Portrait of Jack Wallington
Jack Wallington (Photographer - Christopher Lyon Anderson)

When you’re starting to think about designing your garden it’s best to step back and think about how you will use your space and the feel you're aiming for. It’s better to think about the big vision before diving into choosing specific plants or items of furniture. This allows you to form a picture and theme in your head first, making sure the details complement one another, to achieve that designed, coherent look.


Think about your use of the space

A garden sofa
How do you want to use your space? - Jason Ingram

Many people get garden design wrong by not spending enough time thinking about how you will use your garden space. For instance, do you need an outdoor dining table or is your indoor table positioned near large french or bifold doors, making outdoor sofas a better alternative?

Seating position

A lounger in the sun
A sunny spot to sit in - Neil Hepworth

Do you want to sit in the sun or shade, and at what time of day? This will dictate the location of your seating areas, which is a good starting point for any design. You might find the desired location is at the end of the garden and not next to the house, informing where paths should go.

Size of seating areas

A dining table in a garden
Consider the size of your seating area - Paul Debois

Seating area size in gardens can be tough to decide and I generally start with a four-metre square, adjusting that down to three metres for small spaces or larger if the furniture needs more space. Allow one metre room for chairs to be pushed backward without guests tipping backward into planting.

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Planting considerations

Consider the size of your borders - Jason Ingram

Many people make the mistake of narrow 30-50cm planting strips down the sides of lawns or patios, next to fences and walls. They're surprised when I say I would never make planting areas smaller than 2m deep, or 1.5m at an absolute push. Narrow strips don’t allow enough room for good planting and are often dry because fences and walls shield rain.

Colour, texture and patterns

A colourful border
Consider colour and texture - Jason Ingram

Spend the most amount of time thinking about your flower and foliage colour palette, plant textures and how you repeat plants through a garden in rough patterns. Making these elements work well together are what will set your garden apart as considered rather than a mishmash collection of plants. Not that there’s anything wrong with a mishmash, if that's what you want!