Garden Landscapes – Designing a Garden

Garden Landscapes – Designing a Garden from Scratch

The most stimulating experience any keen gardener can face is designing a garden or fashioning a new garden from a bare plot of earth. This is one of the few ways in which most of us can be pioneers these days, and it brings its moments of rich satisfaction.

Garden landscapes - designing a garden

In the ideal world, we would all like to be able to choose a plot of just the right size, with just the right soil and with just the right aspect. But as none of us need reminding, this is not a perfect world and the best most of us can hope for is that the ratio of good and bad features will be in our favour. In any case, quite a large part of the fun of gardening is triumphing over difficulties.

The development of my own Surrey garden from scratch over the past six years, has made me very much aware of the kind of questions which gardeners are most likely to want answering. It has also confirmed in my mind the tremendous importance of making the right decisions initially – on layout, on soil improvement, on plant choice and so on.


Fundamental Issues

Everybody has their own ideas about the kind of plants they want to grow and the kind of features they want in their gardens, but there is every reason for being realistic at this early stage and making as accurate an estimate as you can of the amount of time you can reasonably expect to give to your garden, what you’re prepared to spend, and whether the features you are considering will give lasting satisfaction.

To put things in another way, we must recognise that it is difficult and expensive to get garden help nowadays, and it is advisable, to say the least, to give serious thought to the advantages of labour-saving garden features and the plants we associate with them – not that any gardener worth his salt will not want to involve himself in some more time-consuming and demanding form of gardening. I am thinking primarily of roses, ornamental trees and shrubs, herbaceous perennials which are sturdy enough to not need staking, and naturalised bulbs, all of which are fantastic plants for the busy gardener.

Some garden features like house-hold fittings, give short-term satisfaction but can then bore or irritate you. In general, it is not a bad rule to go for the most simple designs and few rather than numerous features. It should not be necessary to say that the natural advantages of a plot should be exploited to the full, but so often we see missed opportunities through lack of foresight.

designing a garden

There is much to be gained by not rushing your fences, and taking the early planning stages very slowly.

Nor should we be too despondent if the soil is not all it might be, the site open to cold winds and overlooked by ugly buildings or other eyesores. The soil can be improved at some cost in effort and money; windbreaks can be made by planting the right trees or hedging plants intelligently, and screening plants can work wonders where blots on the landscape need to be hidden or the degree of privacy is inadequate. One of the best conifers for this kind of job is undoubtedly the attractive Cupressocyparis Leylandii, the fastest growing evergreen in this country.

To sum up, you should always, in my opinion, give top priority to making the garden suit the site; secondly, meet the requirements of other members of the family, and, thirdly,  plan the garden so that it needs the minimum of upkeep. Above all, plan the garden so that it will give pleasure over many years.


First Things First – Planning and Designing a Garden

Ask any experienced gardener how to begin designing a garden, and he is almost certain to suggest that you get your ideas down on paper, and I would wholly agree with this. Where I would differ from some however, is that I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on making such paper plans strictly to scale. Attempting such accuracy is off-putting to many individuals, and personal experience has taught me that a roughly scaled plan serves just as well.

On to this plan must go the fixed positions:

  • the house,
  • the entrance gate(s),
  • the drive,
  • and any trees at present on the site.

In respect of trees, it is true to say that almost always these are an asset to a new garden, providing focal points and pockets of maturity in a garden that for several years at least, can have little else to relieve the flatness and soften the boundaries. You should remember, too, that trees in private gardens may have a preservation order on them, which means that permission must be obtained from the local authority before they can be felled or pruned.  Of course, some forest trees can completely dominate a small garden and where this is the case then there is really no alternative but to have them removed, if a garden of any value is to be made.

With the fixed positions marked, the next thing is to decide on the paths. Any part of the garden which you must visit frequently in Winter, demands a permanent path, preferably of stone or even ashes laid on hardcore.

You don’t want to be too dogmatic, but as a general rule it is best to follow the line of the boundary or prominent garden features, and where curves are necessary, to make these as soft and open as possible to avoid any suggestion of fussiness.


The Element of Surprise

In almost every attractive garden, there is one common feature – the element of surprise. Your eyes (and foot-steps) are led to corners around which there may be goodness knows what treat in store – or no treat at all.

designing a garden - element of surprise

For example, a path leading to a little wooden gate alongside a beautfiful Blue Cedar and mixed shrub plantings may lead to nothing more exciting than the compost heap and rubbish dump, but the mind’s eye holds out very different prospects. When designing a garden, this kind of artifice is to be admired and not condemned.

My one and a half acre garden has been made from a grass field sloping mostly to the south, but also to the north and east. Naturally, we built the house on the highest ground and facing south, and to leave an uninterrupted view of the garden which would not frequently be spoilt by parked cars, I led the drive from the road, round to the back (or north) side of the house.

It is details like this which should be thought out carefully at this early planning stage of designing a garden, for to have them impressed on you later when it is too late to do much about it is extremely frustrating.



27. July 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Garden Landscapes, Gardening Ideas, New Gardens | Tags: , | Comments Off on Garden Landscapes – Designing a Garden

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