to get inspiration:

1. The Internet. There are many sites dedicated to getting garden design ideas. Two of the best are Pinterest and Houzz We’ve put together a special ‘transformation’ page on our website where you can some of the amazing changes that we’ve made to other people’s gardens.

2. Magazines, catalogues , books and the TV are all a great source of inspiration. Gardens Illustrated is one of the most attractive magazines. You can glean insights into some of the top gardens in the country from the comfort of your own sofa.

4. Go and visit some gardens. Friends and neighbours are often pleased to show off their horticultural delights and thousand of private gardens are opened every year under the National Garden Scheme . Look for gardens that are open to the public in your area and pinch some ideas. If you love tulips, the gardens at Keukenhof in The Netherlands are amazing. No wonder it is said to be the most photographed garden in the world!

5.Go to a garden show, it doesn’t have to be Chelsea (although that’s a good starting point!) there are lots of local garden shows in summer months that make a lovely day out.

Step 3: Create a plan

With your space and goals in mind, it’s time to create a plan for your garden. This can be a simple sketch or a more detailed design, depending on the size and complexity of your garden. Start by identifying the key features you want to include, such as paths, seating areas, and planting beds. From there, you can start to fill in the details, such as which plants you want to include and where they will be located.

1. You can find the outline of your property and garden on Find This is enormously helpful for seeing the orientation of your garden and you can get measurements from it. Google maps is also a useful tool.


2. Once you have the rough outline of your garden on paper, it’s time to don those wellies and get out there to take measurements using a long tape measure.

3. Begin by measuring the width of your house, making a note of any windows and doors.

4. Measure the boundaries, both the width and the length and then at an angle of 90 degrees from each side (i.e. diagonally across.)

5. Make a note of any permanent features, such as trees and measure their distance from each other and the house or boundary. You may have to take a few measurements to check these.

How to design my own garden| Step 4: Begin to draw up your plan

1. Back to the drawing board. The next stage is to make an accurate scaled plan of your garden. Use a scale of 1:50 (one unit of measurement on paper for every 50 in the garden) or whatever fits onto your paper. If you’re drawing by hand, use graph paper, CAD packages come with in built scales.


2. Make a note of where north is. If you use a mapping service, such as Find Maps, that will give you the orientation. Most smart phones have a compass, which is a useful check. The reason this is so important is that south- facing boundaries have the most sun and north facing the least. There’s no point in designing a lovely decking area that gets no sun. Later on in the design process this will affect the plants you choose.

3. Draw up the outline of your garden onto your paper or computer placing on it all the features that are going to stay. This may include a large tree in your neighbours’ garden, for example, show it and how it overlaps into your garden.

4. Make a note of any changes in level, most gardens are on some sort of slope, this can be significant.

How to design my own garden|Step 5: Drawing out your Ideas

1. Now that you have your list of ‘wants’ and the outline of your garden, you can start to design it. If you are using paper, put tracing paper over the top of the outline plan and draw on the key features. With CAD drawings, you will be using ‘layers’, whichever method you use, start to draw in the key features for your garden.

2. The first things to draw on are the ‘must haves’ drawn in to scale. These could include the garden shed, children’s play equipment, vegetable beds, a water feature. A note on sheds…a common mistake is to put them at the bottom of the garden, thus creating a focal point of the garden shed. Unless it’s a very attractive building this is not ideal. Try and think of another place for it in the garden, preferably to one side. If this is not possible, then design a trellis with climbers in front to disguise it.

3. Next, consider the hard landscaping. This is usually a patio area for seating. Decide how many people are likely to use the space for outdoor eating and entertaining and allow enough room for everyone, including a table. If you haven’t already got an outdoor table, this is a good opportunity to design in the correct size and draw it in. The usual place to choose for seating is outside the back of the house. However, if that area is north-facing it’s unlikely to get much sun. Consider putting your main seating area in a west-facing position to catch the last rays of evening sunshine.

4. Once you have decided on the basic design concepts, the next stage is to refine your sketch into a workable garden design. Rough shapes will now become accurately planned areas so some adaptation is inevitable. So long as you are working on tracing paper or on a CAD drawing you can make as many revisions to your plan as you wish. Keep changing it until you have the design that will work for you.

5.  If you are good at drawing, you may wish to do some sketches of the proposed areas so when you share your ideas with other they can envisage what you are proposing. Sketchup, or other drawing packages can help a lot with this. This is an example of a garden outline we’ve done using Sketchup:

And here’s one by hand:

6. Try to achieve balance in your design. Avoid cluttering up some areas and leaving others looking empty.

7. Paths are important in any garden, for practical reasons and to lead the eye around the space, it’s always good to take a journey around and through a garden.

how to design my own garden

How to design my own garden|Step 6: Choose your plants

Choosing the right plants for your garden is key to its success. Consider the climate in your area, as well as the amount of sunlight and shade your garden receives throughout the day. You’ll also want to consider the type of soil you have and whether it’s well-draining or waterlogged. Choose plants that are suited to your garden’s conditions and that will meet your goals, whether that’s providing shade, attracting pollinators, or adding colour and texture.

The plants that you choose to some extent will be determined by your style of house and character of the garden, for example do you like a minimalist, contemporary style?

How to design my own garden

Or, do you like a traditional cottage garden? For more ideas on cottage gardens with a modern twist read our article HERE.

how to design my own garden

1. 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. The soil pH is a number that describes how acid or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0 and above 7.0 the soil is alkaline. You can check the PH of you soil using a home testing kit widely available from garden centres. Some plants, such as Azaleas and Rhododendrons require an acid soil to thrive. If you haven’t got acid soil and particularly like a specific plants that needs it, grow it in a pot or raised bed using ericaceous compost.

2. The quality of your soil will also affect your choice of plants. Many plants will not grow in wet, heavy soil for example. If you have a new garden or a neglected one the quality of your soil may not allow your new plants to thrive, so it’s very important to improve the soil before planting anything. There are some excellent ideas on soil improvement on the Royal Horticultural Society’s website.

How to design my own garden|Step 7: Drawing your Planting Plan

1. To begin, use plants that you are familiar with, look them up online or go to a garden centre to see the type of thing that appeals to you – at this stage do not be tempted to buy anything. It’s much better to create a ‘shopping list’ first to ensure that you have the correct range and balance of plants.

2. You need to consider all year round, not just at the time of buying. There should always be something of interest to see in a garden not matter what the time of year so choose various plants for various seasons.

3. First decide what your key plants are going to be. These could be trees or large shrubs as focal points.

4. Next think about evergreen structure planting, which could be for screening or providing shelter. Make sure that you allow enough space for them to grow, always look at the eventual spread and plan for that.

5. Bear in mind the style that you want to create, decorative infills come in useful here. An informal  scheme may have various colours, whereas a contemporary look will be more minimalist. You might want to create a ‘Mood Board’ to reflect your own personal taste… collect ideas from various places. how to design my own garden

How to design a garden from scratch

Create a ‘Mood Board’ to reflect your personal taste

6. When deciding what plants to use, try to tailor them 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. If you have the space in your garden, try creating different areas each with its own colour theme. If space is at a premium and you want all year interest, use container plantings for your main source of summer colour.

Great Dixter


Great Dixter in Kent is an example of a garden filled with a riot of colours. In theory, reds, pinks and yellows clash, although with the introduction of the white phlox and
cream grasses, the whole scene becomes a harmonious whole. A ‘hot’ border scheme such as this requires full sun for a stunning display.



The famous white garden at Sissinghurst is a wonderful example of the use of grey, silver and white plants to create a light almost ethereal atmosphere. Grey and siver foliage plants usually prefer a hot, sunny position and dry soil. It is important to give plants the right conditions for them to thrive.

Step 8: Finalising Your PlansHow to design my own garden

1.Once you have decided the plants that you like and the approximate position you want them to take up in your garden, you can draw up your planting plan.

2. The planting plan should show every plant in its correct place and at the correct spread (i.e. the final size it will grow.) This will help you avoid a very common mistake, which is to cram too many plants into a space. This not only wastes money but will lead in the future to you having to move plants that have outgrown their allotted position.

How to design my own garden

3. It’s 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!

4. Once you have decided what plants to use and where they are going , make a list of them all and their quantities. It give a more pleasing effect if you plant in odd numbers, so 1,3,5,7 etc. should be used as a group. You should now have your shopping list to take to the garden centre for pricing!

Step 9 in the how to design my own garden question – finishing touches 🙂

By the time you have your overall plan, mood board and list of plants the are a few final decisions to be made.

1. Check the exact dimensions of any hard landscaping areas. For example what is the length or breadth of your patio area or width of you path/s?

3. Place another layer of tracing paper, lay it on top of your plan and work out the sizes of each significant area – the lawn for example.

4. At this stage you need to make a final decision about the hard landscaping materials. There are so many choices of paving it’s best to go and see examples ‘on the ground’. Local builders merchants or DYI stores are excellent sources of information.

5. The time to decide if you want to light the garden is before the work begins. It is much easier to plan it in before work begins than after.Lights

6. If you don’t have time for watering new plants consider installing an irrigation system. This can easily be installed. We often use a ‘leaky hosepipe’ system like the one below.

If maintenance is a real issue for you, use a weed suppressing membrane topped up with a thick layer of bark or gravel mulch. This also helps conserve water.



Once you’ve chosen your plants and installed any hardscaping or other features, it’s time to add the finishing touches to your garden. This can include decorative elements like statues, fountains, or lighting, as well as practical features like irrigation systems or compost bins. Take your time with this step to ensure that your garden feels complete and cohesive.

Step 10: Costs

Two of the commonest questions we are asked about making changes in a garden is “How to design my own garden” and then “How much will it cost?” To answer that question we’ve put together a website page with examples of gardens we have done and approximate costs.

If you are considering doing the landscaping work yourself, decide what your priorities are and start with that area. How to design my own garden

Some jobs must be done by professionals. If there are significant level changes to be made, consult a specialist before tackling the job. We’ve seen a lot of disastrous DIY mistakes that have worked very costly to put right.

If you want a completely free, no obligation quotation for your landscaping work, and you live in an area we cover, please let us know! We’d be more than happy to help.

How to design my own garden

When thinking about how to design my own garden please don’t dig yourself into a hole…ask for help!

Designing your own garden can be a fun and rewarding project that allows you to create a space that reflects your personality and meets your needs. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a beautiful and functional garden that you can enjoy for years to come.

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