A ‘nice enough’ garden, but could it be made better?

A few years back, a friend of mine asked me to redesign the garden of a house she’d just bought. I was happy to help as I could see there was lots of room for improvement.

Her family were all keen gardeners, and by the look on their faces, they were somewhat aghast at her getting a garden designer in! The garden was perfectly ‘nice enough’ as it was, surely? It only needed a few extra plants and it would be great. Getting the whole garden redesigned was unnecessary and might ruin it!

I can only imagine what horrors were running through their minds of what a designer might do…

A very common problem

If you have a garden that is already quite nice, the concern is often that you might ruin what you have now. One thing I can absolutely promise you is that a good design will never ruin what you’ve got, it will only improve it.

The average garden can and should be so much more than average. So please don’t settle for the average boring and bland backyard!

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a great looking garden

Really, you don’t. Of course, you can spend a lot of money if you want to, but you actually don’t have to. The trick to creating an amazing looking garden is all down to how you arrange the space. That basically is what shape lawn/patio area you put in. If you already have a patio down, then it’s just the shape of your lawn that will need to change.

Just reshaping your lawn to get a lovely looking garden might sound far too good to be true, but it really is the key to creating a great looking garden. The reason it is so powerful is because you are controlling the shapes within your garden. With the right shapes, you can make a garden look larger and more interesting.

Long garden after landscaping

Most people do it the other way round. They add the plants and then the space that is left is an odd shaped lawn. By doing it in reverse and choosing the correct shape lawn first, the areas that are left are where the plants go. It will also help prevent you from having a random lawn shape that is disjointed and doesn’t help the garden to flow visually.

A ‘nice enough’ garden case study

The key to transforming my friend’s garden came down to getting (you guessed it) the right shape lawn in!  A very simple oval-shaped lawn with a brick edge surrounding it was the basis for the entire garden. The old concrete patio was dug up and replaced with natural stone paving laid in a random bond style (lots of different sizes mixed together).

The sizes of the paving were quite small to make the space look larger, and the different sizes work well with the modern cottage garden style that we were aiming for to match the house and owner’s tastes. The same paving is also used in the raised patio at the far end of the garden.

A timber planting rail, to match the neighbour’s fence, was added to the top patio, making it more enclosed and creating an interesting area at the end of the garden.


Design does make the difference

If we had just added more plants in the garden, it really wouldn’t have looked much different. My friend loved the new look to her garden and thankfully, so did all her family. Phew! It would have been rather awkward if they hadn’t!Oval-Garden-mature1

Need more help?

If 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.

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Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    4 replies to "Changing a ‘nice enough’ garden that isn’t nice enough!"

    • Pauline O'Donovan

      Its beautiful Rachel. I am here in Kilkenny in Ireland in a small garden. My fencing came down in storm and ruined all my climbers. Got a new wall built and then decided to take down 8 Leylandii trees from back wall. I am not completely overlooked and was thinking of planting some mature bamboos but my gardener is against bamboo. Any ideas. What could I do.

      • Rachel Mathews

        Hi Pauline – I think bamboo is a good idea – if you get the black bamboo Phyllostachys nigra it doesn’t spread like the rampant ones and will stay fairly contained.

        Failing that I would suggest maybe some smaller variety silver birch – they will help screen the neighbours without totally blocking or getting to big.

    • Easy Shed

      Your gardening idea is very beautiful Rachel. I made my own garden on my roof. But there is lots of problem to create a garden in roof. But I overcome all the problems like water, sunlight, fertilizer etc. I was thinking of planting some mature royal tree but my gardener is against royal tree. For growing royal tree what can I do?

      • Rachel Mathews

        Do you have the latin name for the royal tree – it’s not one I’m familiar with and google was surprisingly unhelpful!

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