Monthly Archives: January 2017


Once you have measured up your garden and you know what and where your different levels are, then you are almost ready to begin. The other crucial piece of the jigsaw is having thought carefully about the following:

– Who will be using the garden, when and what for?
– Entertaining, family meals, children’s play area, area for growing vegetables? Be sure of what you  want before you begin.
– Do you know where the sun falls in the garden and when?
– Do you know where you have any drainage problems that may need to be taken into account?
– Would you like atmospheric lighting or a water feature put in the garden?
– How much time and money do you have for maintenance?
– What is your budget for the project?

Make sure you have a comprehensive list of these things and refer to it while you are working on the design.

Remember, a sloping garden, drainage problems or the taking down and removal of such things as walls or old outbuildings will cost more to redesign, as the initial outlay for the preparatory works will be higher that if your garden was an empty flat site.


Be aware that demolition and site clearance is pretty expensive. Try and reuse existing materials in the garden wherever you can, it’s better for the environment and better for your pocket.


All designers will draw a design to scale, something most people with no design experience will not be able to do themselves. I suggest that for example when you have decided where to put a seating area for 6 people, that you go out to the space and either put 6 chairs and a table in that space to see if it fits or find out the measurements and mark  out the area required. It is crucial when designing, that you have enough space to fit in the things you want!



Remember the more patios, walls, and structures you put in to the design the more expensive it will be. The more lawn and borders you have the more you’ll see the price coming down. Less is more with hard landscaping and it should be elegant, simple and functional. If you’d like things such as a shed or water feature in your garden, find out the costs of these before you add them in so you can keep tabs on your budget. If you’d like some structures in the garden but your budget is tight, look to more traditional materials like woven hazel or willow to help keep costs down.


When it comes to materials such as pavers and gravel, speak to your local builders merchants to find out the costs of different materials so that you can pick the ones that suit your budget as well as the garden. You will be able to get bulk bags of various materials, so that may be a more economical way to buy them. Using environmentally friendly materials, non-toxic preservatives, stains, paints and cleaners helps protect the environment too.


Remember that once you have the design done you don’t need to have all the work done in one go. You can split the cost by doing it in stages and over two or three years if you’d like. As long as you have a cohesive design then that’s your blueprint to work from as and when, time and money allows.


Take a good look at the style of your house and the materials used to build it. If your garden is to be a seamless extension of your house then you need to make sure that it looks the part. The style or theme you choose for your garden, along with the materials used to construct it need to blend.

Do you want a soft organic flowing garden or do you prefer more orderly geometric shapes? In order to get the most out of your garden you should look at it as another room in your house and plan accordingly. Within this garden room you can create different, smaller ‘rooms’ in your landscape, for example, perhaps one for entertaining, one for children to play and so on.


Many people decide they want their garden to reflect a particular theme, for example, a Japanese garden or a contemporary, modern garden or a wildlife friendly garden. This can give you a focus for both your design and also planting ideas.

Remember you will need to ‘link’ these rooms whatever style you choose, so think about how people will move from one space to another. Create openings to encourage exploration of the garden space so that people can move around it. Using materials wisely allows you to create different ‘ rooms’ in your landscape.


Using plants is a great way to define areas in the garden too, so don’t underestimate the importance of these. Early in your planning you should think about how plants will function in your landscape. For example, low growing plants can be used to create implied barriers, blocking access but without blocking the views.

Shady ColourWhen it comes to planting, repeating similar shapes and structures in your garden to give you a unified view throughout your space. I will look at planting and planting plans in my next blog to help you with this important area of design.

Looking at good examples of design is a create way to get ideas. Note what works well and incorporate that into your design. Don’t be frightened to pinch ideas from different places. Looking at what others have done is a natural way to find inspiration.

Remember that most garden design deals with finding aesthetically pleasing and functional solutions to problems within a garden. Creativity is dealing with these problems and trying to find the best solution faced with a lot of possible options.

Feeling unsure which one to choose is normal. Just do your best and remember if you get stuck you can always call upon a garden designer to give you some advice and get you over that hurdle and back on course!


Not everyone can afford to have their garden designed and built and people often ask how to do some or all of it themselves. That’s fair enough, so I’ve put together some hints and tips to help you ‘go it alone’.



Find out more about your garden:-

• Does your garden face north, south, east or west?
• Is your garden battered by northerly or westerly winds?
• Do you have any frost pockets in the garden?
• Is your garden on a new-build estate and does it have poor soil or indeed any topsoil?
• Check the pH of your soil to see if you have any areas of acid or alkaline soil .You can buy soil testing kits from any garden centre. Remember that different parts of your garden can have different pH levels and this will affect your plant choice.
• If there are particularly dry, damp or boggy areas, then that again will affect your plant choice
• Do you have beautiful loamy soil? Most people don’t, so be sure you know what you’ve got! Plants that will thrive in sandy soils will be different from those suited to a clay one. The same applies to the location of the garden. Seaside gardens and town gardens will require the same thought and consideration when it comes to planting.
• Where does the sun fall and at what time of the day? Do you have any areas in the garden where drainage is bad and you notice pools of water?
• Is your garden on a slope? Do you need to think about retaining the soil in places?
• How do you want to use the space and who will be using it? Do you have pets? Small children? Do you plan to entertain outdoors or have family meals outside?


– Know your garden conditions – soil, microclimates and drainage
– Work out who will be using the garden – when and what for
– Consider how much time you will have to maintain your garden or if you are going to take someone on to do it
– Allocate a budget to the project – work out how much you can realistically afford to spend and seek advice if necessary, on how to maximise it.

Yellow tape measure in meters and inches in a spiral


The next step is to measure up you garden so that you know exactly the amount of space there is. If you want to add or change levels to the garden and you don’t know how to do that then try and find a friend or colleague who does know and enlist their help!
Try your hand at a design. In my next blog I’m going to cover how to tackle this. To make sure you’re on the right track though, why not contact a Garden Designer once you’ve finished it and run it by them. Most will charge a consultancy fee of £45-£75 per hour but you’ll probably only need one or one and a half hours with them. It is a much cheaper option than getting a design done and will ensure that any ’mistakes’ you have made are corrected before you spend any real money!


You may want to appoint a contractor to do the hard-landscaping but if you’re pretty competent and want to do it yourself or with friends then a website I would recommend to give help and support is:

This website will give you incredible tips and instructions on the vast majority of tasks that anyone would need to undertake building their own garden.


Once you garden is built the planting plan is the final stage. Do think this out carefully and again use  library resources and the internet to get advice on how to put together a planting plan well. Local plant nurseries will be able to give you really good advice so do take the opportunity and ask. If you are buying your plants from them you will get plenty of help with what to choose. People waste a lot of money on plants that fail quickly for a number of reasons.

If you put a planting plan together yourself, here are some key guidelines to follow:

How much do you want to spend on plants? Be firm with yourself as this is the easiest
place to get carried away and spend more money than you intend!

Do you want a Chelsea Flower Show look or are you prepared to wait? If your budget is
small and you are prepared to be patient buy ‘small’ fast –growing shrubs and 9cm
herbaceous plants.

If you have a bit more money to spend then I’d buy larger shrubs and the 9cm herbaceous. Plant in spring so they get as much growth on as possible before the winter.


Next price bracket up – larger shrubs and 1 litre herbaceous

Finally, larger shrubs and 2 litre herbaceous for a more instant impact. Remember some shrubs will go quickly and others won’t. If you do some research you can find out which ones will give you more impact more quickly!

With regards to trees and deciduous shrubs and hedging plants e.g. Birch, why not wait and order them bare-root (without soil) and plant them between November and March. This will reduce your costs, but the garden needs to be snow and frost free when planting them.

You may feel having read this blog that you don’t feel comfortable doing the whole project on your own. Remember, you can always get a garden designer in for bits of the project or just for an hour or two of consultancy if you need to.