Good design is all about balancing the practical with the aesthetics, a well designed garden looks fabulous, but it should also be practical to use.
But how to decide how much room the patio should take up and what’s a good size for a lawn?
Garden designers use a set of principles to answer these questions, I’ll be explaining these guide lines over the next few weeks so that you can apply them to your own garden.
Even if you don’t use them in your own garden, you’ll appreciate how they work when you see other gardens and outdoor spaces.
This is one of the fundamental principles and it’s a good starting point. Essentially it’s about dividing up the garden, whether it’s large or small, so that it looks and feels right.
I see many small gardens that have a large lawn taking up most of the space in the garden, in the mistaken belief that it’ll make the garden look bigger. The borders are skimpy and made up of the left over space, resulting in a garden that doesn’t look right and isn’t a comfortable space to be in.
On a practical note, there’s only a limited range of plants that will grow in very narrow borders, larger plants end up looking awkward and crowded.
Designers work out the proportions of all the elements in a garden by drawing a Plan of the existing garden to scale, then creating a new design using this Plan.
You can work out a new Plan of your garden by marking it out on the ground using garden-canes and a hosepipe to form the borders and spaces. Have a look at your handiwork from an upstairs window and maybe live with the layout for a few days to see if you like it.
This is what to take into account:
- Make a list of everything you want to have in your garden, e.g. lawn, borders, paths, shed, patio etc.
- How big do they all need to be? A patio probably needs more room than you think to move chairs back from the table.
- The proportions of all the components in the garden should relate to the size of the house, especially its height.
- Paths look better and are more practical if their width is generous.
- Towering hedges and trees look out of proportion in a small garden.
- Finally, but most importantly, how do all these components relate to each other?
It’s really helpful to visit gardens of all sizes and styles to see how these principles are applied (or possibly not used at all) and see what the overall result is.
The ‘after’ picture shows how my design divided this large sprawling lawn by inserting a curved border, (replicating the shape of the terrace) so that the lawn was in proportion to the house and the surrounding borders.
There’s a lovely view from the house now, with plants carefully selected so there’s always something interesting to see through-out the year.
images: Jill Anderson