Redesigning Your Garden

Making a Plan

Before you begin, check with your local planning office to see whether your garden is covered by any planning regulations. This may be the case if, for instance, you live in a conservation area. Mature trees may be protected by a Tree Preservation Order. If your house is a listed building or there is one nearby, you may also encounter restrictions on layout and height in the garden. If you need to apply for permission for any changes, apply as soon as possible, as sometimes the process can be slow.

What is on your garden wish list?

Think about what you want your garden to do. It should reflect your lifestyle, the people who will be enjoying it and the time you plan to spend in it, whether it is relaxing, playing or tending the plants.

If you have small children and they enjoying playing ball games, a large lawn is a good choice, space allowing. Fill borders with robust evergreen shrubs and grasses rather than delicate flowers.

If you enjoy entertaining in your garden, lay a patio surrounded by fragrant, low-maintenance borders.

Planning Tips

  • It’s best to plan your project on paper first. You can always refine your ideas by developing several versions, but date them so you know which one is most recent.
  • Map out the existing garden. Make sure you include everything in it. A plan made to a scale of 1cm:1m (1:100) is a workable scale for most gardens. If you have a small garden, you may be able to use a scale of 1cm:0.5m (1:50).
  • Identify your boundaries. Mark whether they are fences, walls or hedging. Make a note of hedging, fence or wall style too and for hedging show the spread of foliage. Boundaries can look almost insignificant on a plan, but they can be a strong visual presence within the garden, completely changing the intended design.
  • Mark out the house. Include all major structures and any areas of hard landscaping. Then draw in details like paths, sheds, compost bins, pergolas, and water features.
  • Note the existing borders. Draw in flower beds, herb or vegetable gardens, and other large areas of planting.
  • Mark the orientation of the space. Note down North and mark areas where shade is cast at different times of day.
  • Remember utilities. Mark the position of any utilities, including water, sewage and electricity. It may be useful to show underground services and overhead services using different colours. The location from underground services can often be identified using the position of inspection hatches and above ground piping.

Using a Professional

You might decide to employ a professional designer. They can bring a more polished finish to the final design and may have creative, practical ideas on how to make the most of your space. If you do hire a professional, be very clear what you are looking for in the brief and ask for a written contract if one is not provided. Most problems with professional design work arise from the designer misunderstanding what the client wants, or the client changing their mind about what they want half way through the process. A written agreement can help to avoid this problem.

Choose a qualified professional who is willing to spend time in discussion with you at the planning stage and who will take into account your wishes and your needs. But remember that they are the expert and it makes sense to listen to their advice.

A Full-Size Plan

Once you have created your plan on paper, the best way to test how well it will work in practice is to mark it out on the ground and live with it for a while.

The simplest method is to use a hosepipe, length of rope or brightly-coloured spray paint to mark out the shape of the borders, lawns, and other large areas. Use stakes and twine to represent the exact shape and height of the hedges.

Outline the paths with stakes and heavy string that is clearly visible – brightly-coloured string or twine is idea.

Make a Note of Which Direction Your Garden Faces

If you understand the orientation of your garden, you will be much better able to make the most of your space. You will also be able to identify the best position for a patio, garden pond and other important features. Selecting plants to suit your space is also important – some plants love full sunshine, others prefer semi-shade and still others thrive in cooler, evening sun. Take into account shadows thrown by hedges and large trees when planting, as they can be just as solid as the shadows created by buildings.

Add Lighting to Your Plan

Start thinking about where to position garden lighting in the early stages of planning. Too often, lighting is little more than after-thought, added after everything else has been positioned. By including lighting in your plan from the beginning, you willbe able to optimise its use within the garden.

A light at each entrance, and several positioned along pathways and on the patio, will aid visibility – and add extra life and interest – late into summer evenings and on dull winter afternoons. It’s a good idea to illuminate any steps, raised areas and doors leading into the house.

Plan to have a number of lighted areas, not just one. It is much more effective to have several medium-voltage small lights rather than a single floodlight: the lights will not dazzle and, at night, your garden will feel lively and warm. A bulb brighter than 100 watts will accentuate the ‘black hole’ of unlit space behind and may also annoy your neighbours!

Consider the View

Don’t forget to look beyond your garden to its immediate surroundings. There may be something you would like to hide from view – electricity pylons, telegraph poles, unattractive buildings – while optimising the nicest views.

Work Out the Size of a Terrace or Patio

Calculate the size you think you need – and then add another 1 metre to each side. Size is difficult to judge exactly, so be as generous as you can when planning.

Planning for a Water Feature

Think carefully about the kind of water feature that is fitting for your style of garden.

  • You may consider a raised or sunken pond, a waterfall, a natural swimming pool, or a small bubble feature, depending on the space you have available and your priorities for the garden.
  • The site itself will have an impact on your choice: a running stream or waterfall is more natural on a sloping site, whereas a pond needs a level area where the ground is easy to excavate. If you have rock close to the surface or a high water table, a sunken pond will be impractical.
  • Remember to include electrical provision for a pump or lighting, if needed.

Next: see Making the Most of Your Space

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