Garden Design Principles

Brendan Moar offers the following design principles as a guide to making the most of your outdoor space no matter its size, function, or current state.

  • When moving house, resist doing anything to the garden for the first 12 months. Observe the garden during every seasonal change. Note the sunny and shady spots. See what's working and what's not.
  • Ask yourself how you want to use your space. Just as the kitchen is designed for cooking and the bedroom for sleeping, so too must the garden meet your needs. Design spaces for entertaining, reading a book, whatever YOU want to do.
  • Instead of thinking in terms of themes such as Balinese or Tuscan and asking yourself, "What style of garden do I want", try taking your inspiration from your surrounding environment asking, "Where am I?" and "Who am I?"
  • Forget about trends - after all, there's a fine line between kitsch and cool. Instead, think about solving problems in your garden such as shade and screening. You can always add style later.
  • Draw up a base plan of your garden before making any changes. Sketch your ideas on to tracing paper laid over the original; by keeping the base plan free of scribble, it's easier to work with whenever you feel like making changes.
  • The best investment you can make is getting the connection right between your home and garden. If the best view of your garden is from the second toilet window there will never be a natural flow between inside and outside. Achieve that connection with French windows or big sliding glass doors. You may have to spend a few extra dollars, but in the long run it will add more value to your home.
  • Consider dividing a garden into clearly defined, smaller spaces. It's the most effective way of making a small space appear larger. Keeping small spaces clear and open only accentuates their smallness. Conceal built edges, such as edges and fences, with planting and hedges.
  • When buying plants, again ask yourself what function they are to perform? Are the fillers or features? Look for similar conditions in the garden centre to those at home. If your garden receives loads of sun, check out the plants in the sunny part of the garden centre. If your backyard is shady, head for the plants in the shade. And remember to take a note or sample of your soil type with you.
  • Give careful consideration to the type of materials you are using. They can affect the whole mood of your garden. Metal and concrete will give a modern, urban look while weathered recycled materials such as timber, bricks and stone will give your garden a sense of age.
  • Once you are done, add some finishing touches with styling accessories such as cushions, artworks etc. The key here is not to overdo it. You want to enhance your garden's beauty, not detract from it.

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