Garden Design drawing showing a detailed plan

The Importance of Planning a Garden Design

It’s a common mistake, most of us have done it. Started landscaping our gardens with no real plan, just keen to get started on somewhere to sit or tidying that ugly bit in the corner.

I understand completely, and it’s something I have done in my own gardens more than once. You just want to see change and maybe you’re a long way off from having a budget to do the whole garden, so what’s the harm in just tidying up this bit or that?

Well usually very little but you could just be throwing money away if you have to alter it all later to fit in with the bigger picture. Taking the time to come up with a plan, even if it’s just an outline, for your whole garden will ensure you are working towards your final goal. 

Read on for some tips and guidance on planning a garden design, which you can implement in small chunks whilst working toward a more complete picture.


Be prepared with basic measurements.

Measure your garden out and plot the outline on a sheet of paper, A4 is good enough for most small gardens but if yours is a larger plot you might want to go and get a couple of sheets of A3 or A2.

Next note the position of any permanent features such as the shed, manhole covers etc. Then in a lighter shade or pencil mark any feature that can or will be removed or relocated, even if this wont be until a later stage of you project.

It’s also a good idea to include any large existing plants or trees that you intend to keep and repurpose into your new garden design.


Start Planning a Garden Design – don’t pick up a shovel until you do.

The first stage to designing a garden to allocate space for each function.

So if you have all day sun in the bottom right hand corner corner you might want your main patio to be there. Decide what size of patio you need and mark that with a rough square, circle etc. to an approximate scale. Remember this is just an outline at this stage to make sure your general concept works before hashing out the details.

Carry on using the same method for lawn space, additional seating, water feature and so on. Don’t forget to also mark out how much space you need around doors and other access points to allow free movement around your garden.


We now have a basic skeleton, but it needs flesh.

Now rough out the shape and direction of pathways, both physical and visual. You need to get from A to B within your garden but a straight line is rarely the best route. When you walk through your garden it should feel like a journey, one that guides you though to new views and perspectives. A straight path will make your garden seem smaller by drawing your eye instantly from one point to another without pausing to take in anything along the way.

You need to do this in a wholistic way with the other features and areas so now is also the time to give form and shape to your patio, lawn and planting beds. Are you a fan of sweeping curves or geometric straight edges?

Keep at this, do it over as many times as you need to until you start to see the result that pleases you.


Okay, so it should be getting exciting now.

Time to add some detail, start to decide on materials for your patio and your preferred laying pattern for them. Do you want a modern banded paving pattern or a selection of sizes laid in a random pattern. If you are curving the edges, will you just leave the sawn edges or would it look better to band them with a row of brick or stone sets?

What plants will give the garden it’s structure and height? These you need to plant early on so they can mature. That way even if it takes you years to complete the landscaping, when you finally finish your garden will look mature right away.


Now it’s time to channel your inner Landscaper.

You have a plan, it’s incomplete but the import parts are known. If your are breaking the project down into bitesize chunks you can begin to implement them knowing that you are working towards a cohesive whole. Don’t worry about the smaller details like infill planting or even what type of water feature you want (unless of course that’s your first chunk). These details can be addressed later and it give you time to consider lots of options and develop your plan in more depth whilst progressing the build.

Even if you are attempting to landscape the entire project in one go, it’s is crucial to have an order of operations. Knowing which parts need excavating, to what shape and depth and doing that as a single block of work, will save you money and time when hiring a digger and skips for instance.


Now you understand the importance of planning a garden design

Planning a garden design can be a stressful and terrifying experience, but it doesn’t have to be.

By following these simple tips, you will always know what your objective is, when spending your money and effort.