Garden design ideas

For garden

Your garden is an extension of your home. It’s another space for you to put your stamp on, and when the sun comes out, it’s somewhere else for you to chill out and unwind. Your garden deserves the same TLC that you give the interior of your home. So if you want something other than a lawn with flowerbeds, here’s some ideas and inspiration to get you started.

How to design a garden

Unless you have a specific vision in mind, deciding how to design your garden can be overwhelming. And that’s before you get to the Latin names for plants.
However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help narrow down your choices.

1. What type of garden do you want?

There are several different styles for you to take inspiration from. You can choose to mash these up, or follow them rigidly – the choice is yours.
Each of these styles can be achieved in any size garden, all it takes is a bit of creative thinking.

Cottage garden

Think fruit and veg, loads of flowers clamouring across walkways, and plenty of colour. Cottage gardens usually have simple rectangular layouts but this is by no means boring as there are so many plants vying for attention. For structure, use hedges, a wall or a fence to outline the edge of the garden.

This type of garden is best suited to you if you’re willing to learn about different plants, the best times to plant and prune, and how to look after them. These gardens require a lot of upkeep but the payoff is worth it as you’ll have a leafy oasis to retreat to.

As well as an abundance of plants and flowers, cottage gardens often have winding paths and furniture hidden in tranquil nooks.

Wildlife gardens

Cottage gardens and wildlife gardens are quite similar as they both have an abundance of colourful plants and a stylishly overgrown feel. The difference though, is that wildlife gardens have plants and flowers purposely chosen to attract birds, insects, bees and small mammals. There are also structures that you can include like log piles or hedgehog boxes and bee hotels to draw in wildlife.

These gardens are great if you want colour and nature but don’t want the upkeep of a cottage garden. Once you’ve planted everything, you can leave it alone and let nature take its course. This style is really versatile as it works for any sized garden; you can even sow wildflowers in pots and window boxes if you live in a flat.

Wildlife gardens are all about letting nature reclaim your space so you might find there’s not enough room for furniture. If you don’t want to give your whole garden over to wildlife, you can still achieve a similar effect with small spaces instead.

Contemporary gardens

Contemporary gardens are at odds with cottage gardens. They’re all about crisp lines and minimalism, with natural materials like stone, wood, and concrete. Plants and flowers are more functional than in other gardens, forming part of the design and creating a pleasing geometric layout.

These gardens are elegant yet simple and often have a water feature to create movement in the absence of flowers.

This style of garden is often incredibly calm and focuses more on using the space to relax than as a haven for different plants and flowers.

Mediterranean gardens

As the name suggests, these gardens are inspired by hot and dry Mediterranean climates. Even though the UK isn’t quite as hot and dry as these places, plants and shrubbery found in southern Italy, France, and Spain can still thrive. It does take maintenance though as some plants won’t like our wet winters so need protecting when the weather turns cooler.

As a colour palette look towards greens and orange, terracotta and splashes of colour among the greenery will help you cultivate this style.

Formal gardens

You’d probably associate this type of garden with country houses or the Chelsea Flower Show, but it can work in any size garden if you follow the principles.

Formal gardens are all about symmetry and have a very clear blueprint. Think tree-lined gravel paths, rows and rows of fragrant lavender or climbing rose bushes. It’s often obvious the route you take through the garden as the structure guides and directs you.

There is often a focal point to each garden, like a sculpture or water feature at the end of a path that draws your eye.

To maintain such precise symmetry, you’ll need to keep your plants manicured for the full effect.

2. What will you use your garden for?

Deciding how you want to use your garden will help you narrow down the features you have in it like decking or a patio.

  • Is it primarily functional and a space for your kids to play and for you to host and eat outdoors?
  • Or do you want your garden to be for nature and somewhere you can quietly sit and enjoy?
  • Do you need a shed? Is it just to store tools and soil in or do you need somewhere for you to work?

Knowing what you’ll use your garden for will help you decide what you want in it. This will then in turn help you realise how much space you can give over to plants and flowers.

3. What’s the makeup of your garden

Take a look at your garden as it is now. Make a note of the aspect (whether it’s north, south, east, or west facing) to inform where you might put decking or furniture.

Test the PH levels of your soil to figure out whether it’s more acidic or alkaline. This will help you choose the right plants and will give them the best chance to flourish.

You also need to think about what your garden is exposed to. If it’s relatively well enclosed and protected from the wind then you won’t have many limitations. But if it’s exposed to the wind you may want to put up hedges or a fence to act as a wind break, or consider the flowers you’ll plant. Fragile flowers with long stems won’t fare too well in high winds so opt for plants and flowers that aren’t overly dainty. If you live near the coast, you’ll probably need plants that can cope with the high salt levels in the air.

Are there any features that you can’t or don’t want to get rid of like a tree or a well? Consider how you can incorporate them into your chosen style.

Small garden ideas
As we’ve already mentioned, if you’ve got a small garden you shouldn’t feel limited by what you can achieve. While you may not be able to have loads of decking, there are still some clever tricks you can use to get the garden style you want.

Plant upwards

If you want plenty of plants and flowers in your small garden, plant upwards. Choose climbing plants that will wind their way up your fence or wall. Use containers or window boxes to make the most of available ledges or small spaces. Use flowers and plants that grow upwards, leaving you more space for the other elements you want in your garden.

Mark out zones
Just because you have a small garden, doesn’t mean that you can’t have all the features you want. By clearly marking out zones, you’ll get all you want from your garden.

For example a decking and seating area can be sunken to sit level with your lawn. That way it won’t feel too chunky and domineering. Choose furniture that can be easily stored or sits flush against a wall or fence.

An excellent way to mark out zones is to use different materials. Make use of wood, brick, stone and contrast this against softer textures like grass, plants, and flowers.

Create clever illusions

There are a couple of ways you can create the illusion and feeling of space even if it doesn’t exist.

Use trees and shrubbery to partially obscure parts towards the back of your garden. This will help create the illusion of depth and make your brain think there’s more towards the back than there is.

If you have trees or shrubs, cut back the lower branches so you can squeeze more in. Beneath these, you can plant spring bulbs like daffodils which will bloom before the trees have leaves. That way you’ll also have a garden in bloom all year round.

You should treat your garden a lot like another room in your house. So think about how you can introduce more light to open the space up. White paint is an effective way to add more light so consider how you can incorporate this into your garden.

Garden patio ideas
Patios are a less intrusive alternative to decking as, depending on the material you choose, they often don’t need as much maintenance as decking. They’re usually a functional space, but patios don’t have to be bland, they can work well with your chosen garden style.

If you’re thinking about adding a patio to your garden, there are a few steps you can take to make the decision easier.

  1. Make it an extension of your home

Certain patio materials can work indoors too. If you have folding doors you can use the same flooring outside as inside to create a flow that makes you garden feel as if it’s another room of your home.

The only issue here is that you’ll have to keep your patio spotlessly clean to maintain consistency. It’s worth shopping around to find a material you like that either won’t weather, will take ages to weather, or that weathers in a way you like.

This is a perfect way to make your patio an entertaining space. It’s well suited to contemporary or Mediterranean style gardens

2. Choose a material

There are many different materials you can use for your patio, and each one can be used to create a unique style.

Brick holds its colour and is a timeless look. Brick patios can easily be made from reclaimed materials so nothing goes to waste. They don’t have to be uniform in shape and size either, using a variety of tones, sizes, and cuts can help you create a unique and interesting pattern. Brick patios can work well in formal gardens as they are easy to lay symmetrical.

Stone patios come in loads of different varieties. You can choose the material, colour, shape, and arrangement to reflect your style. These types of patio require upkeep to look their best and because the stone is natural, are usually more expensive than other types.

Mosaic patios are often a combination of several different materials including brick, stone, and pebble. These patios really give you the opportunity to express your own style as you create pattern you love. If you have a small garden, this could make a great focal point and introduce splashes of colour to your garden. Try not to go to too overboard with coloured stones, instead choosing hues that are found throughout the rest of your garden.

3. Choose the placement

The placement of your patio may also influence the design. If your patio will sit right outside your house or can be seen when you look out the window, you might choose a more interesting design so you have a nice view one days when you can’t get out into the garden.

The same can be said for the placement of your plants; consider what you can see out your window and use that as your starting point to shape your garden.

4. Pick your accessories

How you choose to use your patio will also dictate the size of it – especially if you’re not limited on space.

  • Is it primarily an entertainment space? In which case you’ll want benches and maybe even a fire pit.
  • Is it for practical purposes like somewhere for your kids to play with their toys? You’ll need storage and a smooth surface.
  • What about a space for you to pot your plants? You’ll need somewhere to keep your compost and gardening equipment.

Understanding the function your patio will perform will help you decide on the size.

5. What’s the shape?

Finally, you need to consider the shape of your patio.

If you’ve opted for a mosaic style, a small circular patio will let you be creative without overdoing it. Circular patios are also great if you want a focal point to draw the eye.

There’s nothing wrong with a classic rectangular patio. This shape is great for defining lines and is particularly effective in a contemporary or formal garden.

Once you’ve thought about these points, you should now have a good idea of what your patio will look like and where you’ll put it.

Stamp your style on your garden

So now you know how to design a garden, all that’s left is for you to do is start planning. Remember, you don’t have to follow any rules. Planning your garden is all about doing it yourself and finding a style that you like so much you’ll want to be outside come rain or shine.