1 Shape – re-shape existing to tie in with garden beyond

My first rule for creating stunning gardens is shaping.

The shapes you use for your patio and lawn areas are the keys to a design that flows and looks good all year. If you have an existing patio it’s easy to think that you’re stuck with it because it’s too expensive to redo…

Sometimes that is true, especially if there are levels involved but if your patio is at lawn level it’s usually possible to re-shape it by either adding or removing some paving. What shape you choose to make it will depend entirely on the shape and size of the rest of your garden.

There’s a tutorial on patio shaping here: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/show14/

2 Planting – pots or remove some slabs

If you have a large area of bland paving then adding some planting will really help to soften it up and bring it to life. You can use plants in pots or lift up some of the paving slabs and plant directly in the soil underneath.

If you’re lifting up paving slabs make sure you do it in areas that aren’t direct through routes. Against fences away from garden furniture is usually a good location. Choose plants that are evergreen if possible and they will help to soften both the paving and the fencing.

3 Accessorise – pots, furniture, cushions

Another great way to liven up any patio is to choose ‘feature-piece’ furniture and furnishings that look good all year, making sure to link the design and colours in with pots, cushions, wall art as well as planting that’s in the rest of the garden.

You can read more on how to do this, here:


4 Paving inserts

If you have a large area of paving, lifting up some slabs and putting in a pebble mosaic or smaller granite setts will also add interest and help break up the blandness.

Circle or square paving kits can also be used to add interest to a patio but would require more slabs to be removed that a pebble or sett insert.

5 Gravel, Cobbles & Rocks

If you want to create a larger area of interest in your patio but don’t want to completely fill it with plants, removing some paving and covering the soil with a weed suppressant membrane and attractive gravel can look great.

The addition of smooth boulders can also be a nice finishing touch, especially if some of the boulders are placed on the paving slabs as well as in the gravel border.

The Key

Creating a great looking garden really does come down to shape first and foremost. If you’d like to learn more about this quick and easy design method check out our free garden design classes as well as our paid courses that will guide you through the entire design process step-by-step.



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 "Patios – Brightening up the bland!"

    • Lynda

      This is an inspirational and directional article. Helpful! Thank you!

    • jan

      So looking forward to putting all that I have learnt into practice when the weather warms up a bit ! so glad i did your course in the winter giving me time to plan & think !!

      • Rachel Mathews

        Thanks, Jan. I’m very glad the course has helped you – do keep us posted with how your garden turns out, as you know we love to see the results :o)

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