How to Design Your Garden Part 2

In part one, we looked at where to start with planning your garden. If you’ve followed steps 1 to 7, you’re now ready to go onto stage two, the planning.

What to do now

Now that you have your base plan, showing the position of all the trees, features, and existing plants you want to keep in your garden, you are now ready to start designing. The way to do a good design is to concentrate on the shape. When I say shape, I don’t mean the shape of your existing garden. I mean the shape of the empty spaces  within it. If you think about it, the majority of your garden is empty space. Your lawn and patio area constitute empty space, and the shrub borders and features form solid areas.

How you shape the empty areas of space (your lawn and patio area)  are the key to creating a really well-designed garden.  Rather than concentrate on things like features and individual plants, instead think about what shape your new lawn and patio will be.

Action steps

  1. On your base plan, start to draw some geometric shapes, like circles, squares, rectangles, any easy geometric shape to represent your lawn and patio areas.  These shapes should fill approximately two-thirds of your garden plan.
  2. Once you’ve chosen a shape that you like for your lawn and patio, the areas that are left over are going to be the shapes of your planting borders. If planting borders feel too large, you may then need to add some additional features to use up the space, so that it isn’t all planting.
  3. Make the shapes you’ve chosen lead your eye from one side of the garden to the other. This will create a sense of movement, and will make your garden feel much larger and more interesting.
  4. When you are happy with the shape of the empty spaces, it is then time to add the planting and any features you wish to include in your design.

Below, is the plan of the narrow garden shown in the photograph above. The red line that zigzags down the garden, shows how the position of the rectangle and circular shapes lead the eye from one side of the garden to the other, thus making it look wider.

It may feel counterintuitive to design the empty areas of your garden first but this is the best way to make sure that your design flows and works well as a whole unit. Most people, when they design a garden, put a feature here and something somewhere else, and then stand back and wonder why the garden doesn’t look as good as they’d hoped. The reason it doesn’t look good is because nothing links together. If you just design in little areas, your garden will never look as good as it will if you design a garden as a whole entity.

It is really important to concentrate on what shape lawn and patio areas you have first, and then you can embellish your design with nice features and planting schemes. Planning your garden this way round will ensure you of success.

The Great Garden Formula – Beginner’s Step by Step Guide To Landscape Planning

Learn the easy, step-by-step method that will get you the results you want with your garden quickly and easily. Take a look at the Great Garden Formula Course… which just happens to be on special offer at the moment, so hurry along there now!



About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 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!


  1. Hi Rachel,
    Some excellent advice here, I like the way you explain how the eyes are drawn to certain aspects of the garden, something I had experienced in gardens but never thought it was planned!
    .-= sarah arrow´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  2. Great tips! Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been lacking a little inspiration in the garden and this gave me a great boost! Thanks again!

  3. Wonderful advise – thank you! My biggest mistake was thinking there was so much empty space and planting things close together. now I have a jungle!
    .-= Mrs Green @´s last blog ..How to get kids outdoors =-.

  4. Thanks Sarah, Stacey & Mrs Green, great to see you all here!

    I think most of us have accidentally created a jungle with our gardens at one point or another – very easily done!


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