How to Design Your Dream Garden
As we approach the new year and our gardens are currently lying dormant, now is the perfect time to grab the sketch pad and start designing your dream garden, ready for the upcoming spring and summer months.
Designing your dream garden needn’t be as complicated as you might think, but there are a few things to consider before ploughing ahead and getting a design onto paper.
It is also important to have a plan, to ensure that your new garden ticks all the right boxes and meets your needs, as well as those of your family and pets.
In our latest article, we’re offering up some of our best tips to help you create your dream garden.
We’ve tried to cover everything you need to think of when planning your garden to help give you the ideas and inspiration you need to get the garden you’ve always dreamed of.
Let’s begin with our first garden design recommendation.
Search for Inspiration
Before designing your garden, look for inspiration. There are things available that you won’t know about and might later regret not incorporating, so be sure you know what’s out there. It’s also interesting to see what other people have done with their own gardens.
We would recommend starting by searching online, as there is a wealth of information and ideas available on the Internet.
Pinterest, the social media site for picture sharing, is a great place to find ideas.
You can ‘pin’ pictures that take your interest and save them to your account. You can also save them to your computer or print them off.
Getting out to your local garden centres is a good idea, too, so that you can see what’s on offer. Many garden centres have display gardens that are a great way of helping you to visualise how your own garden could look.
Another good place to look is in the brochures and on the websites of paving manufacturers, such as Marshalls, Bradstone and Brett. Alternatively, check out the websites of landscaping contractors and garden designers.
Collect and keep hold of any pictures of materials or ideas that you’d like to use, ready for when you draw out your design.
Before planning your garden, you’ll need to take some measurements so that you can consider the layout and size of the area you’ve got to work with.
We’d suggest drawing a basic sketch of your garden and then using a tape measure, measuring wheel or laser, to add the measurements to your drawing.
You may then want to redraw your garden, but this time to scale, to enable you to plan things more precisely and get an idea of space.
This can be a little tricky if it’s the first time you’ve done something like this, but you should choose a scale that will enable your drawing to fit comfortably on the piece of paper. You could then use 1cm to represent 1m of your garden.
We’d recommend using an A3 sketch pad to enable you to add in more detail.
You can also use online garden design software, some of which is free to use, to help you create your design.
Consider Professional Help
If your budget allows, consider using professional help to design and/or build your garden.
Try searching online for local garden design companies who can help you get your ideas onto paper.
Of course, this will come at a price, but their professional advice may help prevent potentially costly issues further down the line and they will be able to advise on what is or isn’t possible within your garden.
Depending upon the scale and complexity of the design and your level of DIY ability, when it comes to building your garden, you may wish to hire the services of a local landscaping contractor.
Some tasks, such as planting, are straightforward to carry out, but if you are considering hard landscaped features, such as patios, decking, walling or fencing, then this type of work may be best left to the professionals. This is because they’ll have the necessary skills and equipment to ensure that the work is carried out to a high standard, following best practices. This should ensure the longevity of your garden.
Don’t forget to obtain a minimum of three written quotations when considering local contractors. We’d highly recommend following the advice given in our previous article on finding an artificial grass installer, as many of the issues described in the article are also applicable to finding a landscaping contractor.
Choose Planting That Will Thrive in the Conditions of Your Garden
In order for your planting to be a success, you need to think carefully about where things will be placed.
Some plants and shrubs love the shade, while others need lots of sunlight to be able to thrive.
A good place to find out information about growing different types of plants and shrubs is the Royal Horticultural Society website, which you can find here.
It’s a fantastic resource for helping you to choose plants and shrubs. It offers maintenance tips, too.
You can also find a list of our favourite shade-loving plants here.
Choose Planting That You’ll have Time to Maintain
When planning your garden, you need to carefully consider how much time you can dedicate to maintaining it.
Of course, some plants and shrubs require more maintenance than others, so be careful to choose wisely.
If you are short on time, don’t fret, as there are plenty of stunning plants and shrubs that require very little effort to maintain.
When designing your garden, it’s important to incorporate lots of different textures.
You could use paving slabs, gravel, rockeries, grassed areas, timber sleepers or brickwork to create different features within your garden and, generally, the more texture you can add, the better.
For instance, you could build an Indian sandstone patio, with a gravel pathway leading to a raised deck area that’s surrounded by raised sleeper beds.
Utilising texture will help to create interest in your garden, so don’t forget to mix it up.
Ensure Pathways are Wide Enough
When planning and building pathways you need to ensure that they are wide enough to walk along, or push a wheelbarrow along, if necessary.
The standard width for a pathway is 900mm (3ft), which is generally wide enough to comfortably walk down with a wheelbarrow.
Material choice is important, too, as paving slabs, blocks or concrete will be far easier to walk on than loose gravel, for instance.
If there will be wheelchair users in the garden, we’d recommend creating paths that are a minimum of 1m wide. If the wheelchair will need to be able to turn on the pathway, you’ll need 1.6m for manual wheelchairs and 2.4m for electric wheelchairs.
For more information on creating gardens for wheelchairs users, please see our guide, ‘How to Make Your Garden More Accessible for Older & Disabled People’.
Choose Between Artificial Grass or Real Grass
If you are looking to keep your new garden low maintenance, then choosing artificial grass is a no-brainer.
While fake turf was, admittedly, once considered to be something of a faux pas amongst the gardening community, the advances in technology mean that it’s so realistic-looking nowadays that it’s difficult to tell that it’s fake.
Even some die-hard gardeners are now fans of synthetic turf.
There are so many benefits attached to artificial grass that it’s little wonder so many homeowners are choosing to convert their real grass lawns into artificial turf.
Its lush green looks perfectly replicate the real thing, but it never needs mowing, fertilising, aerating or feeding.
It will also look exactly the same whatever the season, to provide maximum year-round impact, unlike real turf, which can go brown during the summer and patchy in the winter.
In addition, it’s great for children and dogs, as they can use the lawn all year round without becoming covered in mud and dirt.
You also need to carefully consider how well real grass will grow within your garden.
If your lawn is sheltered by overhanging trees or surrounding fences then you may find that real grass won’t grow particularly well, as it will be starved of moisture and sunlight, both of which are vital for growth.
Fake turf has the advantage, here, and makes for the perfect alternative in areas in which real grass won’t grow.
It is possible, of course, to utilise both real and fake. You could perhaps consider having real grass for your main lawn area, and you could then put artificial grass to good use by adding green to areas where the real stuff won’t grow.
Of course, budget plays a part, too, as you can expect an artificial lawn to cost more than real grass, in the short term.
Create Seating Areas
It’s important to create areas in your garden in which you can put a garden bench, or chairs and a table, to create relaxing seating areas.
If you are planning a patio area to put your dining set on, don’t forget to allow enough room for the furniture to comfortably fit onto the hard standing.
You’ll need to allow enough room to be able to walk around the table, even with people sitting in the chairs, so make sure you give yourself plenty of space.
If you only have enough room for a small seating area, consider buying folding tables and chairs, which can be collapsed as and when necessary.
In an ideal world, a patio area by the house, with an additional seating area with enough space for a chair or bench in another area of the garden, works best, so that you can enjoy your entire garden.
The best garden designs also incorporate verticality.
This can be achieved in a variety of ways. You could do it through planting trees and large shrubs to give your garden some height, and also by creating raised beds from either timber railway sleepers or brickwork.
Living walls, brick walls and fence panels can also add some much-needed to height to your garden and can be used to screen off certain areas or even hide your bins.
Consider a Water Feature
The sound of trickling water can help to create a relaxing atmosphere and water features are perfect for creating a focal point in your garden, too.
Water features don’t necessarily have to involve a pond or be difficult to build, either.
Some of the subtler water features often work best.
There are lots of types of water feature available, such as fountains, water blades, pondless waterfalls, water walls and laminar jets, so you’ll be sure to find something that will suit and enhance the style of your garden.
Think About Dogs & Pets, Too
If you are a dog or pet owner, there are some considerations you need to take into account.
There’s little point in planting delicate plants if there is the likelihood that your dog or pet may harm them.
Some plants are poisonous and could, in fact, harm your pet, so be sure to carefully research the types of plants that are safe to use with pets.
Also, dogs and real grass don’t tend to mix too well. Urine-scorched turf and the damage done by the animal continuously traipsing up and down your garden lawn can take its toll on your grass, which means it’s a good idea to consider artificial grass.
For further information on designing your garden with pets in mind, please see our guide, ‘How to Create a Dog-Friendly Garden’.
Include Areas for the Kids
Gardens should not only look amazing, but be practical, too.
When designing your garden, it’s very important to include areas for your children to play in. Creating a child-friendly garden will encourage youngsters to get outside in the fresh air and away from their gadgets.
It’s easy to create play areas that can be incorporated into your design without having them take over the garden.
If you have young children, play areas should be as near to the house as possible so that you can keep a close eye on them.
Like most parents, you may have found yourself being begged by your children to buy them a trampoline, but have been put off by the amount of space they require.
An easy way around this is to install a sunken trampoline. By concealing the trampoline in the ground, it won’t be so overbearing and will be barely noticeable once the safety nets are down.
For further information see, ‘How to Make Your Garden More Child-Friendly’.
Light Up Your Garden
When used effectively, lighting can give your garden a whole new dimension, come nightfall.
There are lots of different options to choose from, including floodlights, spotlights, in-ground lights, bollard lights or festoon lights.
Some types are more for decorative purposes, such as festoon or in-ground lighting, whereas other forms, such as spotlights or floodlights, are better for lighting up areas so that you can see.
They can, of course, be either mains or solar powered. Mains powered lights nearly always provide far better and brighter lighting than solar powered, but there is the extra electricity cost to think about.
When it comes to installing the lights themselves, if they will be connected to the mains, it’s very important that you hire a qualified electrician to install them for you in order to comply with regulations and ensure that they are safe to use.
Designing your own garden can be lots of fun. The best place to start is to research potential ideas online, and in brochures and magazines.
Then, if possible, create a scale drawing of your garden and begin adding in hard landscaping features and focal points. Once this has been done, you can then build the planting in around these areas.
There’s lots to think about when designing your dream garden and we hope this article has given you the ideas and inspiration to help you make it happen.
Don’t forget, if you do get stuck or need some help, then we’d highly recommended contacting local designers and contractors to tap into their skills and experience.
We hope you have enjoyed our garden design tips and, if you have any other advice or ideas, make sure you leave us a comment below, as we love to hear from our readers.