Choosing a style
Many people think only large gardens need to be designed but the smaller the area, the more it needs to be planned to maximise its potential.
Before choosing a style, consider your location and how you want to use your garden.
Location, location, location
Small town gardens
Plans for a smaller gardens will be influenced by surrounding buildings and by how much the space is overlooked. Your choice of plants too will be determined by how much light is available - is it heavily shaded by overhanging trees or neighbouring buildings? Or, it might be a sun trap and you'd like to create some shade?
Large country gardens
In the country, you may prefer to design the area close to the house only, leaving the garden beyond to blend into the landscape. This is most easily achieved by camouflaging the fence with planting to give the impression that it merges with the view. You could also consider lowering the fence to increase the view. If, on the other hand, your vista is unattractive and your garden is overlooked, you can create privacy by screening with trees, shrubs or a pergola. Leave gaps to allow a glimpse of any attractive scenery that may exist.
These gardens lend themselves to being divided into compartments, although it would be a mistake to simply cut it across from side to side, which would be restrictive and uninteresting. A simple way is to add a winding path that runs right through the garden, using plants to block the view from one end to the other or you could use an open trellis planted with climbers. These techniques add interest and give the impression of reducing the length.
While plants are an essential part of any design, so too is the layout, which should take into account the following points:
If you want to include a terrace for entertaining, dining al fresco and the ubiquitous barbeque don’t skimp on the size. You need to allow space not only for a table and chairs but also enough room for the chairs to be pulled out to allow you sit at the table - you don’t want your guests to fall into the flower borders!
If you have young children, the demands on the garden will change as they grow. You might want to incorporate a sand pit for example, but think ahead aso it can easily be transformed into a pond later.
Where will you put essentials like dustbins, a shed or washing line and how will you gain access to them if they are stuck at the back of the garden? You could lay stepping stones across the grass or create path. This can be screened off with shrubs, a hedge, or bamboo.
Now that you have considered all the elements you want to include in your newly designed garden, you need to think about style. If you are a working couple with limited time to do any gardening, a formal or chic style may be the answer, with paving instead of grass, raised beds, evergreens and topiary in containers.
Consider the shape of your garden - is it long and thin or rectangular? Does it have different levels? Maybe it’s a basement garden or a country house. Is it an enclosed courtyard garden? Is it a banked garden, a seaside location, split level, square or a corner site?
Next article: Creating the design