Long, narrow, awkward side yard garden makeover – Case study

When it comes to garden design, some gardens are definitely more challenging than others. A particularly tricky one  is the long narrow side garden, which often ends up as a junkyard. It’s not really large enough to do anything with, that’s the problem.

Well actually, with a few cunning design tricks, you can turn that awkward side area into something eye-catching and dramatic that becomes an intrinsic part of your whole garden.

So, how do you design an awkward side space garden?


Step 1

The first thing you need to do in any long narrow space garden is to try and make it look wider. The wider you can make it, the more interesting a garden design it will look and the less likely you will be to use it to store junk!

The way to make any garden space look wider is to draw the eye from one side of the garden to the other. You do this by having either focal points strategically placed or by the garden design shapes you use. In the garden featured below we did both. The planting punctuated each changing direction and the different types of gravel were used in a sweeping serpent shape which forces your eyes to move from one side of the space to the other.

Step 2

Make a dark space look brighter. The dark wall segments were rendered and painted cream. The lighter colour helps bounce light back, making the space brighter and therefore look larger.


Step 3

Link the side area into the main garden. It’s important that the garden works as a whole entity and isn’t seen as a series of unrelated parts. By having the gravel path and stepping stones wrapping round the decking area at the end of the garden, it helped link the two areas together. The continuity of materials also helps link the two areas together.

By clearing out the junk, lightning the walls and creative use of the space, this dark dingy side garden looks twice the size and will hopefully never be used to store junk again!

Need more help?

If you have a long, narrow or rectangular shaped garden and would like ideas, plans and a step-by-step guide on how to transform it, check out the long garden formula. It’s an online course with written content and video tutorials that will guide you step-by-step on everything you need to do to completely transform any long garden into something amazing.

View our FREE training on designing LONG gardens

If you’d like to join in our upcoming web class on the Fast Track Formula for designing long gardens, please visit: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/long-garden-webclass/

The FREE training is approximately 1hr and will show you exactly what it takes to design your garden quickly and easily.

Front garden design makeover – Case study

Front gardens can be difficult to get right because often as not, they have to be functional, to accommodate the car and driveway or utility area for bins.

Just because a driveway is there, it doesn’t mean to say that the area should not be treated as a garden and be made to look beautiful.


So how do you go about making a practical space a beautiful one?

Step 1 Design it as if it were a garden first, then make it practical.

This is the most important part of the design process. If you get too bogged down in the practicalities of having a functional driveway or a place to store the bins etc., then you often won’t be able to come up with something that looks pretty.

Whereas if you tackle it the other way round and have a garden first and foremost, do the design you’d like to have, and then work out how to accommodate the car and a drive etc., then it becomes much easier to create something of beauty.

Step 2 Get creative with the shapes that you use.

Your front garden doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Experiment using sweeping bold curves, circular shapes, or if you have a very modern house perhaps interlocking block shapes.

If the area is small, try to use shapes and materials that will visually make space larger.

Step 3 Now you need to make it practical.

So, now you’ve designed your front garden as you would had it has been just a garden, we need to start to think about how you can incorporate space for a car or utility area, or whatever your practical needs are for your front garden.

So obviously, you will now need to modify what you’ve already done on paper, but doing it this way round will enable you to create something much more artistic and visually pleasing.

If you have to accommodate a car into your driveway, allow a lot more room than you think you need.

Front garden case study

Before the builders added an extension to this house, the front garden had just been lawn with a few plants. After the building work had finished, there wasn’t much of either left! However, the owners did not want to go back to having a plain old boring lawn. For a start, there’s the additional maintenance of grass cutting, and they thought that it could look better than just grass.

In our case study garden, a bold sweeping curve shape was cut into the tarmac drive and then small natural stone paving slabs were laid in a random bond, mixed with light coloured gravel and planting.

The paving slabs were of a thickness that if they needed an additional car parking space, near where the pot is on the photograph below, they could take the weight without cracking.


Thymes were planted in gaps left in the paving, and these could take being driven on occasionally. This allowed for the area to still look like a garden, yet function as a parking space.

The paving also functioned as a path to the front door as well as around the planting sections. By using the same material all the way through, and in their relatively small sizes, it makes the area appear larger and the consistent use of materials brings clarity to the scheme.

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.

Learn how to design your garden – Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/


Questions or comments?

Leave them in the box below!

Changing a ‘nice enough’ garden that isn’t nice enough!


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 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.


Most people do it the other way round. They add the plants and then the space that is left is an odd shape 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 was quite small to make the space look larger, and the different sizes works 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 neighbours 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.

I particularly recommend signing up for our FREE web class… 

Learn how to design your garden – Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/

Cool Christmas Gifts for Garden Lovers!

Do you hate Christmas shopping as much as I do?

I doubt that’s possible but just incase you do we’ve made your life a little bit easier with some fab selections for the design conscious gardener (oh and there’s some fun ones as well)

We’ll start with the fun ones!

Garden Games from Greenfingers.

Easy on the Purse Strings – funky favourites on a budget!  

These gorgeous gifts are all such a STEAL – nobody would know that they came in for £10 or less!

Unwins Mediterranean Kitchen Garden Herb Kit

Sarah Raven Seed Tins -£4.50 at SarahRaven.com

I love the bright turquoise colour, and a set of tins is Soo very useful for ANY gardener

Unwins Mediterranean Kitchen Garden Herb Kit – £5.99 at Greenfingers.com

Fabulous, retro and organic!


Slate Herb & Vegetable Markers – £9.50 at GardenTrading.co.uk

A great stocking-filler for those of us who can never be found…!

Log Lantern – £9.50 at GardenTrading.co.uk

These lanterns are so very trendy, stylish but practical too! Buy a set of 3 for along the middle of the dining table, and they will look a treat. Fabulous duck-egg colour, very ‘in-vogue’

For the Allotment-Loving-Shed-Dweller!

So, we all know someone who loves to disappear for hours in the Shed/Man-cave/Allotment.  Whether they spend more time drinking tea than digging up the potatoes, show them your love with one of these special gardening-lovers pressies.

String Dispenser in Thyme

String Dispenser in Thyme – £8.00 GardenTrading.co.uk

We can NEVER find the end of the string…this simple dispenser is the perfect solution…and it looks cool too!

Gardeners Tin of Plant Labels

Gardeners Tin of Plant Labels – £9.99 GreenFingers.com.

We gardeners LOVE a handy tin! This one, keeps all our labels tidy.

Willow Trugs

Willow Trugs – £27.95 at

SarahRaven.com  We all love a trug! Perfect for harvesting…and for storing, and stylish in the kitchen too…

If you really want to give a special gift this xmas…

Rawlinson Willow Gazebo

How about treating your loved one to this lovely willow gazebo?  Creating a special place for that cuppa, reading the newspaper or just to unwind at the end of a long day of digging and weeding!  This free-standing structure can fit easily into any garden – on a paving area, gravel area surrounded by planting, or simply on the lawn.  It will make a real impact. Rawlinson Willow Gazebo – £299 at GreenFingers.com.

For the Glamorous Gardener

Heathcote & Ivory Gardeners Tea Break Hand Essentials

For that special lady who still has the perfect manicure whilst pruning the roses…  Guess what?  We don’t have to be brown, green…or covered in mud to be keen gardeners!

Heathcote & Ivory Gardeners Tea Break Hand Essentials – £9.00 at GreenFingers.com

This fabulous set includes an exfoliating scrub to get to the bottom of that grime and a nourishing Vitamin E hand cream  – all presented in this pretty mug.

With a rather French, vintage feel – this cute bulb kit will be a winner for the glamorous lady in your life.

Briers Historic Palaces Tudor Rose Kneeler

Briers Historic Palaces Tudor Rose Kneeler – £12.99 at GreenFingers.com

The Tudor Rose pattern on a lavender-blue background – a matching set of gloves and kneeler, for the lady that appreciates pretty things.


Heatcote & Ivory Dandelion Manicure Gift Set

Heatcote & Ivory Dandelion Manicure Gift Set – £13.50 at GreenFingers.com

So very very stylish! The gorgeous Sanderson Dandelion Clock Design packages up this lovely set, which includes a hand cream, hand scrub AND cuticle cream and emery board.

For the Design-Conscious Gardener  

Orla Kiely Secateurs

Gone are the days of boring old watering cans and lack-lustre hand trowels.

For Designer edge, funky names such as Orla Kiely are a no-brainer.  Who says ‘Practical’ can’t also be ‘Stylish’?! Orla Kiely Secateurs – £19.99 at GreenFingers.com.

Globe Tea Light Holder

Orla Kiely Secateurs

Globe tea light holder – £16.99 at Crocus.co.uk  I feel that I have been looking for these gorgeous tea light holders for years!  With a sculptural quality they will look simply stunning adorning any tree or pergola.

Place them around an outdoor dining terrace to create a magical atmosphere. I’ve ordered mine already!



Festoon Lighting

Wire Bird on a Stake

Festoon lighting – from £28.00 at Lighting-Direct.co.uk

The simplicity of these garden bulbs strike such an impressive impact… why save them for a special occasion?  Fabulous around an entertaining area in the garden – and a lovely present with impressive ‘WOW’ factor!

Wire bird on a stake – pewter £9.99 at Crocus.co.uk

I have totally fallen in love with these bird stakes.  So quirky, so cute and they will make a statement in any border.

Become a World Class Garden Photographer with Saxon Holt

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 09.33.01

Coupon-SGDSaxon Holt is an award winning photographer who shares his knowledge and passion for garden photography in this great series.

As a life-long gardener, he is a truly amazing photographer. He has the ability to capture the nature and personality of a garden and the individual plants in it, in a way that no one else can. If you know someone who wants to take great plant and garden photos, Saxon Holt’s books will take them to a whole new level…

As he’s a good friend of Rachel’s he’s giving Successful Garden Design readers a discount on any of his book! Just use the code sgd10 at the checkout.

Online Garden Design Courses (Worldwide)

Of course, what better gift for the ‘Green-fingered gardening guru’ in your family, than to arrange a special on-line course or workshop for them.

Buy your Mum, Dad, Grandad, Auntie one of our Garden Design Online Courses, and they can take part whenever they have time, in their own home, and they will thank you forever!  Any of the online garden design courses or workshops can be purchased as a gift and instant access sent to your loved one for Christmas. Instructions on how to transfer a course as a gift are in the welcome email on purchase, and of course all gifts come with our same 60 day garden formula coursemoney back guarantee!

Your suggestions…

What wonderful garden related goodies have you come across? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy shopping – tis the season for it! ;o)

From all at SGD, have a good one!


Please note: On some of the gift ideas above, we receive a small commission if you purchase through the link, this helps keep me sufficiently supplied with mince pies over the festive season! Please also note, that I do not have direct experience with the companies listed above, so do buy at your own discretion.

Garden planting rails – How and where to use them

Last time around we looked at all the ins and outs of pergolas. Adding a structure as large and as dominating as a pergola isn’t always the best option for everyone though. So this week we will take a look at planting rails, the pergolas smaller sister.


So what exactly is a planting rail?

Basically, it’s like a pergola, but it’s like a flat version that you can either put across the garden or on top of the fences to add a bit of height and dimension to it, as shown in the photographs above.

The main purpose of a planting rail is to add height. So you can use them on top of an existing fence as a way to grow climbers higher than the fence and help screen the neighbours.

The other use of a planting rail is to frame the view as well as add height. This happens when you use them across the garden. Placement however, just like it is with pergolas, is critical if you’re going across the garden.

How to correctly place a planting rail

There’s no exact rule here, but visually, I think it looks better if the planting rail is at the beginning or end of the garden rather than in the middle. You can see in our example garden above that the planting rail framed the view to the top raised patio at the end of the garden. So it wasn’t just floating in the middle of nowhere, it linked in with the patio area.


You can also use a planting rail a bit like an extended arch, with sections of trellis beneath the rail. This gives you a more solid division in the garden than the example garden version. So just imagine that garden with each end of the planting rail filled in with trellis, making the patio area a bit more enclosed.

Another way of using a planting rail is to have them in raised planters. That way you create interest and height and a place for climbers to grow up out of the planters. So as you can see, there are many uses for the underused planting rail.

The other advantage of the planting rail is that it’s obviously considerably cheaper to install than a full size pergola. You can use metal or timber, the choice is yours. Obviously metal you can bend and shape more easily, so that gives you a greater flexibility with your styling, but of course metal will be considerably more expensive than timber.


BUT do be warned, no garden feature alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

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

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/

Every business has got to have one these days, so here it is - Disclaimer: Please note, the information contained on this website is for educational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to provide accurate, up-to-date, reliable, and complete information. No warranties of any kind are expressed or implied. Readers acknowledge that the author is not engaging in rendering professional advice. By reading this website, the reader agrees that under no circumstances is the author responsible for any losses, direct or indirect, that are incurred as a result of use of the information contained within this website or related downloads, accompanying videos, or other supplementary materials. This includes but is not limited to errors, omissions, or inaccuracies. The material contained on this website is not meant to be a substitute for formal training nor a replacement for professional training or services. Please note some of the links on the site go to affiliate websites where a small commission is earned if you purchase. Please do your due diligence on all linked to products before buying.   Find Rachel on Google+
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