How to decide what sort of garden design you want

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Would you like to overhaul your garden but don’t know where to start?

Well, if you are at this point, you will have already recognised that redesigning your garden is going to bring you benefits, such as an improved quality of life and perhaps an increase to the value of your property but how do you sort out the mixed tangle of emotions and ideas that you have attached to the project in to a coherent design plan?

Luckily, when you employ a professional garden designer this is exactly what they do at the start of the project!  They will try to tease out from you the mass of ideas and emotion that you have attached to your garden and set it down in a coherent way so that they can use this information as a sourcebook from which to draw up the design.  It’s called forming the design brief for the project.  Good garden designers are often great interviewers; they probe deep in to your head, a bit like a psychiatrist, to find out your likes and dislikes and also exactly where you want to go with this project and why.

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So the design brief is a list of ideas that you have for your project.  The brief will most likely include one grand statement that you want to make about your proposed design (the mission statement if you like) and then will include a wish list for the different components of the design.  Our grand statement might be: “I want a family garden suitable for entertaining friends” and our component wish list might include, for example: a large patio space, a play area for the kids with a trampoline and sand pit, a generous lawn, low maintenance planting and so on.

To recap, the first thing you need to do is to disentangle your mass of emotion and ideas (your baggage) about the garden and the way to do this is to write your own brief.  How do we do that?


Simply, you need to take a pen and paper and write down a number of leading questions.  Then jot down the answers straight away?  My top four questions for brief forming are:

1) What sort of garden would I like to have?  The answer to this question should give us our big design statement (our mission plan for the garden).

2) What do I like about my existing garden?  Think about the best bits of your garden, maybe its size or shape, that it is not overlooked, or that includes a favourite plant.

3) What do I dislike about my existing garden?  Maybe it’s too big or too small, the wrong shape, hard to maintain or is plain boring to look at.

4) What are the main things that I would like to have in my new design?  This is where you list out the key components that you want for the garden e.g. better planting, a new lawn, water feature of garden fence.

5) What type of design style would I like to have?  For example, do I want a formal or informal design, traditional or contemporary etc.

Once you have got some answers to these questions you will find that you have a basic brief for your design.

I hope this has been useful.  If so, I would love to get your comments.    If you are thinking about getting your garden designed perhaps this will help you think about what you want to achieve?  If you are a professional garden designer reading this, don’t be shy – I’d love to hear what leading questions you ask your clients?  As always, please post your comments below.

1 Comment
  • Thanks for the article. I was looking a lot like the guy in the first picture, but now I have a better idea of what to work with and how to approach my garden overhaul.

    1st February 2013at7:51 am

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