Archives for March 2014

Pond and water feature ideas – Part 1

Water in the garden can bring an exciting element into your design. Moving water has both the visual and auditory component to it and is good to take your mind away from surrounding noises of the urban environment.


You can of course put in a still water pond, but for most gardens, with smaller water size features, it’s worth getting a pond pump to keep the water aerated.

I’m not going to go to heavily into the technical aspects of pond and water feature construction,because there are lots of specialist websites that are experts on the technical side of things. Here, we’re going to focus on design and how it relates to your garden.

What are the most important things to think about when adding water in the garden?

  1. Where are you going to locate this said area of water?
  2. Do you want a pond or a water feature?

Ponds tend to have larger open area of water, whereas water features tend to have a cascade of water that goes down into a reservoir, that’s usually underground.

Let’s first take a look at ponds, as they tend to be a little bit more work than having a simple water feature.


The main trick with making a pond look good in the garden, comes down to size. The mass of water needs to be visually the right size and also the right depth. The depth will come down to whether you’re having fish and other wildlife in it or have small children’s safety to consider.

It’s important to get the overall size of the pond correct so that it looks in proportion to the rest of your garden. Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific formula, that’s why it’s best to put it on paper before you build it, so you can check you’ve visually got the right size.

What style of pond do you want?

Ponds come in all different shapes and sizes and styles. There’s everything from formal rectangular ponds that can be either raised up or flat to the ground. Then there is the very natural looking ponds which have varying depths for different plant and wildlife species and have irregular edges, with no straight lines. The varying depths help accommodate the different needs of a variety of wildlife. Having one end shallower, also helps them get out!


How to get the right position for a pond in your garden

Ponds have a larger open area of water than water features, so you have to take a little bit more care with placing them in the garden. Ideally, you do not want to put them somewhere where they can get too many leaves falling into them, so avoid directly under a tree for example. Sunlight is also important to consider, there is no right answer, it will depend upon the needs of what you have in your pond.

Your pond has to to work with the rest of the garden. So if you’ve got a very contemporary style of garden, then adding in a natural pond probably isn’t going to look right, unless it’s well away from all the areas of hard landscaping.


The biggest mistake with pond design…

The mistake that most people make is they focus all their attention on the pond and not the rest of the garden.  Then, once they’ve built it, it looks like someone dropped it from outer space and it landed in the garden!

It’s absolutely critical, if you want to incorporate any feature into your garden be it a pond, water feature or anything else, to take into account the overall design shape of everything you include in your garden.

A well-designed garden is like a jigsaw puzzle, everything has to fit in place or doesn’t work. Great looking gardens don’t happen by accident, they are not a series of unrelated features. Everything ties in together and has been thought about. If you’d like to see this demonstrated, then take a look at the garden design workshop where I will show you how to design a garden from start to finish, and you’ll soon see how dramatic a difference planning a garden this way makes.

Next time we will look at water features and how to place them.

BUT do be warned, nice water features alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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[DESIGN SHOW 7] – Sloping garden ideas, steps and retaining walls

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Sloping garden ideas, steps and retaining walls

In this episode, professional, international garden designer Rachel Mathews will feature sloping gardens, steps and how to deal with a retaining wall and changes in level. She will reveal her simple method for linking different level changes within the garden.

This video is a quick sketch challenge for an existing garden in Scotland which needs re-doing so a retaining wall and steps can be added. You will learn how Rachel sketches over the existing sloping garden to re-design it using oval and curve shapes.

Rachel will also talk about tips and ideas on putting in steps and a retaining wall. She will discuss how wide or narrow the steps should be and how it affects the retaining wall that you will put up. This will also help with making the garden look and feel larger.

You must think about the entire garden…

She will also tackle level changes and do it in a way where the garden looks much more inviting. She will give you advice on the measurements for the levels on the steps and what the average measurement is.

She will also mention some suggestions on what you can put beside the retaining walls, like dense planting as barriers so no one falls off the patio and it also makes it feel even more open in that area. At the end of this episode, in just a few simple garden design sketches, you will see how effective the lawn and patio shapes are and how the curves draw your eyes down the landscape of the garden.

If you’d like to see more ideas for small gardens and how to effectively deal with changes in level, then check out our very popular Small Garden Formula course.iPad-small-design-course1

What Would You Like to See Covered in Future Shows?

I’d love to get your ideas for future shows so that this can be as beneficial to you as possible. Leave a comment me know what topics you’d like me to delve into in future episodes in the comment boxes below?

You can also subscribe to the Garden Design Show on iTunes:

Get your Great Garden Formula here:

Want to learn more? Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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Large square garden makeover – Case study

Square gardens can be a little bit tricky to design, because you can see everything in one go, which often makes them quite boring to look at. So, how do you design your garden if it’s a boring square shape? Good question, glad you asked! Square-Gdn-Before If the garden is large enough, you can often divide the space up and make an interesting side area alongside the main lawn. This breaks up the square and creates interest. However, in our garden case study, we weren’t able to do this because the builders had created a slightly odd-shaped, raised, timber planter to cover over a big block of concrete they found in the garden. This meant that we were unable to use the space to put a pergola walk or meandering path to a seating area at the end of the garden.

Step 1 Use interesting shapes that takes your eyes away from the squareness.

I would also normally suggest that you create an interesting shape with your patio or deck area. Unfortunately, the deck had already been built and was too new to take up and redo in a different shape. So, basically, with this garden we had to work with what we’d got. I wanted to create more interest than just having a circle lawn shape, so I used an oval instead.

Step 2 Link the existing in with the new garden.

Although the deck and raised timber border were already built, it was still important that they tie in with the new design. Whilst it wasn’t possible to change the shape of either of them, we could still link them with the new areas by the use of wide steps and shaping the brick edging to meet the steps. Because the steps were the entire width of the areas of lawn in front of them, it created continuity and a seamless link between the two areas.

Square-Gdn-After1Step 3 Add in a main focal point or two, to take your eyes away from the squareness of the garden.

To add further interest we incorporated a gazebo as the main focal point to draw the eyes around the garden. The garden was certainly large enough to have more than one feature, but we wanted to make a statement piece, so we kept it to just one.

The brick edging we used to surround the lawn helped to make sure that there was a defined shape to the lawn and it also cuts down maintenance because you don’t need to edge it to keep it the shape. Brick edges are also good because they allow the plants to flop over them, softening the whole design, without affecting the lawn.

The planting borders next to the deck area help to soften the harsh straight-line of the deck, as well as bring interesting colour closer to the house, enhancing the view from the kitchen and dining room. Garden-After

Need more help?

garden formula courseIf you’d like to learn more about exactly how you can transform your garden, then check out the online garden design courses I run here at Successful Garden Design. If you want to know about garden design in depth, then take a look at the Great Garden Formula.  

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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[DESIGN SHOW 6] – Front Garden Ideas

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Check out the Great Garden Formula online garden design course that Rachel mentions in the episode:

Front Garden Design Ideas

In this video, you will learn how to transform your front garden. Professional international, garden designer, Rachel Mathews, will show you how to plan front garden design ideas in a number of ways.

She will talk about 2 types of front gardens, the purely decorative and the practical ones that incorporate a drive. You will learn front garden ideas on how to landscape these 2 separately and she will also let you in on a golden rule when planning to design your front yard, particularly for gardens that incorporate a drive. This will guide you to creating a much more interesting front garden.

Some of the gardens featured in this episode will show you how you can improve your front garden space to accommodate car parking capability and at the same time keeping the look of the front garden design pretty and tidy.

A nice front garden doesn’t have to cost a fortune…

Front gardens don’t have to be fancy and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to build it. She will discus how one simple dominant shape of lawn can tidy up the look of your garden and how to make it work well with the look of the house and also how to tie up your garden’s landscaping to your surrounding area.

Also, this episode featured food producing front garden which should give you design ideas for your own front yard regardless if it’s just a very small space. Another front garden Rachel featured is one that is low maintenance, where she made use of a simple wire fence.

She will also be out and about to show you different styles of front gardens and share her thoughts and give you pointers about how it can be improved. In this part of this episode, Rachel will talk about focal points in your front garden and how other elements of your garden should tie in to it.

Did you get the answer right last time?

There’s also the answer to the last episode’s question on why the garden wall was staggered and not in a straight line. Rachel is now back in the UK, enjoying the peace and quiet after Spain… well almost – see the outtakes at the end!

What Would You Like to See Covered in Future Shows?

I’d love to get your ideas for future shows so that this can be as beneficial to you as possible. Leave a comment me know what topics you’d like me to delve into in future episodes in the comment boxes below?

You can also subscribe to the Garden Design Show on iTunes:

If you want to learn more about the Great Garden formula Rachel mentions in this video, visit:

Want to learn more about design? Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

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