Garden Design: Your Guide To Ideas, Styles & Inspiration
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Living in a country that’s renowned for its unreliable (and typically wet) weather, it’s not surprising that when we can get outdoors, us Brits love to do it in style.
For those lucky enough to have their own outdoor space, this typically means spending precious time outside gardening, barbecuing or just socialising with friends.
However, it’s not as simple as just setting up a few deck chairs and kicking back in the sun (well, not for most of us). Nowadays, gardens are considered an extension of our home interiors, requiring careful attention to ensure they meet aesthetic and functional requirements.
So, how do you go about designing your dream garden?
Well, garden design in the UK requires a whole host of practical considerations (including the weather). This can make planning a garden design and bringing those ideas to life a little overwhelming, particularly if you’re a garden novice. But, we’re here to help.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re tackling a modest backyard or an expansive space, this guide is the perfect starting point to gain a wealth of garden design ideas and inspiration. From practical considerations to styling tips, after reading this, you’ll be one step closer to your dream garden design.
Top garden design considerations
With any home improvements you undertake either inside or outside your home, it pays to do your homework before you dive in.
Not only will this save you time and money, but having a good handle on what essentials you need to consider with your garden design from the off will make sure nothing gets overlooked.
So, let’s take a look at what you should keep in mind when hashing out your garden design ideas:
- Purpose – establishing the key functions of your garden will be the backbone of its design. Start by drawing up a rough sketch of the space, and play around with the placement of specific design must-haves (like shaded kids play areas, sheltered seating and veg patches) to find the best position
- Location – before you set your garden design ideas in stone, take the time to familiarise yourself with the location and its characteristics that could impact function. For instance, note where the sun comes in your garden and at what times during the day, as well as any windy spots. This can not only affect what plants you grow, but also the suitability for patios or seating areas in your garden
- Landscape – gardens are rarely a uniform shape and size, not to mention the variation of terrain you’ll find throughout the UK. From steep slopes to soil type and irrigation issues, every garden design project will pose different challenges. But getting to grips with these landscape nuances in the early stage will help you plan to accommodate or overcome them
- Maintenance – gardens are living entities – even the simplest design will need a little input from you to keep it looking its best. When you’re laying out your garden design ideas, don’t overlook the level of upkeep required. Generally, smaller garden designs offer lower maintenance, but even large gardens can be relatively manageable with thoughtful design. From hardy, hassle-free plants to durable, easy-care landscaping materials, there are plenty of ways you can look to minimise garden upkeep
- Focal points – make use of focal points in your garden design like winding paths, seated areas, water features and flower beds. These centrepieces don’t always need to be man made, either – striking trees and views can be equally as impactful, helping to unify your overall garden design
Garden design layout ideas
Your garden should be a place you can enjoy spending time outdoors, so its layout plays a key role. That’s why when you’re choosing your garden layout, we’d recommend always keeping function at the heart of the design.
Ask yourself key questions: what do you want to do in your garden? How much time do you want to spend out there (including maintenance)?
While for some a well-manicured garden is a labour of love they never tire of, for others, the prospect of endless upkeep brings on a cold sweat.
Choosing the right garden layout can feel a little daunting to newcomers. For one, gardens come with a host of variables, from terrain and weather exposure to maintenance and personal style, not to mention the sheer scale of them.
So, here are a few tips to use when you’re in the planning stage:
Optimise the journey
Good garden design takes you on a journey, guiding you through the space to maximise its impact and practical use.
So when you’re designing your own outdoor haven, think about how you can make that journey feel special.
In open-plan spaces, this may be something as simple as adding a garden path that deviates from the direct route, taking in pretty plant life along the way.
In smaller gardens, the emphasis may be more on using vertical space and designated zones to draw the eye upwards and outwards.
To avoid dead spots that never get used, try to evenly distribute functional spaces rather than bunching them all close together.
Introduce different levels
For gardens with steep gradients, adding tiered levels is a must. Varied levels make accessing all areas of the garden, and utilising them for planting and domestic use, much simpler and easier.
Varied levels work a treat in flat gardens, too, bringing depth to the overall design. Perfect for carving out specific zones like an elevated seating area or raised planting beds, they’re often easier to reach, making them easier to maintain.
Keep it practical
Using every inch of space matters, but don’t let this override the practicality of your layout.
Factor in access to things like water and electricity when planning your garden design. For instance, if you’re designing a sleek outdoor dining space away from the house, ensure there’s ample lighting in the area, as well as a well-lit walkway.
Similarly, for grow-your-own enthusiasts, make sure there’s convenient access to water or that your layout incorporates some form of irrigation system to keep your plants well nourished.
Gorgeous garden design styles
Overhauling your garden is a big undertaking and expense, so understandably, you want to get it right the first time.
A safe bet is opting for a garden design style that offers evergreen appeal. These styles typically still afford you the flexibility to update and embellish your garden design to suit your own style ideas and changing needs over time.
To help you seek out the perfect look for your home, we’ve put together some timeless garden design styling ideas to spark your imagination.
You don’t have to live in the countryside to enjoy the beauty and romance of an English country cottage garden, as this style can work anywhere.
On first glance, country gardens look like a haphazard medley of plants, which is all part of their beauty and charm. But there is a method behind this busy exterior.
Bursting with colourful and eclectic flower beds, the overall layout needs to be kept simple. Think smatterings of meandering paved walkways that balance out overflowing florals and lead to a focal point such as an open seated area.
Plants can be a veritable mix of species, including decorative plants and edibles for an authentic country garden. Throw in some traditional style wooden furniture, some rustic planters or ornaments like a birdbath or sundial, and you’ll have a picture-perfect outdoor space.
- Works in all size gardens
- Suitable for novice gardeners
- Relatively low maintenance (once planted)
- Adaptable to different soil and climate variables
Get your own slice of the Mediterranean lifestyle by creating a rustic outdoor haven.
From worn terracotta pots to rustic garden furniture, the character and charm of a Mediterranean garden never seems to wane.
Serving up a relaxed vibe, there’s often more emphasis on decorative elements than specific plants, which helps convey a warm and welcoming space. We’re talking lots of terracotta hues alongside sunny yellow, bright blue and red accents.
In terms of layouts, make use of informal pathways with large paving slabs that wind through the space set in gravel. With flowerbeds, billowing tall grasses and shrubbery should be embellished with large ceramic pots casually placed throughout to add interest.
For seated areas, enhance the authenticity of the rustic theme with rugged and resilient quarry tiles that will only improve with age. Or to add a modern twist, introduce colourful patterned tiles on walls or floors. Finish the look with an ornate metal dining set and you’ll have all the right ingredients for a Mediterranean inspired oasis.
- Works with most garden sizes
- Easy option for novice gardeners
- Relatively low maintenance
- Works best in warmer climates
If you’re looking to carve out a calm and meditative space away from the outside world, then Japanese garden design could be the perfect antidote.
Japanese garden design centres around simplicity, letting the beauty of nature do all the hard work. As with all garden design, it should guide you through the space, allowing the eye to be drawn in by different points of interest.
Natural stone plays a key role here, working as a contrast to soft landscaping materials and shrubbery – make sure you have plenty of it. Use it for pathways, rockeries and borders to create visual interest, but make sure the overall design doesn’t feel too regimented – you want to play on the randomness of nature.
No Japanese garden is complete without water that adds a soothing touch to the design. This can be something as visually dramatic as a still water fishpond. If space is limited, small garden design ideas that use modest water features will work just as well.
- Works for all sized gardens
- Minimal upkeep
- Good for new gardeners
- Suits any climate/soil type
Combining hard scaping materials like smooth stone, tiles and wood against lush leafy fauna is the perfect way to create your own urban jungle.
Start by doing your hard-scaping, using stone and wood to create definitive walkways and raised beds – you want different heights to enhance the layered look. For social spaces, you can either make it blend into the landscape with decking or tiles in a similar colour to other materials, or go for a modern pop with coloured tiles instead.
It’s also essential you choose the right fauna to get an authentic jungle look without having to thermalise your entire garden come winter time. Luckily for you, there are some tropical plants that can grow well in the UK, giving you that tropical aesthetic with minimal maintenance. These include some palm trees, bamboo and ginger lily to name but a few.
- Works well in small, urban gardens
- Low maintenance
- Good option for inexperienced gardeners
- Suits milder climates
Giving your garden a fresh and functional new look can feel like an uphill struggle, but the key is to start small by nailing down your dream garden design ideas, then work your way upwards.
With an idea that ties in perfectly with your garden’s function, you’ll have the right base in place to bring your visions to life and begin focusing on more practical considerations, like the best garden tiles to choose and how to grow your favourite plants.
Once you’re ready to start your garden design project, don’t forget to explore our diverse outdoor tiles collection to suit your style – we’ll even tell you how to lay your garden tiles, too!