Gardens are a staple of many British homes. According to a study conducted by Foxtons estate agents, more than half of the respondents would not consider renting or buying a home if it didn’t have a garden. One-third of the study participants would rather have a garden than a spare bedroom.
While the average size of a UK garden is around 15 metres long, your space for a garden is likely either much smaller or larger. Despite the size of your yard, anyone can learn how to design a garden. In this article, we discuss a variety of garden ideas, so you have access to plenty of options that work for you.
Planning A New Garden Design
Maybe you’ve recently purchased a home with an existing garden that is not quite your style, or you are designing a garden for the first time. It’s crucial to do a little planning before you start digging up the turf.
You don’t need to have experience with horticulture or even have much of a green thumb to plan a garden. While many gardening experts have do’s and don’ts on how to care for a garden, it’s nearly impossible to design a garden the “wrong” way.
A big part of learning how to design a garden is thinking about what works best for you. Start by making some rough sketches of how you would like your garden to look. Here are a few things to consider during the planning stage of your garden:
● What kind of space do you have to work with?
● Do you want a garden that blooms year-round or peaks during different seasons?
● Do you have time to weed and water, or do you want something more low maintenance?
● Are you creating the garden by yourself or with the help of a professional landscaper or gardener?
● Do you want a multi-functional garden or strictly ornamental?
There are plenty of other factors to think about, but these are just a few things to get you started. Start out with a rough sketch and a big list that you can modify as you go. Browse images online or make a garden vision board from some of your favourite gardening magazines or catalogues.
Simply start jotting down notes and putting all your ideas out there. If you’re a tech-savvy person, there are a few garden planning apps that might help you plan the garden you’ve always wanted.
Consider Garden Maintenance
We already briefly mentioned garden maintenance, but it’s an essential step when planning your garden. While anyone can design a garden, the type you choose requires more maintenance than others.
If you’re an experienced gardener, you don’t need to choose a high-maintenance garden automatically, nor does your garden need to look boring if you decide you’re better suited for something more low-maintenance.
High-maintenance gardens typically require a lot of work year-round, and it’s also beneficial if you have a solid grasp of gardening. High-maintenance gardens often include frequent pruning, weeding, watering, and harvesting.
These types of gardens are ideal for people who spend most of their time at home and don’t mind working in the garden. Your garden should bring you joy, not feel like a hassle or obligation.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with gardening, but still want a high-maintenance garden, you may want to consider hiring a professional gardener or landscaper to ensure that the garden not only looks good but is also healthy.
Keep in mind that a low-maintenance garden can still look attractive if you plan it right. Not sure if a low-maintenance garden is for you? You might be a perfect match for one if you:
- Are new to gardening
- Have mobility issues
- Travel frequently
- Have a busy schedule or raise a family
- Rent a home
Types Of Gardens
The most popular type of British garden is a flower garden with some of the traditional favorites like roses, lavender, and tulips. While there’s nothing wrong with honoring tradition, there are other types of gardens that may better suit your style and preferences. Consider these other types of gardens when planning your garden design.
When you think of a wildlife garden, you may think of attracting deer and other animals, but that’s not necessarily a requirement for this type of garden.
A wildlife garden, in short, is a garden that focuses on creating food and habitat for native species in the UK. For instance, the numbers of hedgehogs and sparrow are on the decline throughout the UK because they are losing their natural habitat. A wildlife garden is a safe space that provides shelter and food for various species, as well as a beautiful landscape for you to enjoy.
Since wildlife gardens are meant to mimic natural habitats, they are relatively low-maintenance gardens once they are established. If you are looking for a chemical-free and sustainable garden, a wildlife garden is an excellent option.
It may come as no surprise that, like other native animals, the butterfly population is declining in the UK. Butterflies are not only lovely to see as they flitter about from one flower to the next, but they play an essential role in our ecosystem. Creating a butterfly garden is a great way to be a steward to the environment.
While they are not as big of pollinators such as bees, we wouldn’t have as many flowers, plants, and food if butterflies completely vanished. Lilac, stinging nettle, honeysuckle, and lavender are a few examples of plants and flowers that can attract butterflies and help increase the pollinator population.
If you have a small space to work with, you might wonder if it’s worth learning how to design a garden. As we mentioned earlier, anyone (regardless of their yard) can enjoy the benefits of gardening.
Small garden options are nearly as limitless as larger gardens, and many people like small gardens because they often require less work. We will discuss some different types of small gardens in-depth a little later in this article, but a small garden can include:
- Container gardening
- Vertical gardening
- Window box gardens
- A smaller version of nearly any larger-scale or type of garden
Whether you have just a small piece of turf or none at all, a small garden is possible as long as you’re willing to think outside the box.
Vegetable And Herb Garden
Growing vegetables is one of the oldest forms of gardening, and while it’s often easier to shop at the market for produce, many people still love to grow vegetables and herbs. There’s nothing quite like snipping a fresh sprig of rosemary or thyme for a roast or picking a ripe tomato off the vine.
When many people think of vegetable and herb gardens, they think large-scale, but these types of gardens are only as difficult as you make them. Limited on space? Try growing herbs in your kitchen window. Have mobility issues that make it challenging to bend down for long periods? Container gardens or raised beds are an excellent way to plant and harvest some of your favorite vegetables.
With careful planning, you can have a vegetable garden that produces year-round.
Water gardens are easiest to create and maintain when you have more yard to work with, and especially if you already have an existing feature like a pond. Water gardens often showcase aquatic plants like water lilies and marsh plants. Water gardens are a welcome addition to a wildlife garden.
Sectioning Off Your Garden
If you talk to any gardening expert, few will suggest just digging in and start planting. Part of the planning process requires sectioning your garden and deciding what should go where.
One benefit of sectioning off your garden is that you have a better idea of what your garden will look like. Professional gardeners and landscapers do this all the time before planting anything.
As you divide up your garden and decide where plants should go here are a few things to consider:
- Making space or utilizing border walls or fences
- Planting near walkways, such as paths or sidewalks
- What type of edging do you want? Curved or straight
- Types of plants: full-sun, partial-sun, shade
- Length of bloom: long-term or seasonal
- How to integrate ornamental grasses or other plants in “hard to grow” areas
Another thing to consider when sectioning your garden (and before you buy your plants) is the hardiness zone. The hardiness zone refers to how well your plants can tolerate the coldest temperatures.
Hardiness zone maps, which were created by the USDA, are more popular in the United States, but it’s important to consider in the UK as well. Depending on which map you use the UK ranges between 6 and 9. You may be able to grow plants out of these zones, but you’re more likely to experience plant loss.
Choosing Flowers And Plants
The flowers and plants that you choose for your garden play a significant role in how well your garden thrives. Depending on how large your garden is or the type you choose, some of these factors may be less important than others.
Plan For Growth
While every garden grows, some require less space for growth than others. A vegetable garden is likely to need the most space for growth. Spacing is essential to ensure that your plants have enough room to grow. It’s also important to make sure that you plant vegetables near one another that are “compatible.”
Companion gardening creates a natural balance in your garden, and you’re less likely to experience one type of plant choking out or overcrowding another kind.
Planting from seed requires more planning for growth than plants you transplant into your garden, but you should still expect some growth from full-grown plants.
Another thing to consider when thinking about plant growth is that some plants will end up being taller than others. It’s best to plant taller plants, such as ornamental grasses, in the back so that shorter plants don’t hide in the shadows of much taller plants.
Keep in mind that even if you plan for growth, you may still need to do occasional pruning to keep everything looking neat and tidy. If you notice that some plants aren’t thriving due to overcrowding, you may need to thin some of the plants.
Many people are unaware of the versatility of container gardening. You might think that container gardening is reserved for flowerpots and window boxes, but anything you can grow in the ground can thrive in a container. Container gardening allows you to be a little more creative since you can plant in almost any kind of container from old tea kettles to wooden crates.
If you plan to plant in containers or window boxes, make sure that you choose a container that’s large enough for a mature plant. Like other potted plants, you often need to upsize and replant as your plant grows. Depending on the type of container gardening you do, you might not need to transplant to a larger pot.
Container gardening is relatively low maintenance, but it’s essential that your container has adequate drainage. It’s also important that you have the right size container for your plants. Some plants, like tomato plants, need extra space to avoid becoming root bound. Don’t forget to give your plants enough space while planning a container garden.
Small tomato plants, for example, seem like they won’t need much space, but as they grow, a good rule of thumb is one tomato plant per container.
Other things to consider are whether or not you will want to move your container indoors during the colder months or if the containers are only seasonal. Nearly all plants can grow in a container as long as you provide the right environment for growth.
While flower beds are traditional, it doesn’t mean they need to be boring. Like all other types of gardens, flower beds are versatile. Whether you’re planting the same flowers that your Mum grew in her garden while you were young or you want to make good use of an area where grass doesn’t grow, flower bed options are seemingly endless.
If you plan flower beds all-around your house or in different areas of your back yard, you’ll need to consider what kind of light these areas receive during the day.
The front of your home may get full sun in the morning and partially shaded in the afternoon. The plants you choose must be able to withstand the sun or shade settings, and in most cases, you’ll have different flowers in different parts of your yard.
Flower beds are often a popular choice around walkways or garden paths. Since many of these areas are high traffic, you should consider plants that are hardy and will not die if someone accidentally steps on them.
Be careful of planting “creeping” plants that might obstruct a walkway or cause a tripping hazard. Ground cover flowers are excellent for filling in gaps but plant them in a different area where they are less likely to take over a pathway.
Building Living Walls
Many living walls are available as a kit, and most tutorials note that it will take about a full afternoon (at most) to build a living wall. Living walls consist of trays of plants that hang from a wall or fence. At first, it may not look filled in, but as it grows, it fills in nicely and looks like a lush living vertical wall.
Think of your wall like a vertical version of a flower bed. You can plant many of the same types of flowers and plants and also incorporate vegetables and herbs for harvesting.
If your not sure what types of plants are suitable for a living wall, talk to a local horticulturist for some pointers.
Similar to a living wall are features like salad planters, which you can grow in trays and attach to a wall. It’s a convenient way to grow greens and herbs while maximizing space if your yard is small.
Did you know that you can “train” fruit trees to grow against a wall? Espalier fruit trees are an excellent space-saving option and a unique spin on a living wall.
Archways And Arbors
Archways and arbors may seem a little grandiose for a smaller yard, but they work well in any garden space. While very similar in design, arbors are traditionally made of branches, and arches consist of a variety of materials.
An arbor may be a welcome addition to the entrance of your gate, or an archway can break up an area of your yard and provide a nice shady spot for relaxing. Most arches and arbors are an easy DIY project, but the level of difficulty will vary depending on which materials you use.
Some people build an archway or arbor and display it as is, but it’s common to grow vines and flowering plants. Jasmine, rambling roses, passion flowers, and even grapevines are excellent examples of what grows well in arches and arbors.
Keep in mind like many gardens, it may take a while for climbing plants and flowers to become established when planning an archway or arbor.
Designing Your Patio
At first thought, a patio may seem anti-garden and a bit contradictory to add more concrete and stone when you really want a green space. Patios are more in-demand for people with busy schedules who want the benefits of a garden and a nice place to relax but don’t have time to maintain a green lawn.
Whether you want to revamp an existing patio slab in your backyard or minimize your lawn and build a new patio, the choice is up to you.
When planning your patio, consider the following:
- How do you plan to use the patio?
- What type of garden do you have or want to plant near or around the patio?
- Do you have a budget for a new patio, or do you have a limited budget to fix up a patio that already exists?
- Do you want a solid concrete slab or pavers?
Not only do patios make yards a little more maintenance-free, but they also provide a gathering space or a quiet spot to hang a hammock and nap. A patio can become an extension of your home or your favorite seasonal hangout place.
If you’re planning a patio from scratch, you will have more control of the design, shape, size, and materials used. If you already have a patio in your yard, don’t hesitate to get creative and make the most of it even if it needs some work.
Broken pavers can be removed to plant some ornamental plants or flowers or fill the space with pebbles. You can also consider covering the space with an outdoor area rug. However you plan your patio, try to eliminate tripping hazards and provide adequate lighting for night use.
Elevate Your Patio Space With Decking
Stone patios and walkways are classic features of English gardens, but maybe you’re looking for something a little more modern and “chicer.” Not only can you use decking to build a platform, but many garden designs featuring decking include multi-levels, seating areas, and walkways.
Basic decking is an easy enough DIY project if you have the right tools for the job, but if you want something more elaborate, it’s best to take your design ideas to a professional landscaper. Most decking is available as composite or hardwood.
There are pros and cons of each material, so you’ll want to consider them carefully before you select which one you want for decking.
If you are looking for decking that’s low-maintenance, composite decking is likely a better choice, but wood is often more cost-effective.
Creating Seating And Spots For Relaxation
While many people plant a garden for strictly utilitarian purposes like growing food, why not make the most of your green space and create space for relaxation? Even if your yard is small and space is limited for hosting afternoon tea or enjoying a cookout, you can make the space comfortable and welcoming.
Tables And Chairs
There’s no rule when it comes to selecting tables and chairs for your outdoor space. Depending on the size of your yard and gardens, you may have little nooks set up for outdoor seating. Traditional patio furniture looks nice but can take up a lot of space or is too heavy to move around.
If you have an eclectic style, mixing and matching chairs will add personality to your garden space. If you’re limited on space, consider colorful (yet comfortable) chairs that are stackable and fit in your storage shed.
While you should provide enough seating for everyone to sit comfortably, you might have better luck with benches as a space-saving option. Placing a bench at the end of your garden creates a nice focal point and a cozy space to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Bistro style fold up tables are an excellent option for smaller seating spaces, and you can also consider remodeling a table to double as a planter for succulents or other plants.
Hang Up A Hammock
Hanging a hammock can be a centerpiece of any garden. Available in all sizes from the sturdy made to order stand as shown in the image below, to single hammocks that can be attached to tree’s or other supporting structures found in the garden. If your space is just big enough for a chair then a hanging chair could be thr right fit for you.
A hammock frame is easy to set up but may not be the best use of space. Whether you tie your hammock to trees or secure with clips on a garden wall, make sure that they are sturdy enough to support the weight safely.
Similar sort of thing to hammocks are sun loungers, according to retailer WeDo Hammocks, sun loungers are becoming a popular choice. Sun loungers are often better suited when entertaining guests in the garden as the evening draws in.
Pop-up gazebos are popular for backyard events and celebrations, but they often take up too much space or are a hassle to set up and take down. Permanent gazebos provide protection from rain and sun and create a quiet space to enjoy a meal or chat with friends.
Like other garden features, gazebos are available in a variety of styles, sizes, and consist of numerous materials. If you don’t have room in your yard for a freestanding and permanent gazebo, a gazebo that attaches to your wall and pops-out like an awning may be a better solution.
Hot tubs are one of the most quintessential ways to relax in the privacy of your own backyard. If a hot tub has been on your “garden wish list” for years, it might be time to bring that dream to fruition.
If you’re worried that a hot tub might stick out in your backyard and take away from your gardens, why not plan your garden around your hot tub? Consider building decking around or leading to your hot tub.
Potted trees, plants, climbing flowers, and other garden features will blend in nicely and make your hot tub look more like a part of the landscaping rather than an eyesore.
Lighting Your Garden
Most people know the importance of lighting in the front of the house, but garden lighting is often overlooked.
Use solar lights that stick into the ground to help light your walkways or string up decorative lights in one of your lounging corners. Since many landscape lighting options are solar-powered, you can place lights all over your garden without worrying about cords or finding an outlet.
If you want landscape lights that you can turn on with a switch from inside your home, you probably want to consider professional installation. Another convenient option for lighting your garden is to set up smart lighting that you can control from your smartphone. Not only can you set the lights to go on or off when you’re away from home, but you can also control brightness and other features.
Creating A Space For Your Kids
Gardening is an activity that anyone can enjoy, including small children. When you plan your gardens, get your kids involved. Give them the opportunity to pick out plants or even plant a small plot or a container garden of their own.
If you have the space, consider building a playhouse or provide child-sized seating so that your children can relax and enjoy the garden just like you.
Some plants are poisonous and particularly dangerous for children and pets. If you have small children or pets, avoid planting flowers and plants that are potentially hazardous like foxglove, ivy, morning glory, and hydrangea.
When selecting plants and planning your garden, take note of which plants are toxic for children and animals.
It may come as no surprise that a water feature is one of the most common things you’ll find in an average British garden. A water feature can be anything from a birdbath to a bubbly fountain or a man-made pond. Some water features are beneficial in wildlife gardens, while others are strictly ornamental.
When planning a water feature, keep in mind that the bigger the feature, the more maintenance is required. You don’t need to design a large water feature to make your garden space more relaxing.
There’s no real right or wrong way to design a garden, but it’s best to choose features and plants that fit your preferences and your lifestyle. There are many things to consider when designing a garden but planning your garden shouldn’t be an overwhelming or unpleasant experience.
Start out by brainstorming, carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of each garden feature and give yourself time to establish and create the garden of your dreams.