Having decided on the style of garden that you want, and the features that you need to incorporate, tackle the much more difficult task of applying them to your own garden. The chances are that your garden will be the wrong size or shape, or the situation or outlook is inappropriate to the style of garden that you want. The way around this is to not try to create a particular style too closely.
If you can’t visualize the whole of your front garden as, say, a stone or Japanese garden, it may be possible to include the feature as an element within a more general design.
Most successful garden designs fall into one of the three basic patterns described below, though clever planting and variations on the themes almost always result in individual designs.
Circular theme: Circular themes are very effective at disguising the predictable shape of a rectangular garden. Circular lawns, circular patios, and circular beds are all options, and you only need to overlap and interlock a few circles to create a stylish garden. Plants fill the gaps between the curved areas and the straight edges.
Using a compass, try various combinations of circles to see whether you can create an attractive pattern. Be prepared to vary the radii and to overlap the circles if necessary.
Diagonal theme: This device creates a sense of space by taking the eye along and across the garden. Start by drawing grid lines at 45° to the house or main fence. Then draw in the design, using the grid as a guide.
Rectangular theme: Most people designing a garden use a rectangular theme based on a grid — even though they may not make a conscious effort to do so. The device is effective if you want to create a formal look, or wish to divide a long, narrow garden up into smaller sections.
How to make a scale drawing
To make a scale drawing, choose a scale that enables you to fit the garden on a single large sheet of graph paper. For most small gardens, a scale of 1:50 (2 cm to 1 m or 1/4 in to 1 ft) is about right. If your garden is large, try a scale of 1:100. Draw your base line (a long straight edge such as a fence) in first, then transfer the scale measurements. When the right-angle measurements have been transferred, draw in the relevant outlines.
Drawing the garden plan
Whether designing a garden from scratch or simply modifying what you already have you need to draw a plan of the garden as it is. A drawn plan will enable you to see the overall design clearly and to experiment with different ideas.
Stage 1: the basic grid: Make a rough sketch of your existing garden, add accurate measurements, then, make a scale drawing from this. Transfer the measurements to graph paper to create a scale plan of your garden, showing any permanent structures and features that you want to retain.
Now superimpose on to this grid the type of design you have in mind — one based on circles, rectangles or diagonals, for example. You can draw these directly onto your plan in a second colour, but if you think you might change your mind, draw the grid on a transparent overlay. Use grid lines1.8-2.4 m/6-8 ft apart for small areas.
Using an overlay, or a photocopy of your plan complete with grid, mark on the new features that you would like to include, in their positions. You might find it helpful to cut out pieces of scrap paper to an appropriate size and shape so that you can move them around.
Stage 2: the rough: Using an overlay or a photocopy, start sketching in your plan. If you can visualize an overall design, sketch this in first in as detailed a fashion as possible, then move around your features to fit into it. If you have not reached this stage, start by sketching in the features you have provisionally positioned though you may have to adjust them later.
You will need to make many attempts. Don’t he satisfied with the first one – it may be the best, but you won’t know this unless you explore a few other options first. Don’t worry too much about planting details at this stage, except perhaps for a few important focal plants.
Stage 3: the detailed drawing: Details such as the type of paving should be decided now – not only because it will help you to see the final effect, but also because you need to work to areas that use multiples of full blocks, slabs or bricks if possible. Draw in key plants, especially large trees and shrubs, but omit the more detailed planting plans at this stage.
Trying it out
Before ordering materials or starting construction, mark out as much of the design as possible in the garden. Use string and pegs to indicate the areas, then walk around them. If possible, take a look from an upstairs window. This will give a much better idea of the overall design and whether paths and sitting areas are large enough.
Use tall canes to indicate the positions of important plants and new trees. This will show how much screening they are likely to offer, and whether they may become a problem in time. By observing the shadow cast at various parts of the day, you’ll also know whether shade could be a potential problem – for other plants or for a sitting-out area. If your design includes irregularly shaped beds, use a length of garden hose or thick rope, adjusting the curves to roughly mark out the shape.