How To Design Your Own Garden – Stage 4

Lordy! How many stages are there? Well, I did say I wanted to give you a bit more of an in-depth guide. I know we’re all used to 15 second sound bites now, but sometimes it’s important to give all the info you can. I hope it’s helping. Soon, I’ll be changing direction on these posts and starting to design my garden at the same time. The idea is that, with this knowledge, you can then design your own garden with me.

Sunset in a Victorian walled garden.
Our garden before the storm at sunset. The Mimosa to the right is now half the size!

So, what’s next? Well, now it’s time to start thinking about what your garden is for and what you want to have in it. it sounds obvious, but making a clear wish list can make or break a garden.

What is your garden for?

This is so important to know as it will determine the design. Do you have children and do they like to kick a ball about? If that’s the case, then a formal space with beautiful pavers and topiary balls is not going to work for you. Make a list of your family’s needs and wishes, such as:

  1. Grass lawn
  2. Play Area
  3. Intimate quiet spaces
  4. Lots of colour
  5. Structure and formal clean lines
  6. A shed
  7. Veg patch
  8. A wild garden
  9. Accessibility
  10. Easy maintenance
  11. A greenhouse
  12. Privacy
  13. Pizza Oven
  14. Entertaining space

Your wish list

Once you’ve got your list then you can start to narrow it down. It will be very difficult to incorporate all your needs and wishes. When you have your final list then you can start to look at garden styles that suit your needs. Your needs may very possibly determine the style you go for too. If a child’s play area close to the house is at the top of your list, then it’s highly likely that you won’t be having a formal symmetrical garden with York stone paving and perfectly clipped Box balls.

However, if you don’t mind the play area at the far end of the garden, then it may be possible to incorporate your chosen formal style by dividing the spaces with vertical structures and planting. You may not quite achieve unity within the whole garden, but you will have made everyone happy and that’s a form of unity in itself. 

Our first garden wish list

For our first garden in London we knew we wanted a summer house and that it would take up quite a lot of space. We also knew we wanted an entertainment area next to the house as we often had friends around. So, that was two areas taken up already. That left an area in the middle. Mr C wanted a pond and I wanted herbaceous borders with cottage garden planting. I set about drawing the design. You don’t need to be an artist or a designer for that matter. The drawing is just for your benefit to illustrate what’s in your mind. Mr C and I often do a drawing each to see how different the pictures in our head are. Usually, there is a lot of common ground and you never know, you may even give each other ideas that you like and hadn’t thought of. 

Research the style you’ve chosen

Back when we did our first garden the internet was only on something called Dial-up – all you lovely younger folk won’t know what that was, but let’s just say it was extraordinarily slow and you could hear the internet whirling into action at a snails pace on the telephone line! Research took days, nay weeks!

Luckily, things are much improved for most now and there is a veritable cornucopia of resources available to you. Pinterest has to be one of the best for research. Just type in anything you like and a million images will appear as if by magic! There are many accounts that actually have gardens designs there for the taking. 

My account on Pinterest: jpslifeandloves, has quite a few boards specifically for gardens. Feel free to pop over and take a look. Instagram, of course, is another great resource. The explore page is invaluable. Most of the time though, I simply check out google and click on images to find what I need.

Don’t forget the value of books too. Here’s a few of my favourites:

The Garden Designer – Robin Williams for the RHS. 

The Small Garden Handbook – Andrew Wilson for the RHS. 

The Small Garden – C.E. Lucas Phillips. 

Small Garden Design – Paul Bangay 

How to be a Gardener – Alan Tichmarsh

The Layered Garden – David L. Culp 

Use all your surfaces!

When you design a room you don’t just think about the floor surface, you use the walls and even sometimes the ceiling! You hang artwork, shelving, create gallery walls. You think about colour and texture, layering and contrast. The same goes for your garden. Don’t just design horizontally, think vertically! All of your boundary walls can be used to create beauty. Fences can be painted any colour you like, hang outdoor artwork – why not? Think about hanging baskets, living walls, trellising, screens, arbors, archways, pergolas and raised beds clad in crisp white render, or panelling, if that floats your boat. 

Your garden doesn’t have to be on one level either, there is no reason why you can’t add in a stepped up area to create a different zone. It’s a really great way to create different rooms within your garden. The kids may have a play zone, but that’s no reason why you can’t have one of your own. Raise it up to separate it and mark your territory!

Stage 5 will be published next week. I’ll be talking about planting, border design, hard landscaping and some top tips to take some of the hassle out of the design process. Thanks for reading and if you want to get going on your research for your garden then check out my channels:

Pinterest: jpslifeandloves

Instagram: @jpslifeandloves

Missed the last stage? Here it is: How to design a garden – stage 3.

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