How To Plan A Garden Design

A few weeks back I blogged about our garden design - today, I'd like to explain how we set about deciding upon our garden layout.

We considered three key questions when it came to planning the design for our secret garden:

  • What did we want to do in the garden?
  • What kind of style were we hoping to achieve?
  • Where did the sunlight fall from month to month?

When we thought about how we wanted to use the garden, we pretty much pictured ourselves lazing around in the sun drinking our morning coffee, having picnic lunches on the lawn, enjoying a glass of wine after work, and of course braai-ing as frequently as the British weather would allow. And I certainly didn't picture myself out there pruning in all weathers. So that meant we needed low-maintenance planting, and a variety of seating areas.

For example, our patio:

Our deck:

Our bench-under-a-tree (on the left) and raised bed/benches (on the right):

In terms of the style we wanted to achieve - naturally, I made a mood board:

You can see a larger version of this board here, and read some more about how I created it here.

We settled upon a 'secret garden' feel, with plenty of Mediterranean and jungly plants.

The final question is a really important one to consider when you're planning your garden - where does the sunlight fall month by month? It's usually not enough to understand whether your garden faces south, or west - especially if you have a small garden - you really need to understand how the light changes month after month.

For example, although our garden faces south-west, the only area of the garden that gets any sun at all in the morning during the winter months is the bottom right-hand corner. This is because the sun is lower in the sky in the winter, and gets blocked by our neighbour's house. Pesky neighbours. In the summer, we don't have this problem because the sun is much higher and shines over the entire garden.

So for us, this particular corner of the garden was obviously a key area, if we were to be able to take advantage of any sunny winter mornings. Here's what the people who owned the house previously did with this part of the garden:

Nice. There's really nothing like building a hideous old shack in a focal part of your garden. You can read about how we literally karate-kicked it to the ground and replaced it with our circular patio here.

You also need to check out whether there are any parts of your garden that literally get no sun at all, at any time of year or time of day - the parts that get some sun, for maybe an hour or so early in the morning - and the parts that get the sun pretty much all day, all year round. That way you can choose which type of plants to place in which part of your garden.

For example, we have around fifteen different types of clematis in the garden - around half of them were chosen due to their tolerance of shade, which meant we could plant them safely along the left-hand fence.

And that's the thought process that went into designing our garden :-)

Next time I'll share some of our 'during' photos (you can check out the before and afters here) - man, it was a grim process. I never want to dig up and dispose of a lawn ever again. Or dig sackfuls of chicken manure into the soil. To be fair, the latter probably isn't on many people's To Do Lists.

If you have a garden, how did you decide what to do with it?