Top Tips on Planning How to Design your Garden from Scratch

When it comes to starting a new garden or renovating an existing one, there are a few important things to consider. First and foremost, it's important to take some time to study the garden and identify key elements including:

  • Where the sun is positioned at various times of the day? It’s especially important to note where there is a patch of morning sun as this is a lovely place to enjoy breakfast on a summer’s morning.  Where the sun sets is also important as it means you can enjoy the last of the sun’s rays in an evening after work. Bear in mind that this will change throughout the year as the sun will be on a lower axis during the winter months, but on the whole, you will mostly spend the sunnier months outside. 


  • Are there any exposed areas that would be prone to being draughty? Although it’s nice to have a gentle breeze, it’s not so attractive being in a windy location when the wind is blowing from an easterly direction as this can be a bit chilly. Use a compass if you possibly can as this will provide confirmation of the wind direction, however due to the contours of your house and other obstacles in the way, the wind may be funnelled through to other areas, so try to assess this over a period of time. As a rough guide, colder wind tends to come from the east and wet and windy weather arrives from the south-west. 


  • What are the good and bad features with the view beyond your garden? Consider if you can see an attractive tree, architecturally interesting building or open fields beyond your boundary. With a nice feature you can ‘borrow’ this and make it a focal point in your own garden by drawing the eye towards it. If you have more unsightly views, you will want to try and deflect the eye away from these. Also consider noise distractions and whether you would rather spend your time enjoying your garden from a different position to avoid this. 


  • What do you mostly want to use your garden for? If you often have friends and family round, you will need space to sit and entertain outside. If you have children or pets, you will need to accommodate their needs. It may be that you also want to grow your own fruit and vegetables and as these areas are not always attractive, it may be best to make a specific area for these that is screened from the reminder of the garden.


  • What are your time constraints and physical ability? A garden full of plants looks beautiful when well maintained, but it is quite labour intensive to care for. There are short-cuts that may be used to help keep a garden looking its best, but bear in mind that a certain amount of after care will still be needed. If you have a physical disability, this may be even harder to manage, but again, this can be helped by using raised beds for example and easy to navigate pathways.


Once you have taken all the above into consideration, it’s then time to start plotting. 

Make a scale plan of your garden on paper. Using a scale ruler makes this easier. For existing features such as trees, measure the distance to the tree from two fixed points and then position it on your plan where the measurements cross. This is known as triangulation.This technique is known as triangulation and can also be used to plot the corners of the garden, which may not always be as square as they initially appear.

For curved features, for example a pond or wall, use a fixed point such as the wall of your house that is running parallel to the feature and then take a measurement between the two at fixed intervals such as every metre and correspond this to the feature and metre intervals, the same. When you plot this on paper, the feature will magically appear in the correct position. 

When designing the garden, it's important to take into account the style of the home. For example, if the home has modern and contemporary features, the garden design should remain in keeping with this style. If the home has curved features, fluid lines should be included in the garden design. If there is no obvious trend toward a particular style, it's best to design the garden according to personal tastes. It's also important to follow interior design style and color themes when choosing a planting color scheme for the garden.

Start designing, taking into account your list of prerequisites from the initial assessment such as where to position seating areas and what views you can borrow from beyond your boundary. Then take into account your home. 

By working from a scale drawing along with a scale ruler, it’s easy to design features using the correct dimensions. For example, ensure a paved area is large enough to accommodate patio furniture. If you plan to spend your garden entertaining, ensure your patio furniture set is large enough to cater for your guests. Pathways should be around 80cm wide as a minimum and use these to navigate around your garden. Plan areas for different times of day to follow the sunlight and if you like shade, then make sure you accommodate a seating area for this too. 

Try to provide balance and proportion, so for example, ensure you have a balanced amount of lawn in the garden and your patio is proportionate to the overall size of the garden. Consider adding height using pergolas, arbour seats or arches to create vertical interest as well as lower level features. When choosing materials for the garden, it's best to use no more than three types to avoid overcomplicating the look. For example, wood, glass, and metal or slate, stainless steel, and painted timber can be combined to create a cohesive look throughout the garden. Use a planting colour scheme that works well with your indoor style and complete the look using planting that either compliment or contrast with this scheme. Group plants in multiples of odd numbers, 3,5,7,9) etc rather than sporadic individual plants as this creates a more effective design. 

Additionally, it's important to consider the amount of maintenance that will be required to keep the garden looking its best. While a garden full of plants can be beautiful, it can also be labour-intensive to care for. Shortcuts can be used to help keep the garden looking its best, but some aftercare will still be needed. For those with physical disabilities, raised beds and easy-to-navigate pathways can help make garden maintenance more manageable.

Once the garden design has been completed, it's time to start implementing it. This may involve planting new plants, laying new pathways or patios, or adding new features such as water features or garden furniture.

Overall, enjoy planning your garden – try lots of different ideas until you find one that works for your needs, setting, lifestyle and desires. We’d love to help you out – feel free to contact us.