Archives for March 2015

Garden Case Study – ‘Blank Canvas’ Backyard Transformation (SGD student)

In the last garden case study, we featured a small front garden makeover, a reader had created after watching the Garden Design Workshop. The garden we’re looking at today is from a Great Garden Formula course student called Ingrid, living in Ontario, Canada.



Meet Ingrid – a Successful Garden Design ‘student’!

Ingrid started her garden just 2 years ago, with NO previous design experience of any kind. She had created one other plant garden, but this was her first time at designing the layout.

Her garden was a sizeable blank canvas. There were restrictions with regard to placing gazebos, walls or similar permanent structures in the garden because of the proximity to the river and the 100-year flood plane.

I asked her how she went about the process of designing her garden, here’s what she had to say…

“While I was fairly confident with regard to what plants I might want to plant, the shape of the garden and the location of flowerbeds, paths and lawn surfaces left me in a conundrum. I looked for help on the web, found your site and decided to purchase your garden design course.

I loved your approach to design. It really spoke to me, and I learned a lot, such as combining form and function, and the importance of creating focal points. It also placed importance on creating a proper design before planting the first plant.”

Here’s the well-worn garden plan that Ingrid created after doing the Great Garden Formula course:


“Once I understood that geometric shapes make garden design so much easier, I completed several basic designs – square/rectangular and circular surfaces – and settled on the current design. I also wanted to create some interest and focal points.”

“With a clean-slate-garden, I was excited to get started. My new neighbours were more than a little intrigued by the orange markings on our lawn and kept asking questions and watching the ongoing progress.”

Action shots of Ingrid hard at work making her dream garden a reality

Action shots of Ingrid hard at work making her dream garden a reality with the help of spray paint and a wheelbarrow!

Oh, I remember many an hour spent bent over, ‘graffiti-ing’ other people’s gardens, and trying not to get high on the paint fumes…! Marking out your garden with bio-degradable spray paint (or a garden hose) is a great way to check your design will work out, before you build it.


Riverside seating area construction

“The removal of the sod (turf) and the improvement of soil were additional hurdles. While it was hard work, it was not insurmountable once I had settled on the design.”

I often find this with clients, both budget and the amount effort become a lot less important once they have a plan and can visualise how the finished garden will look. The end result makes it all worthwhile.


I asked Ingrid how the course helped her overcome the difficulties of designing a blank canvas garden from scratch:

“The [Great Garden Formula] course inspired me to create a proper garden design. Learning about garden design principles and approaches, and being able to apply them has resulted in a garden that makes me happy. While I chose to do the work myself, anyone can do this with or without outside help.”


I asked Ingrid if she’d ever felt daunted by the prospect of designing and creating a garden herself:

“The only time I was really daunted was when I realized how bare the garden looked after the removal of the sod. Once I started digging and enriching the soil, and planting the first plants, my doubts disappeared.
I simply love spending time outside and watching things grow. When we are able to sit outside and I can see beautiful plants all around me, I am more than a little thrilled to know that this is something I was able to create. Not bad for a senior citizen, isn’t it?

I’ll say! I think most of us would be rather pleased to have created such a lovely and relaxing garden all by our own efforts. I am certainly very impressed by what has been achieved in such a short space of time.


Do you have a ‘Successful Garden Design’ you’d like to share?

I’d like to make this a regular feature on the blog, showcasing the gardens you have achieved by reading the website and doing the online courses we do here at Successful Garden Design, so don’t be shy, send me your photos!

You can send your photos and plans to my by using the contact form on the website.

If not, do you want to learn?

If you like to do the same course Ingrid did and create you’re own ‘dream garden’  visit:

Were you also impressed with Ingrid’s garden?

Having seen Ingrid’s results are you now inspired to take action and have a go yourself? Leave your views in the Facebook or comments box below.

Front Garden Makeover – SGD Reader’s Plans

Nicole - A Successful Garden Design Workshop 'Student'!

Nicole – A Successful Garden Design Workshop ‘Student’!

I get so excited when people send me photographs of what they’ve done in their garden from what they’ve learned here at Successful Garden Design. So I’m thrilled to be able to share with you a really simple front garden makeover that one of our readers is in the process of doing.

So these are the plans that Nicole, from Washington DC, has drawn up after watching just the garden design workshop (that gives an overview of the whole design process, it’s not even a full garden design course – we’ll feature a garden from a full design course next time!).

Successful Garden Design Workshop Viewer’s Front Yard Makeover

Front-Yard-Makeover-planWhat I love about what Nicole has done is she’s kept things really simple (hugely important).

She’s gone for a geometric shape that makes the best use of the available space, and she’s created interest through the rest of this tiny front garden with a stepping stone path that weaves through the edible planting.

Click on the image of the plan to view it larger.

The photos below show the before, we don’t have a finished photo yet as it’s still a work in progress, but I hope she’ll keep me updated later in the year.

Even though the photos don’t show the finished garden yet, you can see along with the plan image how much better the circular lawn shape is making the space look.


Helping the next generation of young gardeners learn

Nicole has not only tackled her front yard but she’s also volunteered to design and start the edible garden at her children’s elementary school. How wonderful is that!

She’s currently doing a course on permaculture methods and is trying to incorporate the aesthetics she’s learned here on this website with the practical and functional requirements of the permaculture system.

Here’s the plan she’s drawn up for it. For those of you not familiar with permaculture concepts, you basically work with nature, particularly the contours of the land so that you can make use of all available rainfall by the use of mini-ditches called swales.


Permaculture principles in a nutshell

So basically, permaculture is not only about self-watering, it’s a system that harmonises the best of nature with how you combine plant varieties, so you don’t have to dig or fertilise the soil when it’s set up properly and there’s very little weeding involved (that’s my kind of fruit and vegetable gardening – the type that does it itself!).

If you’re interested in this type of edible gardening, check out Geoff Lawton – he’s an amazingly knowledgable guy that shows you how to create a ‘food forest’ in any size garden, in any location. They’ve even managed a permaculture system near the Dead Sea of all places, it’s truly amazing what can be achieved when man works with nature…

You CAN do this too!

I’m thrilled to see how people put what they learn from the online workshops and courses to good use. Not everyone is brave enough to let me use their photos on the website, so big thanks to Nicole. I hope more of you will be inspired to have a go yourself.

If you need help…

Then do check out the Successful Garden Design online garden design courses – you can see the results people have got by going to the ‘Hall of Fame – your gardens‘ category of the website.

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

Register on this page:

Paving ideas for contemporary garden styles

If you’d like a modern and contemporary look to your garden, then it’s very important that you choose the right hard landscaping materials.


The landscape materials will often have more impact on how your garden will look than the overall design layout. For example, you could have a semicircular retaining wall and patio area, which on paper might look very modern, but if you use traditional brick and paving, then the design will look, well, very traditional!

However, if you were to have that same semicircular wall rendered and painted white and had a very smooth, perfectly cut linear paving with it, then it would look very modern.

Here’s how you choose the right materials for a contemporary garden design

Basically, the straighter and smoother material is, the more contemporary it will look. Of course the reverse is also true. The more uneven and rustic material edges are, the more traditional it will look. Let’s now look at some examples to demonstrate what I mean.

Examples of paving suitable for a contemporary garden style

As you can see from the photographs above, the clean cut lines are what makes a material look modern. It makes sense really, in ye olden days the tools for cutting stone would have been very basic, whereas now we have these enormous great saws that can cut perfect edges.

Paving patterns

How you combine the paving is also very important. Again, the more you put in, the more fussy it will look, and therefore less contemporary. So, do not use more than three different paving sizes. One or two different sizes tends to work best though.

It might sound very boring just having one size of paving slab, and technically, I suppose it is, but it’s what you do with it that counts!

If you have a rectangular slab in one size, you have various options on how you lay that slab. As you can see from the images below, even with just one size paving stone, you can still do quite a lot with it.


My preference is to go usually for three different sizes. It’s nice to have quite a large rectangular paving slab with a long linear one. Again there’s a lot you can do with just three sizes of paving, see the example below.

Three different size paving creates this contemporary patio style

Three different size paving creates this contemporary patio style

So really, the main thing you need to do is keep it simple. Don’t be tempted to mix lots of different colours and materials together or you’ll end up with a mishmash. If you want a truly contemporary feel and modern look to your garden, then you really must control yourself and not go crazy with mixing lots of different materials together.

How do you create a modern garden feel, but not too contemporary?

Now, whilst you may not want a typically traditional garden, you might not want something that is uber modern either. So how do you create something that’s in-between modern and traditional?

Well, again it does come down to material choices as much as the design.

Basically, the simple way is to mix more sizes together. So rather than just having two or three different types of paving you have five or so. If you choose paving that is not perfectly smooth, and has a slightly riven surface, then that will also make it look slightly less modern, as shown in the photograph below


Mix more paving sizes if you don’t want your patio to be too contemporary looking.

So what are your garden plans this year, will you be building a new patio?

Tell me what you are wanting to do in your garden this year and I’ll see if I can help with future blog posts. We’ve been discussing it a bit already over on the Successful Garden Design Facebook page, do join us and post a photo of your project or leave a comment here on the website in the comment box below.

For more training info…

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

Register on this page:

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