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Creating individual garden designs

All gardens benefit from creating garden designs that have some kind of cohesive style.

All gardens benefit from creating garden designs that have some kind of cohesive style. Trying to incorporate too many features, too many plants, too many different styles will create a confusing and unsatisfying result, rather than the restful, beautiful outdoor space envisaged.


Key tips for creating different garden designs:

  • If you are starting with a blank canvas, and unsure of how to pursue your vision of a dream garden, look at different garden styles, and see which you are drawn to.
  • Choose garden designs that you love rather than what is fashionable.
  • Create a mood board, including clippings of gardens or plants in magazines, pictures of landscape materials such as interesting paving, even swatches of fabrics in inspirational colours that might inspire a planting scheme.
  • Once the mood board is finalised and your preferred style identified, streamline your choices to make a template of coordinated plants, landscape and features.
  • Having a set style is useful because it will help you to coordinate everything in the garden, from ornaments to plant choices as well as furniture. It will also stop you from incorporating too many different looks and moods into one space.


How to choose the correct garden designs and styles:  

The Mediterranean Garden

Choose a Mediterranean-style garden if you love strong, bright colours that bloom in sunshine, as well as drought-loving plants such as pink-flowered cistus, French lavenders and aromatic rosemary growing through gravel. Clipped domes of santolina and pencil cypress trees are present in the finest gardens of Provence, and can inspire memories of special holidays spent by the sea.


The Cottage Garden

If you are a tidy, ordered person, avoid a cottage garden, where, traditionally, fruit and flowers jostle for space along with vegetables and herbs. This style is perfect if you would like to grow as many varieties of plants as possible, and don't need to be too strict about pathways and patios.  The cottage garden has no strict order and you can place cabbages amongst the roses in a style that appeals to you.


The Japanese Garden

Some people prefer not to fight their way through the flowers, and choose a quiet, controlled space where they, and not nature, are in control. A composed Japanese garden, with carefully placed stones, exquisite maples and cherry blossom in spring, might be your idea of heaven. This kind of space is perfect for quiet meditation - especially when you are raking the gravel into precise, flowing patterns.


The Urban Country Garden

If you live in a city but would prefer a country garden, let the lawn - or part of it - grow longer, and introduce a few wildflowers to colonise the grass, over time. A pergola by the house wall allows you to grow old-fashioned roses, clematis and honeysuckle.


The French Garden

Alternatively, you might prefer formality, in which case look at the grand formal gardens of France for inspiration: Versailles tubes set at regular intervals, with clipped box or bay, would look equally good at intervals on either side of the garden path, or in a row to define the edge of the terrace or patio. A parterre of clipped box, with an infill of your choice, would look good, even on a small scale.


A Water Garden or Pond

Water has infinite appeal, and infinite possibilities. A series of ponds throughout the garden will encourage wildlife to enter the garden, provide a home for fish and amphibians, as well as a reason to introduce bog and waterside plants into the garden.  The pond can be filled with beautiful waterlilies. 


These garden styles should only be used as a template and not a rigid garden design. Copy a prototype or following a trend and the final garden could be a soulless garden that looks perfect, but lacks personality. Onto the template, add personal touches; your own features: a sculpture or piece of artwork you love, some fun furniture, a novel container display in streamlined shades, some pottery you brought back from a holiday....


Be realistic, work with what is available and the conditions of your environment. If your garden ground frequently becomes waterlogged, a Mediterranean garden, with plants that depend on free-draining soil, will struggle to succeed. However, you could make a raised bed, filling it with gritty soil and grow Mediterranean plants, mulching them with gravel to look authentic. Add a couple of lemon trees onto the terrace in summer and a pot of cerise bougainvillea, instantly creating the atmosphere of Provence or Ibiza.


You will also need to ensure your garden designs are practical. Think about what you need in your garden: a clothes line; play area for the children; storage space for toys and garden equipment; a screened-off area for the compost bins. Whatever they are, these will have to be incorporated into the garden for it to function successfully as an outdoor space for the whole family.


If you have the luxury of a large garden, then you could consider dividing it into ‘rooms’ - you might have a lively, open area for dining and entertaining, near the house; a central, secluded area; a space at the back of the garden for storage, maybe a shed or work-office.


The finest garden designs, grand or humble, large or small, private or public, all have a common thread: they have character, a special atmosphere, and this can only come about if the gardener puts a little bit of his or her soul into it, along with the plants and the paving.