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

Nice-Garden-Before

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.

OVAL-Garden2a

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.

OVAL-Garden2

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… 

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Power of THREE: Useful Tips from Garden Designers…

stone,-timber,-render

A contemporary garden, with only 3 main materials…

So, as the saying goes; ‘Three’s a crowd’ well, not in my book, and not in the eyes of most other designers. For, ever since the beginning of time, we have understood the power of groupings of three (well, ok, slight exaggeration perhaps, but you get my drift!).

It is the secret weapon of designers the world over. Stop. Take a look. And you will see.  The Power of Three.

Plant THREE Large Containers

There is nothing more pleasing to the eye than a grouping of three large Urns, positioned absolutely exquisitely for maximum impact.  Add to this, the very simple idea of planting with the SAME species – et voila! You have designer-impact in your garden, worthy of Chelsea.

Andy Sturgeon is the master of this – demonstrated perfectly in his 2010 Daily Telegraph garden …. 3 exquisite oversized shallow bowls planted with equally exquisite irises:

Andy-Sturgeon-garden-power-of-3

The simplicity of 3 beautiful oversized pots filled with irises, and 3 large slabs of limestone.

Of course, for this to work, it must be THREE OF A KIND – the repeat impact is divine. 3 urns, pots, containers…of the same size, material, dimensions…..planted with the same species, same colour, same height. Pure perfection.

PLANT in Groups of THREE

planting-combinations

These plants have knitted together beautifully, but started in life as groups of 3!

Planting in groups of three is the perfect scenario for any border.

There is something that just feels ‘right’ about odd number groupings – 2 is too linear and too refined.  4 feels like ‘ducks in a row’, but 3 OF A KIND; planted with enough space to grow, but definitely ‘together as a group’ – sits comfortably with the mind and pleases the eye.

Planting in Three’s allows the group to be ‘staggered’ – free from rigid constraints; just as nature intended.  Plants should sprawl, mingle and intertwine, not be lined up like soldiers or tied up in straight jackets.

Stick to THREE Different Materials

slate,-rendered-walls,-stone

slate, stone and crisp clean walls – that is all!

This is a golden rule that I stick to religiously.  Never, ever, use more than 3 different types of materials in your garden.

3 gives a nice contrast of finishes – you can introduce different texture and pattern to your surfaces. Lovely effect.

Add more, and soon you have a mishmash of materials, a hodgepodge of effects and an assault to the senses.

Stick to the rule of three and you will not go wrong.

 OR, as De La Soul would say, ‘Three..is the magic number’..!

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Small Garden Re-design – Case Study

Small gardens do not have to be dull and boring. You’d be surprised just how much you can do in a small space garden.

Small-paved-garden1So let’s now take a look at a small garden case study and walk you through the design steps.

Step 1 – With any small space garden, the 1st thing you need to do is decide if you want to have a lawn or not.

Lawns are fairly inexpensive in the scheme of things, but they are not always practical in a small space garden. Ask yourself is it really worth getting out the lawnmower for such a tiny area?

If you’re someone who would prefer to look out onto something green rather than paving or gravel, then you could consider having an artificial lawn. There are pros and cons to them. They’re certainly not maintenance free, but there’s less work involved in them than with a traditional lawn.

Step 2 – The next thing you need to do is to try and make the space look larger.

This can be achieved with the design shapes you put in the areas of empty space (your lawn, patio or deck areas).

Step 3 – Choose your materials really carefully.

In small gardens if you use larger paving materials it will make the area seem smaller. If you pick smaller sizes of paving, the reverse is true. Your eyes will see a larger quantity and this tricks the mind into assuming that the area is larger than it really is.

You can see as the planting matures, it spills out over onto the paving more, which softens the hard edges and makes the paving more appealing.

Small-Garden-Ideas

Need help with your small space garden?

SmallGardenDesign1If you’d like to learn more about the exact steps involved with making a small garden look larger and more interesting, then take a look at the Small Garden Formula. It’s an online course packed full of ideas, plans, examples and a step-by-step formula to follow that will make your small space garden look stunning.

 

 

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Large square garden makeover – Case study

Square gardens can be a little bit tricky to design, because you can see everything in one go, which often makes them quite boring to look at. So, how do you design your garden if it’s a boring square shape? Good question, glad you asked! Square-Gdn-Before If the garden is large enough, you can often divide the space up and make an interesting side area alongside the main lawn. This breaks up the square and creates interest. However, in our garden case study, we weren’t able to do this because the builders had created a slightly odd-shaped, raised, timber planter to cover over a big block of concrete they found in the garden. This meant that we were unable to use the space to put a pergola walk or meandering path to a seating area at the end of the garden.

Step 1 Use interesting shapes that takes your eyes away from the squareness.

I would also normally suggest that you create an interesting shape with your patio or deck area. Unfortunately, the deck had already been built and was too new to take up and redo in a different shape. So, basically, with this garden we had to work with what we’d got. I wanted to create more interest than just having a circle lawn shape, so I used an oval instead.

Step 2 Link the existing in with the new garden.

Although the deck and raised timber border were already built, it was still important that they tie in with the new design. Whilst it wasn’t possible to change the shape of either of them, we could still link them with the new areas by the use of wide steps and shaping the brick edging to meet the steps. Because the steps were the entire width of the areas of lawn in front of them, it created continuity and a seamless link between the two areas.

Square-Gdn-After1Step 3 Add in a main focal point or two, to take your eyes away from the squareness of the garden.

To add further interest we incorporated a gazebo as the main focal point to draw the eyes around the garden. The garden was certainly large enough to have more than one feature, but we wanted to make a statement piece, so we kept it to just one.

The brick edging we used to surround the lawn helped to make sure that there was a defined shape to the lawn and it also cuts down maintenance because you don’t need to edge it to keep it the shape. Brick edges are also good because they allow the plants to flop over them, softening the whole design, without affecting the lawn.

The planting borders next to the deck area help to soften the harsh straight-line of the deck, as well as bring interesting colour closer to the house, enhancing the view from the kitchen and dining room. Garden-After

Need more help?

garden formula courseIf 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. If you want to know about garden design in depth, then take a look at the Great Garden Formula.  

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

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

L-shape garden design – Case study

LgardenBefore

Small L-shaped garden before landscaping

L-shaped gardens can be difficult to deal with because one section is often quite narrow and leads into a larger area. To make the best use of the available space, it’s important to bear the following things in mind…

Step 1 Decide if you want to create two separate spaces or one continuous garden.

You have the choice with an L-shape garden, you can either separate the areas off and create two separate little gardens, or have the garden as a whole. If your garden is quite small, then it is usually better to leave the garden as one whole entity rather than creating two separate little areas, which may well be too small.

Step 2 Make the best use of the available space.

If one area of your garden is particularly long and narrow, then you need to take the eyes from one side of it to the other, creating either a meandering path or using shapes that make the space feel wider. Depending on the space available to you,  interlocking circles and squares can do this. But if the space is really narrow then you are better off with a meandering path, as shown in our case study example below.

Step 3 Use the same materials to keep the continuity between each area of garden.

By using similar shapes and materials throughout the garden, it will help hold it together as one whole entity. A bit like in modern day show homes where they have the same carpet running from one room to another. They do this because if they were to have different coloured carpets in each room of the house, it would make the space look smaller and not larger. The same is true for your garden. Use the same paving, gravel and even repeating key plants will enable you to make the space look and feel larger than it is.

L-shape-garden

If your garden is small, like our example garden, then you need to decide if you want to keep the lawn or not. As you can see in our example, the owner decided to get rid of the lawn. Even if you don’t want a lawn, you do still need to have areas of empty space so that the garden doesn’t feel too confined. In this case we used mixtures of different types of gravel and cobble and paving in the areas without planting.

Over time, the planting will increase in size and will help make up for the lack of green that a lawn provides.

The sweeping curves of gravel and steppingstones draws the eye around the garden and helps make the space look wider and the paving with seating area is in the sunniest area of the garden and helps acts as a nice focal point from the kitchen window and the conservatory.

L-shape-garden2

The garden is very low maintenance because all of the cobbles and gravel are on top of a weed suppressant membrane.

Want to learn more?

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

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