11 Brilliant Garden Designing Tips for Beginners

Your outdoor space is ready, and you are about to get busy designing the layout of your backyard. So what are the things you need to think about when making a design for your garden? Here are 11 things to consider when designing a beautiful, practical outdoor space.

dry garden with pebbles

Gardening design – Things to think about

  1. The purpose of the space – Is your design going to be for adults only, a space for the kids to play, or a combination of the two? Will you want to get busy with alfresco entertainment or are you more likely to sit indoors looking out at the garden, in need of a lovely year-round view rather than a useable space?
  2. The direction the prevailing winds and sunshine come from – Plenty of plants hate the wind. Especially when they’re in the full teeth of the prevailing weather, constantly being battered. Banana plants come in very hardy varieties, for example, but the most hardy will thrive better in chilly, still weather than warm and windy, where the wind just shreds the leaves. It’s best, in windy situations, to plant small then wait for specimens to grow than plant big things and expect them to stay upright. Small plants get the time they need to grow strong roots, but planting large gives them no chance to bed in, they just get blown around, the roots get constantly damaged and the plant never really takes off. The same goes for the sun – where does it start its journey across your garden every day, and where does it end? Make a note and plant accordingly – some species detest the early morning sun, for example, and will soon die off if you plant them in the wrong place.
  3. Your own gardening skills – Do you have green fingers or are you rubbish at keeeping plants alive? Some plants are a lot easier to grow than others: hardier, better able to handle a variety of weather conditions, not so fussy about the type of soil, amount of water and so on. If you’re not confident, buy the hardiest and most forgiving plants you can find, and add less hardy specimens as your confidence grows.
  4. How much time you have to spare on garden maintenance – Even the simplest, smallest garden can take a lot of work to keep it looking good and in great condition. Lawns are particularly time-consuming in summer, requiring regular mowing. Some plants grow massive in no time, so need frequent trimming. The less time you have spare to keep things in good order, the simpler your garden design needs to be. If that’s you, think more hard landscaping, less planting.
  5. Your creative abilities – Creative spirits find garden design relatively easy, since they already have one of the most important skills, an artistic nature, at their fingertips. If you are a creative numpty with absolutely no confidence you can find garden designing inspiration through Pinterest, Instagram, Google images and Bing images… just copy what you like, or mix and match the bits you like best from different garden designs.
  6. How strong and fit you are – Light gardening chores are great exercise, but the heavier tasks can be onerous. Create your garden design based on your own capabilities and the amount of hard physical work you’re prepared to do. Then you’ll always be able to cope and it will always look fabulous, not a neglected mess.
  7. The kind of soil you have at home – Many plants are not that fussy about the soil they grow in. Some demand wet soil, others even need their feet in water. Some will die unless they’re somewhere very well-drained, others won’t thrive unless you give them desert conditions. A few plants dislike fertile soil and prefer poor soils, especially natives, which are built to be unfussy. What you plant should depend on what you’ve got. If all you have is a sandy wasteland, you can create a fabulous desert or beach garden – but not a verdant rainforest-inspired jungle. There’s always something you can do, no matter how poor or rich your dirt.
  8. The perimeters of your outdoor space – Can you control your own horizons or are they imposed upon you? If your yard has a supremely ugly view of the backs of office buildings or factories, you can plant fast-growing tall specimens to mask the view. If you have a tall fence or wall, you have a ready made ‘frame’ for your design that you don’t necessarily need to add to.
  9. The size of your yard – A small yard can be just as tricky to design as a huge space, with less choice being just as difficult to deal with as too much choice. This is where images on Instagram, Pinterest and so on really come into their own. A large yard looks awful with planting around the edges, leaving a yawning space in the center. What have other people done to fill the space in a visually pleasing and practical way? It can be tempting to fill a small garden with small things, but the end result just looks weird. A variety of sizes looks so much nicer. How have other people used their small spaces to their best advantage?
  10. Which colors you like best – If you are not very good at picking colors, limiting your pallette is a great way to ensure everything you plant looks magical together. Choose one, two or three colors for your flowers, then you can’t go far wrong.
  11. The weather round your way – If you live somewhere hot and dry, you’ll have no trouble trying to grow desert plants. But your bog garden might soon become a rod for your own back! If you have four seasons, you need to think about adding plants to give you a good display in every season. If it rains all the time, your ambitions to create a dry cactus, succulent or alpine garden will fail. Make the most of what you’ve got and you stand a better chance of success than when you try to force it.

Follow these tips and you’ll find garden designing a lot easier to make something that works well and grows beautifully.

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