wide garden
Wide, blank canvas garden before the design

Some people love having a completely blank canvas they can create their dream garden on. Others, feel overwhelmed by the emptiness and don’t know where to start.

You MUST shape the space correctly in order for the garden to look good. With a new-build or blank canvas garden, you have no restrictions.

With a more established garden, you just have a few obstacles to design around.

Regardless of what is or isn’t in your garden, the design process is always the same…

In this article, we’ll focus on a wide, shallow garden shape.

Case study – wide garden


In our wide garden case study example, you can see that the owner had had a really good go at designing the garden herself. She had put in one nice size lawn shape and had a good ratio of plants to space. However, the shape she had used for the lawn accentuated the width and made the garden look and feel shorter.

If your garden is wider than it is long, then you need to put a bit more thought into how you plan it. The problem with wide gardens is their lack of depth, it makes the garden feel confined because the end of the garden is so close.

This is true even if the garden is quite sizeable. You might have a lot of physical space in the garden, but if it’s pointing in the wrong direction i.e. widthways and not lengthways, then visually it will make the garden feel much smaller than it really is.

So how do you design a wide garden?

Step 1 Divide the space of the garden into different areas.

The division doesn’t have to be a wall or fence, it can be very subtle with planting or a pergola. By dividing the space up, it will make each area look larger. So in effect, each end of the house has its own garden.

Now depending on just how wide your garden is, you can divide it into two or perhaps three areas.

Step 2 Choose shapes that enhance each area.

You need to choose a shape that makes each area feel larger. Interlocking circles or boxes can work well for this. If you have enough space, then you can consider using free-form flowing curves. However, it is advisable to start off with simple geometric shapes, just to get an idea of the feel of the space.

New design shapes vs old

Step 3 Create interest by having focal points that draw your eye down the garden.

By having strategically placed focal points like a statue, urn, bench/seating area or archway, your eyes will automatically be drawn to the solid object in between the planting. Adding a focal point to look at occupies your mind with more visual information and that always helps distract your brain from the true shape of the garden.

This transformation could be easily done on the limited budget that was available for this garden.

It really is amazing just how much difference getting the correct shape lawn can make to a garden.

Want to learn more and see this simple design formula demonstrated?

Register for one of Rachel’s free garden design web classes on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/free-classes/

I know it’s totally counterintuitive, you want to think of your garden as putting things in, like patios and plants, but it really is down to how you shape the areas of empty space. That’s what really makes a difference!

Many thanks to Gillian for so willingly allowing me to use her garden plan as a case study example.

Did you find this case study helpful?

Please leave your comments in the boxes below!





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!

    23 replies to "Wide, blank canvas garden design – Case study"

    • Alison Boocock

      Amazing how shape can make all the difference…simple but effective!

    • Successful Garden Design

      Thanks Alison! It is amazing how much a difference getting the right shapes in your garden makes. I'm continually surprised by it and I design gardens every day! 😉

      I'm going to be doing a garden design case study, like this one, every month now, so stay tuned!

    • Eileen Golding

      A design for a wide garden at last! Hope you do more, please?

      • Jenny Coetzee

        Hi Eileen my surname was also Golding and I am residing in Cape Town South Africa….my cousin Envir is doing our genealogy….My great grandpa was originally an Irishman… you may answer me on my email..if you feel comfortable to answer me.. God bless you

    • Mauro Ver

      is it not possible to build a flower bed on de side of the patio?

    • Mauro

      rachel is it not possible to built a flower bed on the side of the patio and play with high? groeten

    • Successful Garden Design

      Hi Mauro, yes, that is certainly possible but the budget was very tight for this garden, so I kept the design as low cost and simple as possible.

    • Successful Garden Design

      Hi Eileen, glad you liked the wide garden case study. I will definitely try to do some more. Trouble is, most people tend to have long gardens, so I don't get asked to do them often. I will be sure to post another one on the blog as soon as I get the opportunity.

    • Tarab

      Hi Rachel,

      It is really very nice design!
      Thank you for sharing the ideas.

      Focal point; i do not like statues, what would you use in the garden for a focal point? Especially with tight budget, would you mind giving us some ideas and some pictures?

      Than you

    • Rachel Mathews

      Hi Tarab,

      Thank you. I agree, not very keen on statues either, so I tend to use large pots or urns as a focal point. Or you can make a sculpture out of different size stones placed on top of one another. Driftwood can look good as can an antique chair painted a bright colour. The limit is only your imagination and a paint pot colours!

      A focal point is really just a solid object that gives your eyes something to focus on other than plants.

      Hope that helps.



        Agree with Rachel and depending on where you are what about a candelabra tree cactus – Euphorbia ingens. my brother had a tree fall down (about 30cm circumference) and part of the trunk was turned up side down to show the roots and then this was made into a sort of seat with the roots to hang lanterns on. Unfortunately one of the neighbours spotted it and it disappeared.

    • Janine MCMAHON

      Thanks Rachel – look forward to seeing more.

    • Moss

      I’m loving the cicular lawn , so simple yet so effective for space. Too many clients want it all yet don’t have the space, the amount of arguments it can lead to unless you nail the design like you have. Elegant work!

    • Myrto

      Absolutely helpful! One of the most important tips!
      A small move a big difference! it really looks bigger now. 🙂
      Thank you Rachel! ….and Gillian!

      • Rachel Mathews

        Thanks Myrto, glad you found it helpful. Another case study coming along very soon!

    • Elizabeth Butcher

      We are just moving to a bungalow with a very wide garden and this design looks absolutely perfect and would incorporate what my son has in mind for a covered seating areas we have extra space to one side, in front of the garage. Absolutely thrilled to find this, so thank you very much.

    • Flor Valladares

      Hi Rachel! I´m so impressed every time I look to your designs, I have a question for you.. my garden is wide too, Is it possible to divide in two areas completely diferent “theme”? Like one side I have pine trees (because near to a mountain) and the other one I would like plant palms and a little beach style???

      Thanks! so much!

      • Rachel Mathews

        Hi Flor,

        Yes, absolutely, just make sure the transition from one area to the next either totally separates the two areas or find a way to blend them! Good luck and keep us posted on how it turns out 🙂

    • Amanda

      This kind of design looks perfect for my back garden which is a bit wider than it is long, if it was all level! My garden slopes away about halfway down the length. I enjoyed your Small Garden Web Class and so I’m thinking I will have to put in retaining walls and wide steps to deal with the slope but still be able to see some of the bottom part of the garden?

    • Julie Brigham

      I am currently looking to design my wide garden and have just come across your design, it has totally changed my ideas for our garden. This design is brilliant thank you and I will be registering on one of your free courses.

    • Noreen

      The paving along the walls of the house feels odd to me. Is there a reason for that? I suppose I’m used to seeing plantings along the walls or at least hanging baskets or window boxes.

      • Rachel Mathews

        Hi Noreen,

        It was what the builders left them with – you see it a lot in the UK. I prefer a bit of space for plants too!

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