Garden Design For Beginners – My Victorian Garden

The Beginnings Of A Garden

Should your garden have a “Crime Scene – Do Not Enter!” Sign? Concrete pavers surrounded by weeds outside your bifold doors? Overgrown lawn beyond with the odd faded plastic child’s toy, a broken trampoline, or perhaps a slightly bent Swingball in the distance? A few dead plants in pots covered in algae and a slightly rusty BBQ that you think you might have used last summer? Any of this sound familiar? Fear not my friend! I’m here to rescue you from your garden nightmare. Over the next year or so, I’m going to be designing and creating my own garden. I’m going to start at the very beginning of garden design and show you everything I do and how you can do it too. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, or how big your garden is, this blog is for everyone.

View from a conservatory to a Victorian walled garden.
The garden at sunset.

The Basics Of Garden Design

Now, you’re not going to get all the answers today because, well, to be completely honest, I haven’t even started yet, but if you follow along on here and on my Instagram page: @jpslifeandloves then together we can start to create something beautiful that we can be proud of.

I’m going to tell you everything I know in the most basic of terms. I will bust that jargon and dispel those myths and help you feel that you can indeed design your own garden. I’ve designed many gardens over the years. I’m not a professional, I’ve just learned through trial and error over time. Not everything I do will be the “correct” way of doing things, but more, the way that it works for me.

Designing a garden can be a daunting task and, most of the time, people have absolutely no idea where to begin. More often than not, that results in a “rabbit in the headlights” moment where people subconsciously decide to leave it for another day. Of course, that day never comes and your outside space joins the multitude of dull, neglected, uninspiring spaces up and down the country.

Our Garden

Our new walled garden has Victorian origins and, indeed, some of the original planting is still there, albeit hidden by a mass of brambles and weeds! In the ‘90s the owners called upon a garden designer to help them and some of that work is still evident today, again under a blanket of overgrowth though.

When we first viewed the house and garden, my initial thoughts were first of pure joy at the idea of a walled garden. It’s many people’s dream, I know. Walking down the garden I became aware that there was no “journey”. I could see the length and breadth of the entire space from almost any angle. I’d say most people’s gardens are like this. Therefore, there is no reason to venture, to explore the space. Why would you? You can see all of it from the house. That is the first big mistake of all garden designs. If your garden doesn’t make you want to wander down it and spend time there, then why should anyone else want to bother?


That day on our first viewing, I turned to Mr C, my hubby, and said: “This garden needs to have diagonals!” He looked at me quizzically and said: “Like a chess board?” Well, sort of, but not quite. What I meant was that it is currently a very long rectangle that can be seen from all angles. It requires a design that uses diagonal markings and structures that obscure the view, that divert your eye, so that you can no longer see the garden in its entirety. That way, you will be encouraged to venture down its path to see what lies beyond.

The use of diagonals will be both two and three dimensional. Some will be on ground level, such as brick border edges and paths, some will be in the form of pergolas and hedging. I had this idea that through all of this you would be able to see a focal point in the distance, a sculpture maybe? That focal point would act as a point of interest that the garden adventurer would want to inspect at a closer distance. It would make them want to walk down the garden. At the same time, the 3D diagonals would hide surprises along the way – a white border, for example, or a place to sit and read.


One day, not long after we moved in, we heard a knock at the door. Two rosey cheeked, slightly buxom women were standing there, all smiles and apple pie bright eyes. They had found a wallet belonging to the previous owner’s son. We told them he didn’t live there anymore, but that we could take it and I would call them to let them know. They agreed and the wallet was safely given back to its owner.

In doing so, I spoke for the very first time to the people we bought our house from. He was extremely friendly and told me quite a bit of history about the house and garden. A few weeks later a brown paper folder appeared in our entrance porch. It was filled with drawings – garden designs for our walled garden. They had been done in the 1990s and, from first viewing, it was clear that some of the work had already been carried out.

It turns our that the garden designer the owners had instructed had come up with a design that would use diagonals! I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was like I was looking at my ideas for the garden drawn by someone else thirty years earlier. Was I a time traveller? Am I secretly the gardening equivalent of Dr Who? There’s a TV series idea for ya!

The ‘90s Garden Design

So, some of the design is a little bit “Ground Force” – if you remember that TV show? There’s a tad more than a soupçon of blue painted furniture and I swear I can see Charlie Dimmock’s ample bosom nestling underneath one of the shrub drawings! However, the basics are there and a lot of the ideas are good. There’s even a splash pool drawn in the exact place I would like to put ours – if Mr C allows it!

The use of diagonals is a little too simplistic for me. I want the lines to be blurred and softened by planting and perhaps be interrupted by diverting paths and borders. I’m so not sure how it’s all going to pan out, but that’s the joy of it, isn’t it? We can all work things out together as we go along. I have to admit though, it’s great to get a head start with these drawings. I will be using them as the basis for my design. Soon, I will be measuring the garden boundaries and drawing it up on paper. When I do this I will show you. After that, I’ll be starting the design process itself and I can’t wait to take you on the journey with me.

JP Clark signature

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  1. November 7, 2021 / 7:48 am

    That first paragraph made me laugh out loud! That is my garden 😂😂 so excited that you’re sharing your journey with us. Hopefully it will inspire me with mine.

    • JP Clark
      November 7, 2021 / 1:03 pm

      Laughing right now! Should be good fun working on our designs together Rach. Xx

  2. Monica
    November 7, 2021 / 7:49 am

    What a stroke of luck to get the drawings as a starting point. I do so enjoy your descriptions of people, really brings them to life, exactly what you will do with the garden.

    • JP Clark
      November 7, 2021 / 1:02 pm

      I know! Amazing! Thank you darling x

  3. Tigtail
    November 7, 2021 / 9:49 am

    Love, love, love ‘My Victorian Garden’ first blog post.
    I can feel that I’m already going to be obsessed with the ‘how to’s’ and progress of it all.
    Absolutely brilliant JP!

    • JP Clark
      November 7, 2021 / 1:01 pm

      You are so kind! Hope it helps. Xx

  4. Helen
    November 7, 2021 / 10:00 am

    Can’t wait to follow along your garden path JP! Such fun to read too xxx

    • JP Clark
      November 7, 2021 / 1:01 pm

      That’s so kind of you thank you xx

  5. Anne
    November 7, 2021 / 10:20 am

    Fantastic article. I know absolutely nothing about gardening so really looking forward to seeing your design and journey.

    • JP Clark
      November 7, 2021 / 1:01 pm

      Oh I really hope it helps and thank you xx

  6. Chriss
    November 7, 2021 / 11:01 am

    This is going to be good…
    Can’t wait!💚💚💚😘

    • JP Clark
      November 7, 2021 / 1:00 pm

      Should be lots of fun xx

  7. Vickey (Flossey56)
    November 7, 2021 / 11:03 am

    Great post and glad you managed to finish it in time! Can’t wait to follow along with your garden journey and how wonderful they left the original plans for you to peruse over.
    Thanks for writing this JP.

    • JP Clark
      November 7, 2021 / 1:00 pm

      Thank you so much Vickey xx

  8. Julia
    November 7, 2021 / 11:58 am

    Oh thank you! I am one if those rabbits frozen between the need/desire for a complete overhaul of our back garden, and my own complete lack of knowledge & experience. This series will be a huge help for me. Between you & @anyathegardenfairy, I have found exactly the inspiration & encouragement I need. Now … if only there was a shop selling boxes of free time to actually do what must be done.

    • JP Clark
      November 7, 2021 / 1:00 pm

      Wouldn’t that be great! We could all use some more free time!

  9. F Olla
    November 7, 2021 / 1:01 pm

    Every day’s a school day when it comes to gardening! I’ll be following with interest as I help my brother lay out his new garden in the coming months. Somewhat colder location but same approach to getting the bones of it right. Look forward to picking up top tips to make it stylish too!

  10. November 7, 2021 / 2:40 pm

    Oh JP I do love seeing your posts and stories on insta!! You are a lovely chap and make me laugh out loud!!! Loved the £1.72 story!!! Loved the first instalment of your garden adventure!!! Will be following this for sure as I’m in the process of buying a cottage with a large garden which I want to redesign (I’d like lots of zoned areas) so need some inspo!!! Thanks for making me and alot of others I’m sure smile 😃 keep doing what you do!!! Fabulous dahling 🙏😍🌞

    • JP Clark
      November 14, 2021 / 10:56 am

      Thank you that’s so so kind xx

  11. November 7, 2021 / 9:38 pm

    My husband now thinks you’re BRILLIANT, as he is always saying the same thing about some mystery and making you want to see whats next and explore! Looking forward to more of this series (as well as seeing Victorian Dream done up for Christmas)

    • JP Clark
      November 14, 2021 / 10:56 am

      Oh that’s wonderful. Well, teak your hubby for me.

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