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How to design a garden – with or without a professional landscaper


Source: realhomes.com

Whether you want to know how to design a garden yourself or with help from a horticultural expert or landscaper, ensuring you plan out your plot, big or small, will help your space succeed.

Working out how to design a garden can be tricky – after all, getting your garden design right, no matter what size yard space you have, requires a great deal of thought and care. Whether you want a simple tweak to include raised beds, or if you want to know how to design your garden yourself on a budget, we can help you succeed in your garden planning project. 

From decorative garden ideas and planting inspiration, to what to consider when hiring a professional, and the tools you’ll need if you go solo, we’ve all the know-how you need to help plan your yard’s garden space to perfection – whatever climate you’re working with and whatever your budget may be. All you need then is some of the best garden furniture to relax in…

The approach you take ultimately depends on what you want and need, within budget. 

There are thousands of images online showing different garden styles. Start collecting them and produce a mood board. Sometimes it might be the smallest detail of a handcrafted door handle that you like — the shape, the craftsmanship and/or the material might appeal. This, in turn, could steer you towards an ‘arts and crafts’ style garden, for example.’ 

Getting started on your garden design early on in the year is crucial if you want it ready for landscaping, planting out and enjoying the warmer months in. Depending on your climate, ideally, you’ll want to avoid working in the rainy season also. ‘January, February and even March are the perfect times to sit down with a cuppa, a blank piece of paper or your laptop and get your thinking cap on. Sometimes, paper cut outs in different shapes, representing a table and chairs or a shed, can be moved around until you find the right balance’ adds Lane.


Designing a garden yourself is a satisfying, pocket-friendly option that will allow you to get really creative. There are so many resources and even garden design apps available to help you bring your outdoor space to life, whether you need ideas for a small veggie patch, looks for a bigger plot, for a courtyard or balcony garden


Head outside and measure up. You’ll need a measuring tape, notepad, pencil and rubber. Measure, starting with the biggest areas, followed by small sections including nooks and crannies, finally noting down the dimensions of any existing garden rooms or outbuildings. Lane says ‘Take measurements of the garden, patio or balcony — especially the width and length.’ This will help you know what you’re working with, whether you’re planning your garden layout yourself or reaching out to a professional.’

This is also the right time to establish your garden’s aspect. Do this by visiting your garden at different points during the day to understand the direction that your outdoor space faces, and make a note of any shaded garden spots as this will determine any planting and your final garden layout.

This is best done with a compass but you will be able to figure it out without also! Lane says ‘If the garden leads off the back or front of the house, sit back with a coffee and biscuit (or two). Then, watch where the sun comes up and where shadows fall in the garden; will the area close to the backdoor be in full sun all day, or be in partial shade?’

Depending on which way your garden faces, the light will fall:

  • North-facing gardens: These will usually have shaded spots for the best part of the day so you’ll get the best look from shade garden plants.
  • South-facing gardens: South-facing spaces will enjoy all the sunshine all day, so you can go to town on Med plants and your herb garden will stay looking fine too.
  • West-facing gardens: Here you will enjoy shade in the AM and sun during the afternoon, through until the evening. You will find lots of hardy plants like roses, tulips, geraniums and more to add interest,
  • East-facing gardens: In an East-facing garden, plants will enjoy morning sunlight and evening shade letting you choose more shade-loving but flowering varieties if you wish like Anemones and Viburnums.


Establishing a design brief of what you want and need from your garden space is essential and therefore should be done early on in your garden planning process.

You will need an understanding of any problems that need to be solved – such as a bumpy lawn, waterlogging issues, lack of colour and the like – and, of course, of all the goals you want to achieve with your garden project, like starting a kitchen garden, or creating a space for cutting flowers.

Spend time talking with family and friends about why you’re taking on this project, ahead of diving into and drawing up your specific garden design aims. This will help you determine whether you should need to employ a professional garden designer or complete the work yourself. 

Other factors to consider also are whether you are renting a house, or if this is your forever home. If you rent or aren’t planning to stay in your home for a really long time, you may want to consider mainly cosmetic changes that will be able to come with you to your next home – favouring container gardening and planting annuals, or perennials that are easy to take cuttings from, so that none of your gardening work is lost.

And, if this is your forever home, you can prepare for a bigger change and for a garden that will come into its own over the next few years, and that might even add to your property value. You might want to establish a cottage garden or add sculptural features that you will be able to upkeep for a really contemporary outdoor space complete with a vegetable patch and the like. This will naturally be more work and more costly to begin with, but very much worth it.


Spend time looking critically at the garden at both its good and bad points before developing a new ‘masterplan’, and before you carry out any of the landscaping work. You might want to swap out a tired patio, but keep other features, like an attractive decking area or mature trees.

Establishing privacy needs should come into play here also, ‘Draw lines leading off from windows and doors, as these will become sightlines.’ Once you know this you’ll be able to find the most suitable garden screening ideas for your space’s needs. This is then the perfect time to ‘Pull in your favourite garden features or desired theme. Bring together all your garden inspiration from online features, social media, magazines and the likes.’

Consider any additional features also. This includes garden rooms, orangeries, sheds and anything you’d like to incorporate into your outdoor space in general as it will contribute to the overall feel of the space. If you have a balcony or small courtyard garden you could consider an outdoor cinema setting, better garden storage and more to help enhance the space you do have.

A hand sketch is fine, but rendering a garden design on your computer, to scale will make your plan super clear.


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