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.



About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 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!


  1. She's made a fantastic job of it

  2. Well done Good Job.

  3. Very impressive and nicely done.

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