5 secrets of great garden design

 In Garden Design, Landscaping

Great garden design literally starts from the ground up.  In this article Dan shares five of his secrets for designing amazing outdoor spaces.

  • Functionality first
  • Have a build budget in mind
  • Take your time with your design
  • Consider the ongoing maintenance
  • Use 3D imagery to ensure you’ll love your garden

As soon as I walk into a garden, I can imagine how it could look after it’s been landscaped. But, then I remember it’s not actually my garden. What I want to do, may not be what the client needs. So my first consultation with any garden design client needs to be all about discovering what they want from their outdoor space.

Garden Functionality

Every room inside your house has a function.  It might be a bedroom, a bathroom, study, playroom – whatever.  So it follows that the room outside your house, is more likely to be used if it too, has a function.

The first secret of garden design is to define how the space will be used.  

Usually, my clients have a lovely long list of things they’d like to be doing in their garden. It’s different for everyone but it often includes really diverse things like storing the wheelie bins and growing tomatoes, drying the washing and entertaining friends.

Designing a multifunctional garden involves dividing the space into zones. Then I devise a way of joining those zones so that one flows seamlessly into the next. What I’m aiming for is the overall effect of a garden that invites everybody outside to enjoy their favourite pastimes.

professionally built garden with timber structures and evening lighting

When thinking about functionality and where to place garden features – remember that garden lighting can make outlying areas feel more accessible

The build budget

There is no sense whatsoever in designing a garden that will cost too much to build. So budget is always foremost in my mind.  One of the advantages of being a landscaper as well as a garden designer is that I know roughly what garden features cost to build.  I can estimate the time needed for groundworks and mentally price the machinery, materials and labour costs while I’m designing.

If you are designing a garden for yourself – bear in mind that the decorative materials – the bits you actually see – are a relatively small proportion of the final cost.  Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by TV garden makeover shows. By omitting the cost of the labour, they completely misrepresent the cost of landscaping a garden.

Take your time

If you’ve ever tried designing a kitchen for yourself, you’ll know that there’s a lot to think about. The same goes for gardens.  When you commission a garden design, you may need to wait several weeks until your designer is ready to present their ideas – especially if they have other clients in the queue.

Don’t worry – it’ll be worth waiting for. And when you consider the life span of your new garden – 6 weeks or so really isn’t very long at all.

Designing yourself? Take your time, play with different ideas, sleep on them, tweak them, and try out different layouts.  Time spent at this stage of your garden makeover will ensure that your outdoor space really will suit your lifestyle. 

Oh – and don’t forget to future proof your design.  What will your family look like 10 years from now? How agile will you be? Will you still enjoy the same activities as you do at the moment?

Considering ongoing garden maintenance

Landscaping your garden is only just the beginning of creating a beautiful outdoor space.  Just as the inside of your home needs regular tidying, you will need to do some garden maintenance too.  Lawns will need mowing, shrubs may need occasional pruning, driveways and patios will need to be swept.  Even artificial grass needs to be looked after if it is not to become infested with moss and weeds. (Yes, weeds will grow in artificial grass if debris is allowed to accumulate in the sward)

Think about the maintenance before you finalise your design and specify the materials to be used. And remember that technology can provide solutions to many gardening problems.  There are automatic watering systems readily available on the market and you can buy things like robot mowers, to keep your lawn looking great.  

It might be worth finding out how much it would cost for a gardening service to visit every now and again too – that way you will have more choices for design features. After all, gardens without plants can be rather bland.

3D rendered designs

design for sloping front garden with retaining walls and curved steps

3D rendering brings a great garden design to life

A 2 dimensional garden design with some indication of levels etc should be all a landscaper needs to work from.  However, it’s really difficult to visualise a living breathing garden when all you have is a flat plan.

For my clients – and for my own piece of mind – I like to use computer software to render the design. In other words to make it three dimensional.  It’s like building a little model of the space – but much less fiddly! 

3D rendered designs help you to imagine how your new garden will look. More importantly you’ll find it easier to picture yourself using the space. Whether it’s trotting down the garden to pluck some herbs to cook with or sitting on the patio while the children play on the lawn.  

If you don’t like what you see in 3D – it’s cheaper to change the design than it would be to alter the actual garden.

Need help to design your garden?

For a truly unique garden design that is completely bespoke to you, your family and your garden, call Dan from Silver Birch Gardens.

Take a look at some of Dan’s previous work here

You might also find inspiration in these articles

Ideas for outdoor entertaining  

Driveway design ideas

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early stages of a landscaping project creating footings for a curved wallfront entranceway with steps and gravel driveway