Designing Your Garden – What Makes a Good Garden?

The way you design your garden is very personal and often shows who you are. What I like you, you may not and vise versa. Some people like neat and tidy gardens with no surprises, while others love the thrill of winding paths, lots of different plants, and not knowing what’s around the corner. Gardens come in three main styles: formal, semi-formal, and casual. Then, they can be split up into different types of gardens, depending on what you want. Your garden design doesn’t have to match the style of your house at all, but it can if you want it to, like in the grand French chateaux, where the geometric patterns of the garden match the geometric design of the house.

Some people are lucky enough to know how to design space in a way that makes it a nice place to be. Others don’t have this gene, so it’s hard for them to imagine how the space will be used. To make a good design, you need to know that design is about how space is used and how people move through it. Patterns and the space between them are at the heart of a well-designed garden. By using circles, triangles, rectangles, and other geometric shapes in your garden, you can make it look more like a whole. So, you need to think about how people will move through and around your garden. Where do you want them to go? Patterns on the ground can be made with bricks, pavers, and plant materials like cut grass, etc.

Formal gardens are symmetrical, have straight lines, and have patterns and plants that are the same on both sides. It is very controlled. Plants are cut, shaped, and moved all the time, and it is often used in small gardens like court yards today. The formal garden has urns, balustrades, stone, gravel paths, parterres, formal pools, and framed views. You know what to expect, so there are no surprises.

Informal designs aren’t symmetrical and don’t follow rules as much. Plants are allowed to grow over walls, steps, and paths. Plants are allowed to grow from their own seeds and move around the garden. The design of an informal garden is softer and full of surprises, so you never know what to expect.

And semi-formal is a mix of the two above. Most of the time, the formal parts of a garden are the built structures, like walls, paths, and steps. The informal parts are the plants that are allowed to grow over the hard edges of the built structures.

There are many different styles of gardens within these three categories, such as modern, Japanese, Mediterranean, cottage, courtyard, kitchen garden, and secret garden.

Contemporary is a modern style that tries to look like its surroundings and uses a wide variety of plants. Just like flowers, the shape and feel of leaves are important. The hard landscaping is woven into buildings with geometric shapes. All of these buildings flow into the landscape as a whole. Plants are used as focal points to draw attention to the shapes of the buildings.

Cottage was written in the late 1800s as a way to return to the simple country cottages. They were filled with bulbs, flowers, fruit bushes, herbs, and vegetables that could stand up to the weather. They were geometric, the colors went well together, and the plants grew well because they were fertilized a lot.

Mediterranean is not just one place, but a group of places that have hot summers and little rain. They have places to hang out, shade, good views, and shadows that look great. To make a cool atmosphere, hot, colorful plants and lots of plants with lush, green leaves are used. Plants need to be able to live in dry places. People like evergreen plants because they can give shade on hot days. Walls are painted white to reflect the sun, pergolas are built for shade, and terracotta pots are used to hold plants. There is often a water feature, which makes the place feel cool.

Japanese gardens include both religion and the history of Japan’s culture. Many of the symbols in Japanese gardens have to do with nature. Plants are “tamed,” and evergreen trees and shrubs are given a lot of attention. They tend to be very controlled and simple. True Japanese gardens are places where you can think and feel very calm.


If you don’t know where to start when designing your garden, I suggest breaking it up into sections called rooms. This will turn one big space into several smaller ones. For instance, a house may have a front garden, a side garden, and a back garden. Once you know where they start and where they end, you can divide each of those areas up again. For example, in the back garden, you could have an area for entertaining, an area for kids to play on the grass, an area for utilities (with a shed and compost pile), an area for the pool, and an area for growing vegetables or fruit trees. Once you know which areas or rooms you want to work on, you can do one at a time. This breaks a big project into several smaller ones.

The three stages of making plans

To make a fun and interesting garden, you need to make 3 sets of plans (or 4, if you need structural plans from an engineer):

– Site Analysis Plan, Concept Plan, and Planting Plan are usually all drawn to scale.

How to Start

To make a garden that works, you need to do a few things before you buy plants and plant them. If you do these things, your garden is more likely to grow well.

Site Analysis

You should make a list of everything in the area you are designing. Here are some things to add:

Levels – steep/flat
North/South Aspect
Sun Summer/Winter \sShadows
There are already trees and buildings
Good and bad views
Soil conditions
Entrances – Front/back doors
Power lines
Cables and pipes are buried.
Line for clothes
Garages and sheds
Areas with and without pavement
Drainage is when storm water runs off.

After making these notes, it’s time to draw the space. You can draw it roughly (not to scale), but you’ll have to draw it to scale at some point. Start by measuring the area you want to design. Then, draw it to scale, say 1:100, and add all of the above details to it. All of these factors need to be written down so that trends can be seen. For example, there might be a paved path from the back door to the garage, but everyone takes a short cut across the lawn, which creates a desire line. No, nobody walks on the paved path. So maybe pave the desire line and make it the official path.

The concept plan is the next step. This is where you write down your ideas. You can make it as wild and exciting as you want. Don’t worry about how much it will cost. Have fun being creative. This is where you write down all the things you’ve always wanted. In the end, your hip pocket will tell you if you can have them or not. You can do anything, so don’t be afraid to dream. Again, you can draw this roughly or exactly to scale.

The planting plan is the third and last plan, and it’s best if it’s drawn to scale so you know exactly how many plants you’ll need. It includes all the ideas you’ve chosen and shows you how the garden will look when it’s done. It will help you figure out how to build your new garden.

There might be a fourth plan if your site is steep or you are building big things and need an engineer’s help.

Things to think about

Think about the type of soil you have. Is it heavy clay or light sand? What kinds of plants will grow here? Are some places always wet while others are always dry?

Sun conditions

During spring and summer, the sun is higher in the sky, and shadows are shorter. In winter, on the other hand, the sun is lower in the sky and its shadow is longer. So a plant could be in the sun all day in the summer and in the shade all day in the winter. Will it be okay with this? Also think about what the plants need to grow. Are they plants that like full sun, like roses, or plants that like shade, like azaleas?


You should also think about the direction of the wind. Which way does the wind blow most of the time? One way to deal with this problem is with screens and hedges, but what problems will they cause? Making the block feel small, casting shadows, etc. It’s important to know this because some plants don’t like wind, and you don’t want to put the BBQ/entertainment area in a place where people will be uncomfortable.


It’s very important to have a nice view from your window or garden. Some are annoying, while others are what you want. If you want to block out flats, neighbors, or other things, you may need a higher fence or some kind of hedging screen. Or, you might want to plan your garden to make the mountain, ocean, etc. look better.

Services and Utilities

You also need to know where things like your clothesline, power lines, and other services and utilities are. If you break the gas, phone, or power lines, you will have to pay to fix them.

How to design a garden:

To make a well-planned garden, you need to put the right plant in the right place. This means taking into account the plant’s cultural needs. For example, putting a plant that needs full sun, like a rose, in a place with a lot of shade won’t work because the rose won’t get enough light to grow. The idea behind good garden design is to follow this philosophy, using the placement of plants to create mystery, tension, and surprise by using tricks of the eye, colors, and textures.

A garden is interesting when there is tension, mystery, and a surprise. One way to make these is to use hedges, low walls, screens, paths, and steps to make separate “garden rooms” with tension points that catch your eye along the way. For example, a narrow, long garden can be made more interesting by making it so you can’t see the back fence. This could be done with a plant, a statue, or something else. It’s also more interesting if the path is narrow and then leads to a bigger room. If you can’t see what’s around the corner, a winding path adds mystery to the garden. When you go around a corner and find the main point, it’s a surprise.

A seat, statue, or water feature that draws your eye straight to it is a focal point. For instance, a pergola with a statue at its end. The statue is the main attraction, and you look or walk toward it to see it. Another example of a focal point is a path that goes through an open door to a wider view of the landscape.

How well the ground patterns lead you to the focal point can have an effect on how well the focal point works. If the path is paved in a way that makes you want to go down it and creates tension and mystery, you are more likely to follow it to see what’s at the end. Narrow paths tell you to walk quickly and not stop to look at the plants along the way. Wide paths tell you to stroll, take your time, and look at the plants around you. People slow down because it’s risky to go fast around a tight curve. They can go fast around a gentle curve. Paving is used to tell people “don’t walk that way, walk this way instead.” With edging bricks, you can tell people not to cross this line. Paving can also be used to make the house’s ground plane or other shapes in the garden stand out.

Long, thin gardens have a strong focus in one direction that needs to be broken up. Square plots are static. For these problems to go away, the shape of the space needs to be changed. The straight lines of the boundary fence are hidden by a round design. You could also make the edges of a series of rectangles part of the design.

Another way to do this is to tilt the garden 45 degrees. A long diagonal line will give the impression of space right away. Paving could be done at an angle near the house to highlight the diagonal line of the whole garden.

When you turn a corner in a garden with a dog-leg, you can use tension, mystery, and surprise to lead you to a focal point of some kind.

Controlling how people move around the garden creates a single space. Paths, bridges, pergolas, steps, and terraces connect different parts of a garden. This is what makes a garden successful. If you don’t place things carefully, they can throw off the flow of the garden. If you want to draw someone’s attention to a certain spot, the design must make it clear why this path should be taken.

When planning a garden, the level of the ground is very important. If a slope is too steep to walk down safely, steps may be needed, and if the whole block is on a slope, the whole area may need to be terraced. How you make something is also important. Steps shouldn’t be made of things that are easy to slip on, and gravel can wash away. The surfaces need to be flat. If they aren’t, they could be dangerous and people won’t want to walk on them, which could lead to “desire lines.”

Levels add interest and “rooms” to a garden because steps, paths, etc. let you move from one place to another. Let the levels flow into each other gently and keep them simple. Don’t make them too fancy. A slope that goes up from the house will make it look smaller, while a slope that goes down from the house will make it look bigger.

Choosing Materials for Plants

There are three kinds of gardens: the plants man’s garden, the designer’s garden, and the gardener’s garden (mix of the first two). People’s gardens are full of single plants that don’t connect to each other. These plants are often rare and hard to find. The plants in the garden designer’s garden have been tried and tested. They use plants that they know well and know how they work. The gardener’s garden has learned that putting their favorite plants in a plan makes them work better.

When you choose plants for your garden, you need to think about the conditions there. There is no reason to put plants that like acid soil in alkaline soil or the other way around. Not going to work! You need to think about whether the plants you’ve chosen need wet soil, dry soil, shade, sun, soil that drains well, or soil that doesn’t drain well. If you do the right research and put your plants in the right places, you will have a good chance of having a successful garden.

You should also think about how tall and wide your plants will grow. Plants that grow tall are put in the back of the garden bed, and plants that grow low are put in front. Don’t forget that some plants have flower spikes that are much bigger than the plant itself, so they need to be placed based on the height of their flower spikes. Some plants are bushy, so make sure to give them enough space to grow. They might need to be cut back once a year to keep them in check.


Color is another tool that can be used when designing. Color is the feeling of being lit up, which is what light is. The way colors work together depends on where they are on the color wheel. Color manipulation is a lot of fun and can be used to make all kinds of tricks. The primary colours are red, yellow, and blue, and the secondary colours are green, violet, and orange. When you mix blue and yellow together to make green, for example, you are making a secondary color. By using pale and brown colors, you can make a room look cold or make it seem farther away. Warm colors like orange, red, and yellow can also make a room look bigger than it really is. Again, use warm colors to make a space look like it’s closer to you. Since reds, oranges, and yellows are very busy colors, it’s a good idea to mix in white flowers or grey foliage plants to make the scene look less busy. White and gray also make blue and light colors look stronger.

One thing to remember about the Australian sun is that the best time to look at our gardens is in the late afternoon, when the sun is not as strong. Our hot sun tends to make the colors of our flowers fade, and the midday sun tends to wash out the colors.

If you don’t know where to start when planning your garden, divide the space into sections and work on one at a time. Don’t start working on another part until you’ve finished the one you’re on, and you’ll soon have a beautiful garden. Don’t forget that gardens change over time. It’s a process that is always moving forward. You never really get to the end.



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