Planning a Garden Layout to Suit Your Plot and Family
Planning and Design
Attractive gardens do not just grow – they are planned. They are the result of a careful analysis of the site, the problems and the assets that even the most ordinary garden undoubtedly possesses. Whether you have a garden of several acres in the country, or a town house with little more than a backyard, a beautiful garden can be created by thoughtful design and the wise use of plants to suitand site.
Whether starting from scratch where the builders left off, or taking over an existing garden, look at it with the long-term in mind. If patience is short, there are ways of quickly achieving impact and colour (click here to view Gardens for the Impatient Gardener); but it is no substitute for an overall plan.
The urge to make a start with planting or construction must be constrained. A garden is as permanent as the home it surrounds, so it makes no sense to lay it out hurriedly. And planning can be just as exciting as doing the job; usually it’s a lot less effort!
Assessing the Garden
When planning a garden layout and way before spade is put to soil, or pen to paper, spend time quietly assessing what you have — in terms of space, surroundings, and any existing planting. If you can take advantage of any natural assets you will save both time and money, and the garden may look more natural into the bargain.
Take a long look at your plot and decide exactly what is worth preserving. Make full use of the beauty and grace of trees. But unless there are restrictions on their removal (check with your landlord or local council) be on your guard against keeping trees that are growing too near the house, denying it light and perhaps threatening the foundations. Dispense with trees that interfere with a desirable view, and those that are ugly by reason of their habit or age. Other valuable features to cherish may include a wall of warm brick, a stone outcrop, a stream, or a bank that would welcome a.
A pleasing distant view should be treasured, and if possible enhanced, perhaps by planting trees or groups of shrubs to frame it.
Listing Garden Requirements
Only rarely are well-designed gardens planned in the head. Planning a garden layout requires you to write down a list of features and functions you expect from your garden.
Set out the features that are important to you, such as a patio, terrace, rock garden, pool, play area, or pergola. Then list the buildings or utility features you need to incorporate — such as a shed, greenhouse, summerhouse, storage tank or bunker,bin, or dustbin.
A second list should contain broad planting categories that interest you —, trees, shrubs, herbaceous border, roses, fruit or vegetables, for instance.
Don’t get carried away. If you try to introduce too many elements the garden will look ‘bitty’.
There are some features that must be incorporated into the design when planning a garden layout, even though they may not be attractive in their own right. Washing lines, garden sheds and sand-pits fall into this category. None of these need spoil a garden, but they do need thought at the planning stage.
Washing lines are an inevitable requirement, and custom usually demands at least one unsightly post, often stuck in a hole in the lawn. Such a site also means wet feet in winter. A far better choice is a radial drier, which occupies little space, can be slotted into concrete or paving near the house, and is easily removed after use.
Garden sheds may take up valuable space in a, but are essential for storing tools and doing a little potting, unless there is room in the garage.
If possible it is best to place the shed in part of a specially designed utility area, which can also include the compost heap, bonfire site, and storage ground for things like stakes, pots, and bales of peat. Fencing off such an area only draws attention to it, so try to screen it naturally with shrubs, a group of bush fruits, or a weeping tree.
A greenhouse may not be a priority in a new garden, but no enthusiastic gardener is going to be without one for long. So, even if a greenhouse is no more than a pipe-dream, plan a site for it. This should be in an open position (or against a southerly wall for a lean-to), and away from the shade of trees or buildings, but not far from the house. This makes it easy (and cheaper) to connect up the main services — electricity will almost certainly be needed, and perhaps gas.
A greenhouse filled with plants and flowers is also an attractive sight, and there is no reason to try to hide it — especially as any screening inevitably robs it of some light.
Children make their own demands on a garden (click here to view Designing Children’s Gardens). Even if a play area can be incorporated near enough to the house for supervision, it’s too much to expect children to keep out of the rest of the garden. So until they reach a responsible age, it’s wise to provide a hard-wearing lawn that will stand up to games, to avoid using easily damaged plants close to it, and to fix a swing where it won’t matter if a bare patch is created.
If the garden is large enough, a ‘wild area’ will give great enjoyment, especially if there are a few trees to climb and a dense shrubbery in which secret camps can be made.
Drawing the Garden Plan
Decide on your priorities first, then decide how much space you can afford to allow for each. Bear in mind that you must fry to arrange them into a satisfying whole, taking into account proportion and balance. Do not allow any one feature to dominate, and match the ‘weight’ of one part with another, so that the garden will not look lop-sided. If you can ‘hide’ a section of garden, arranging a jutting peninsula of shrubs, or a group or ornamental trees, you will add interest and form to the garden.
Draw the plan on a sheet of plain paper, sketching the plot roughly to scale, and indicating north and south. Then outline your chosen features as general shapes. Things are unlikely to work out right first time, but with a little juggling and trial and error, you will be able to lay the foundations of a sound plan.
The detailed plan is drawn only after all the options have been explored for planning a garden layout.