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Where to Start When Creating Your Perfect Garden

So the house renovation or build is well on the way to completion, and now a beautiful garden is required to complement it. But where to start?

While impossible to cover the entire garden planning process in one blog post, there are some fundamental points to consider, which should help set anyone on the right path, and begin removing some of the fear one might have about a seemingly daunting task.

A design sketch should highlight harder landscaping or open areas – introducing strong but familiar shapes like squares and circles provide a good framework that can be easily softened with good planting. Always keeping in mind how the space will be used is crucial though – practical considerations like access to a shed may be easily overlooked if not factored in early on.

A sketch will also struggle to become reality without measurements. Measuring the space will allow a real grasp of what’s possible and what there is to work with…. as will a check on the budget available to complete the design.

When it comes to planting, the first piece of advice to give to anyone would be to ensure that they understand how their garden and any existing plants in it behave throughout the year. They need to be confident that they understand the soil, and its pH, before planning any drastic changes. Then take time to learn all about the plants that they want to include or to add to the space, take photos of them, and learn all they can about them. This will leave them in a position to make informed decisions.

Positioning ‘key plants’ first, (with consideration of ultimate height/spread) and then the skeleton planting such as the evergreen backdrop (e.g. screening hedge) and wall shrubs and climbers, will provide a good base on which to then introduce the decorative plants such as architectural plants and contrasting soft flowering perennials in the foreground.

Level changes within the garden, even by one step, can give a feeling of space, particularly in a small garden. Raised beds and retaining walls also give an excellent illusion of space, as well as adding interest to the area.

Groups of round or horizontal shapes (e.g. Hebes or Cistus) can work well offset by a dominant/tall anchor (e.g. an upright conifer). More dramatic contrasts can also be created with jagged shapes from plants like Cordylines or Phormiums. Care should be taken when introducing contrast however – cleverly used it can be striking and very effective, but too much and the eye can’t rest.

Most people like to feel at ease, and a sense of calm in their garden – and in order to achieve this there needs to be flowing change, with careful ‘accents’, rather than a very busy, chaotic space. Where contrasts in shape are used, it may be advisable to ensure a colour link, and vice versa, so that there is always some association, however loose.

Planting in odd numbers is common and often advised. Groups of 3, 5, or 7 of the same plant (e.g. herbaceous perennials or heathers) create smart drifts in designated spaces, and can appear much more striking than one or two of the same plant dotted amongst other plant varieties. It can also keep things uncomplicated, and avoid an overly ‘busy’ look.

Grouping the same plants in a non-symmetrical pattern can also be an effective way to create a subtle focal point, whether it is through grouping in one area or at different
points in the garden.

Don’t under-estimate the power of colour either. It can be intensely powerful and make a huge difference to the mood and impression a garden evokes e.g. hot reds can appear closer than they are, while cool blues can seemingly disappear into the distance.

While there are undoubtedly planting combinations and concepts that work, inevitably gardens are very personal and subjective spaces that should have their own personal style. Gardens should be designed with sympathy to change too – they are not static spaces; they can never be finished or completed, but rather their openness to change should be embraced and enjoyed.

This blog was provided by Trevena Cross Nurseries