Blog Menu

A Hume
enquiries@ahume.co.uk01573 224 620
Top Ten Designer Tips to Transform Your Garden

Top Ten Designer Tips to Transform Your Garden

By -
Modified:

To celebrate RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Garden Designer Susan Begg shares her top design tips to transform your garden.

 

Chelsea is widely regarded as the best flower show in the world but it should come with a warning – the merest glimpse can lead to serious feelings of inadequacy about one’s own humble patch.

 

Dramatic garden makeovers are a common symptom of post-Chelsea syndrome and are to be encouraged – a well-designed garden can utterly transform the way you live and enjoy your outdoor space. It can also add considerably to the value of your home.

 

However, before you leap into action take a moment’s pause to plan – even if you’re just adding a few plants here and there.

 

 

Structure

 

 

Image source: Pinterest. A great example of an informal garden with plenty of structure; trees, hedges, topiary, paths and pots.

Image source: Pinterest.
A great example of an informal garden with plenty of structure; trees, hedges, topiary, paths and pots.

 

 

Structure is the backbone of your garden and might come in the form of trees, hedges, paths, walls and fences, ornaments or sculpture. Basically anything left when the garden dies back for winter counts as structure and you want enough of it to ensure your garden has height and interest through the gloomy season, plus something to contrast with the general exuberance of a garden in mid-summer.

 

Unity

 

Images source: Pinterest The distinct areas are tied together by repeated use of the hydrangea.

Images source: Pinterest
The distinct areas are tied together by repeated use of the hydrangea.

 

Most gardens have multiple functions, seating areas, lawn, planting, play, maybe a pond, veg patch or greenhouse. Give each a distinct identity, but retain one or two features that are common to all, this could be pots, paving, edging, planting or overall style. This will help unify your garden.

 

Paths

 

Image source: Pinterest A meandering path with plenty of interest is a pleasure to walk.

Image source: Pinterest
A meandering path with plenty of interest is a pleasure to walk.

Paths are functionally important, they can also be deployed to add interest or create a journey. A path without a visible end can be enticing. Whilst paths in formal gardens draw defining lines establishing the geometry of the space.

 

Boundaries

 

Image source: Pinterest Borrowing from landscape and blurring the boundaries with planting makes it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Image source: Pinterest
Borrowing from landscape and blurring the boundaries with planting makes it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

 

Play with the boundaries of your garden. Adding height in the form of trees and climbers at the boundaries of a small town garden will lift the eye and distract it from the limitations of the boundary. Blending the planting with the landscape beyond the boundaries of your garden in a garden of any size blurs the boundaries and can make it tricky to tell where the garden ends and the landscape begins.

Focal Points

 

Image source: Semple Begg A reflective water bowl is restful focal point.

Image source: Semple Begg Garden and Landscape Design
A reflective water bowl is restful focal point.

 

Use pots, ornaments and garden sculpture to create focal points in key locations. Think about bringing water into the garden. Not everyone can have a pond but everyone can have a water bowl. Even if your garden is no more than a balcony.

 

Relate the Garden to your Home

 

Image source: Pinterest Use materials and colours that are sympathetic to the house.

Image source: Pinterest
Use materials and colours that are sympathetic to the house.

 

Relate the garden to the house in terms of the scale of the features, terraces and borders. Taking lines from key points on the house or garden buildings will give a space a sense of proportion – it will feel right. Use materials that are sympathetic to the materials in the house – is your home stone, brick, wooden, harled; do you have a slate, pan tile, or zinc roof? Keep it simple. Don’t mix too many different materials.

 

Frame Views

 

Image source: Pinterest Frame views, bringing planting right up to the house can enhance the feeling of intimacy.

Image source: Pinterest
Frame views, bringing planting right up to the house can enhance the feeling of intimacy.

 

Give careful thought to the views from the house and views from the garden to the house. Bringing planting close up to the house creates a feeling of intimacy and establishes strong links between the inside and out. Alternatively create long views by framing distant features.

 

Plant Densely For Low Maintenance

 

Image source: Pinterest Plant densely for low maintenance. Gernamium macrorrhizum 'White Ness' is a pretty semi-evergreen ground cover.

Image source: Pinterest
Plant densely for low maintenance. Gernamium macrorrhizum ‘White Ness’ is a pretty semi-evergreen ground cover.

 

Don’t skimp on planting costs. It might seem counter-intuitive but more planting means less maintenance. The aim is to deny weeds any bare soil. Planting generously, using lots of ground covers to meander between plants will go a long way to achieving this goal (be careful which ground covers you use, some vigorous ground covers can out compete neighbouring plants, if in doubt seek expert advice).

 

Repetition

 

Image source: Pinterest Use repeat planting in groups for added impact.

Image source: Pinterest
Use repeat planting in groups for added impact.

 

When there are so many beautiful plants out there it can be hard to resist buying one of each but this will dilute the effect. The eye will simply read this as jumble and all your efforts will be wasted. Adopting a restrained choice and planting in multiples of 3, 5, etc. dependent on the size of your garden, and repeating the same plants across the garden, will achieve a much more cohesive look with greater impact. If it’s a struggle to think like this, try to think of it like putting cushions on a sofa. How would 7 cushions of completely different colours and patterns look? Not great.

 

Think about how colours, size and form relate to each other and remember not every plant can be a star – you need plenty of understudies (plain cushions) to tie the look together.

 

 

Right Plant, Right Place

You may have heard this mantra before but it is the most vital piece of gardening advice you will ever receive. Before buying any plant think about where it will go – this is where the cushions analogy falls apart because plants are dynamic, living organisms that all have individually specific environmental requirements. They can’t just be thrown like cushions on a sofa.

 

A good designer will plant communities of plants that not only look good together but grow well together. It can be hard as an amateur gardener to replicate these very sophisticated plantings but it is critical you consider the light, hardiness (extent to which a plant will tolerate cold, wind and wet) and soil conditions when buying plants. The spread, lifespan and competitive zeal of plants are also a factor.

 

 

Susan Begg is one half of Semple Begg, a successful garden and landscape design practice that brings together the combined talents of Nicola Semple and Susan Begg. They have a reputation for innovative planting design and garden schemes throughout Scotland and the North of England.
If you enjoyed this post and know of anyone keen to make their garden more beautiful, then please ‘like’ and ‘share’ this post using the social buttons.

Top