Planning a garden, no matter where in the world you are located, is the same process. Garden design principles are always consistent.

Materials and plants, of course, change from one location to another, but not design.

To demonstrate this, I’m very pleased to share with you the plan of SGD student Vicki Szokolay who is 58 years old and has recently completed our main garden design course – the Great Garden Formula.

I will now pass you over to Vicki to explain her design…

Garden Design Plan Concept Drawing

Garden Design Plan

The Location

The garden design plan is for a future garden in Howick which is a small town in South Africa, close the huge Drakensberg mountains but far away enough to have wonderful warm summers and no snow fall during winter.

The Conditions

The soil is slightly acidic but rich with a touch of clay. We have a high summer rainfall and little rain in winter time.

The Garden


Miller Street 1 is a garden within a complex of 8 gardens with a lovely large piece of ground with incredibly fertile soil.

Most gardens in our town, are large expansive lawns with narrowish beds surrounding them. Shape is going to cause a revolution in garden design here. Howick considers shaped gardens as “modern”.

The owner likes to incorporate food in her garden, especially fruit and nut trees. I can see that she is a keen gardener but there just isn’t enough garden created to encourage her to venture further than her porch.

The Power of the Path

The curving pathways surrounding the lawn would encourage her to walk around her garden and to relax on the deck in the garden which is focal point too. A lovely place to look out and get energised to working in the garden.

On the Northern side of this larger section of the garden, I have created a circular raised bed for the pecan nut tree, as a focal point and again a pergola supporting grape vines as another focal point.

On the western wall of the house I have placed two espalier apple trees as being edible and a lovely focal point on such a stark and bare wall. I have also included gogo tanks to collect our summer rainfall from the roof gutters, as lovely chemical free water.


Key Features

I have tried to create quite a peaceful setting looking out from the porch as the owner likes to sit and relax there in the evenings. A birdbath and a bird feeding table will always have interest.

I have used gravel and rectangular stepping stones as the hard core surface. The stepping stones are to face vertically away from the porch to widen the garden a bit. I have placed a pergola supporting a pink rose bush behind the bird bath to give a feeling of more happening there and so again to give the feeling of more depth to the garden.

On the Eastern side of the house I have drawn in further raised planters to continue the owners raised planter theme coming around from the back of the house.

Vicki has done a great job with this garden, incorporating all the design principles well. She’s shown great attention to detail and has provided lots of points of interest and she’s managed to accommodate all of the owner’s needs.

Attend one of Rachel’s FREE online garden design classes…

Or if you’d prefer to learn all there is to know about garden design, like Vicki, here’s what she had to say of her experiences doing both the Great Garden Formula and the Plant Design Formula courses.

Vicki’s design learning experience…

Every video and pdf has had invaluable information and every one of them had strong lessons. Watching you create shaping of garden hard-core layout as you instinctively created the perfect balance within the framework, explaining all the way why you were guiding your pencil this way or that, was enormously beneficial for me.

Changing and re-changing plans has always made me feel incompetent, yet you showed me that this is a normal procedure and part of the walk to creating balance. This gave me tremendous confidence, after years of procrastinating, to put pencil to paper and dare to be creative.

Step by step you altered my mind frame – this was very important in itself – to learn to think like a designer – what to focus on as the essential base for every design, and yes, as you said “after that, all will easily fall into place”. This course is the best course I have ever done in my life. Thank you so much !!

Your feedback was so very efficient and quick. I honestly felt and still do feel, as if I became a part of your team as a student. The friendliness and constant care warmed my heart and encouraged me to feel as if I were right there in a class with all of you, and I feel sad that its over as I will miss the connection with you all and the roller coaster ride of eye opening knowledge.

I have found that other courses give one enormous amounts of research to do and really a tiny amount of lessons as such. One has to teach oneself and its stressful. Nothing has been stressful in your course, just so much care and detailed help in every avenue. Thank you so much.

The PLANT DESIGN FORMULA has REALLY opened my eyes. Although I had the plant knowledge through the work I do, I never had the gift of placing the plants into the perfect balance and harmony that you show in your lessons. I always focused on the texture and colours and collectors’ items, and not the shapes.

Through your lessons again I see the plants through new eyes – SHAPE 🙂 A total revelation to me ! Your successful plant design list is absolutely wonderful. That is something I will be using with every plan I design.

So if you’d like to do the same training as Vicki, go to:



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!

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