“To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” –Alfred Austin
When it comes to designing a great garden, there are some essential principles to follow. Luckily, you don’t necessarily need a green thumb to create your own beautiful space.
Here are 12 simple, but vital, garden design principles to help you plan the perfect garden for your home.
Designing a Great Garden: 101
Sure, anyone can head to Home Depot and pick up a few petunias. But a few flowers and shrubs do not necessarily make a great garden.
Following these principles will help you plan ahead and learn a little about the importance of real design.
1. Point of Entry
At the risk of stating the obvious, the entrance to your garden landscape is the first thing visitors will see. Thus, it is important for setting the tone you’d like your space to exude.
Your garden entrance acts as a welcome to those entering. It gives a hint at what type of garden lies within.
When choosing the type of entrance you’d like for your garden, create a feeling of unity by matching your entrance to the architecture and design of your home.
Bricks that match bricks, stone for stone, modern era to modern era. You get the idea.
If your garden is extensive, multiple entrances also act as opportunities to present different kinds of vegetation and separate various themes. When used properly, entrances act somewhat like punctuation in the story of your garden.
2. Focal Points
While it’s not a rule that you must have only one focal point in your garden, choosing an appropriate number and kind is important.
Try to choose a tree, plant, or structure to act as a focal point when laying out your design. This gives the eye somewhere to go and an obvious point of focus.
Focal points in your garden help organize your space visually.
3. Plan Around Activities
One important question to ask yourself before starting your design is what will your space be used for? Will your garden be merely for leisurely plant-viewing, or will it surround a swimming pool or basketball court?
Knowing this beforehand will help you select the best plants, structures, and materials for your space.
For example, if you have a pool to design around, you’ll want to include spaces for a grill, pool tools, lawn chairs, etc. This will help you make the most of your space as you will be better able to visualize the activities that will go on there.
4. Keep it Simple
If you have a green thumb and just love all things garden-related, this can be challenging. Try and resist the urge to purchase every flower from the nursery that you love, or become a hoarder of pots and chairs.
Instead, make a plan and stick to it. Simplicity is key to creating an enjoyable space that is free from clutter and visual “noise.”
This is another area where knowing what focal point you wish to emphasize will help prevent you from turning your garden into a junkyard.
5. Choose a Color Palette
Again, hitting up a nursery before you’ve decided on a color palette for your garden is asking for trouble. Don’t make this mistake and walk away with an odd number of mismatched plants just because they looked “oh so pretty” in the shop.
If you like the look of a traditional English garden, wildflowers like annuals and perennials go well together.
For a more modern color scheme, many gardens keep neutral tones of grey, green, and then one splash of bright color like red to add drama and emphasis to certain areas.
Grouping the same kind of flower or plant together is another great way of making your design seem intentional and aesthetically pleasing.
6. Don’t Forget the Views
When you’re planning your space, don’t forget how it will look from the inside out. Consider whether that tree you’re planting will actually block your windows or create a nice outdoor focal point.
If there are plants you need to be removed or pruned, don’t forget to factor in things like stump removal cost and others. This helps ensure your views from inside and outside are pristine.
7. Vary Textures and Patterns
Including various textures and patterns in your garden design adds interest and beauty.
Placing items of the same texture or pattern together give your garden a faster “rhythm” while spacing similar textures apart slow the mood down.
8. Selecting Structures
9. Form and Shapes
The shapes you place in your garden will help create the mood. Sharp, angular shapes create a more formal or cold mood. Soft, billowing, overflowing shapes create a relaxed feel.
10. Bury Your Rocks
A somewhat unusual gardening design tip often overlooked is to have your boulders or large rocks semi-buried. Burying your boulders up to the soil line makes for a more natural look to your garden.
Unless you’re shooting for a rock garden, be selective about your boulder use. Overdoing it with the rocks can make your garden look a bit contrived.
11. Design Subtle Mounds
Make topographical mounds no greater than 24 inches from bottom to top. This keeps the mound looking authentic and natural.
Creating slopes that are too steep can cause flooding or drainage problems. It may also lead to erosion of your garden in places you do not want too much water runoff.
Enjoy your garden day or night by adding some well-placed lighting. Choose backlight to help give a beautiful silhouette to a tree, shrub, or structure.
Casting front lighting onto a feature in your garden also creates dramatic emphasis.
More Gardening Help
With these 12 great garden design tips, you’re all set to create the landscape of your dreams.
Of course, what good is a beautiful garden if it’s not kept that way? Once your garden is established, check out our post on 5 ways to keep your garden healthy.