6 Things to Consider When Planning a Garden Layout

Green lawn in a colorful landscaped formal garden

Do you want to make better use of your lawn by converting it into a garden? A place where you can sip your afternoon tea while watching the kids chase after butterflies? Or do you want a garden venue for birthday parties?

Whatever it is, you can achieve anything with careful and strategic planning. It all begins with writing down your purpose. Then, plan out the different elements you want for your garden, such as a leisure space, pathways, trees, and plants.

Step 1: Nail down your purpose

Why do you want to have a garden? Maybe you have one or several reasons, such as:

  • You like to read outdoors
  • You want a place where the kids or pets can play
  • You want a place to have coffee with close friends
  • You want a venue for social gatherings
  • You want to showcase your plants and flowers

As you write down your purpose for creating a garden, consider constraints, like the size of your lawn, its current state, your budget, and your deadline for finishing your project — if you have one.

If you have a whole acre like the Chinthurst Lodge Gardens in Guildford, Surrey, you probably can do all of the above and more. But if you have very limited space, you may have to pick just one or two and focus on those.

Step 2: Take a lawn inventory

Before you begin sketching your garden layout plan, consider your lawn’s current state:

  • Are there trees and shrubs already planted?
  • Are there rocky, shallow, or problematic areas for plant growth?
  • Where is your water source?
  • Are there areas where wind or sunlight will be a problem?

If there are existing trees in your lawn, do you plan to keep them or remove them with the help of a stump grinding company? This may take more effort but will give you a clean canvass to start with.

As you plot your garden’s layout, remember the above considerations to make sure that your new plants will grow well where they will be planted.

Step 3: Plot the most important parts

After you’ve taken an inventory of your lawn’s state, you can begin the exciting part—designing your garden.
Start with your primary purpose. Did you want an intimate space for chats over coffee? Maybe you could put a lounge area in one corner. You can arrange wooden benches on a bed of gravel and enclose this spot with ornamental plants. It can be good for two or four people, depending on what you have in mind.

If you want a garden that showcases a variety of flowers and shrubs, you may want to build a luscious flower bed right in the middle. Or, you can start your design with a focal point such as a pavilion, fountain, or ornamental pond.

Step 4: Choose your trees

There are three kinds of trees you can plant—windbreak, shade, and ornamental trees.

Windbreak trees— like Eucalyptus, Lombardy poplars, and various bamboos—are best placed along property lines facing where the wind is strongest. These will protect vegetation and garden furniture from damage from intense winds and extreme cold. But don’t overdo. Leave room for healthy airflow, which prevents pests and diseases.

Shade trees are great for open areas that are prone to intense sunlight during summer. Remember to keep large shade trees 15 to 20 feet away from buildings and power lines.

As for ornamental trees, you can plant them to add interest and colour almost anywhere. Look for trees that remain interesting through all four seasons like pears, crabapples, and hawthorns.

Step 5: Sketch the Pathways

You can design pathways that are purely for aesthetics but it’s best to build beautiful yet functional ones that have people’s convenience and safety in mind. Pathways create a safe walkway when it’s a little muddy in the garden due to rain. They can also keep guests from stepping on the grass or smaller plants.

There are different materials you can use for your walkways, such as gravel, bricks, or small wooden stumps. Use material that is safe to walk on and hopefully do not become slippery when wet.

If you’re using your garden for parties, you may want to have wide paths that can accommodate three to four people. Then you can add to these narrow paths for individuals or couples.

If you want to create a whimsical feel by hedging paths with tall ornamental plants and trees, make sure to put these taller plants at least two feet away from the path’s edge to keep them at a comfortable distance from people walking on the path.

Step 6: Pick your palette of plants and flowers

Sprinklers watering flowers

We all have our preferences when it comes to flora and fauna—those that we think have interesting foliage, bark, flowers, and fruit. Begin with your favourites and then move forward from there, choosing a variety of shapes and sizes while sticking to a colour palette. Your colour palette will depend on whether you want your garden design to look surprising, relaxing, enchanting, etc. You can use vivid colours or soothing ones. But adhere to your palette to make your garden look unified and put together.

There are a lot of things to consider when designing a garden layout. Begin with your garden’s purpose and based on that, layout basic garden elements like leisure space, trees, pathways, and plants. You may need to do further research before picking the trees, plants, and furniture you need. Whatever you decide, the above steps give you a good framework to start with.

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