Have you ever tried to improve your garden, excitedly trundling off to the nearest plant centre, come back with a car load of plants, having spent a small fortune, only to find you’re really not happy with the results?

So, why is this? Garden centres are absolutely full of beautiful plants, so theoretically, all you’ve got to do is bring them home and put them in and hey presto, you have a fantastic looking garden.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work like that because of one thing….

What Is The Mysterious Ingredient To A Great Looking Garden?

It’s that little old thing called shape. Now by shape, I don’t mean the size and shape of your property’s boundary. That isn’t important.

What’s important are the shapes you create in the areas of ’empty space’ like your lawn and patio areas. If you get these right, they define how the rest of the garden looks – and that is critical. Plants really are just the icing on the cake; they’re not the cake itself.

Have you ever had a cake baking disaster where you got the sponges out of the oven with one side so flat it looked like someone had sat on it? I have! And no matter how much tinkering to make it look good, it just doesn’t work.

My cake baking efforts were so bad I couldn’t just sprinkle icing sugar on top, I had to try and ice it and pretend it wasn’t supposed to be a Victoria Sponge. Can you picture how awful that looked?

Clearly a good job I didn’t want to bake cakes for a living!

It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s cakes or landscaping. You have to get shape right first, otherwise, it’s disastrous.

Plants alone cannot give you a fantastic looking landscape no matter how nice they are. You have to get the shape right first, otherwise, you’ll be about as successful as I was trying to disguise my malformed sponge creations.

Does Your Landscaping Pass The Test?

If like most people, you’ve placed things wherever you had space, chances are you haven’t got the results you really wanted with your garden. This is because the design shape isn’t flowing from one area to another very well – and that is one of the main keys of good design.

A good landscape design should be a whole entity even if you divide it up into various rooms like you do with a house – it still has to function as one whole unit.

The fact is, when you have an overall lawn shape that links everything, it automatically just works without you having to do a great deal. Just one coherent shape can make an enormous difference to your garden.

Does Your Garden Have A Coherent Shape (lawn and patio areas)?

If your backyard doesn’t have a coherent shape, the good news is, it doesn’t cost a fortune to alter the shape of your lawn. Just doing this one thing will make a tremendous difference to your garden.

If you’re feeling creative and have the space, linking several key shapes together really does look amazing very easily. Now this method works regardless of whether you have an established garden or a complete blank canvass.

So if your garden is established, is there a shape you can make with the lawn area and perhaps the patio as well that links all the items in your garden together?

A Trick To Visualisation

To help you visualise, get a piece of paper and literally scribble down the outline of your garden as it is now. And then try and put in place a very large geometric shape that just links everything.

There is a little trick that you can use to help you visualise; once you’ve drawn the shape, leave the paper flat on the table and then just duck down so that the table and paper is at eye level and you’ll find that you kind of get a little bit of perspective look to it and that will give you the idea of how it will look.

How to Create a Great Garden: Explained Further…




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!

    3 replies to "The Key To Creating A Great Garden – Without Spending A Fortune"

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    • Tim Aldiss

      Argh – if I’d read this before I’d have started I might have been scared into not starting. However I can’t afford one so I’ve bit the bullet and made a good start. I;m blogging my progress as I go: https://www.thehorticulturalist.co.uk.

      You make a good point about flow though. Mine’s only a small garden but I’m trying to make due consideration for the house flowing out into it by having the floorboards running front to back, and aligning the decking that will go down outside in the same way.

      Thanks for the podcast link though – I’ll be sure to check it out 🙂

    • KatyLandscapers

      I agree that the plants are the so called “icing on the cake.” You are spot on with what you call the shape that links the whole landscape. It’s all about harmony. Even if you have great plants and blooms, it won’t flow if you don’t intentionally create the flow or link.

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