Improving and designing any space, whether inside or out, can be a very exciting prospect. One thing that we all find ourselves doing in the process is coming across things we like and imagining where they could fit in to the new design. It is very easy to quickly collate a list of features that are wanted to make a garden rather than the practicalities of how you will use the space, or how the garden will flow to make the best of it.
In the modern world, a garden isn’t just to be looked at – it is an extension of your living space to enhance your life and an area to be enjoyed. If you are thinking of have your garden redesigned then it is worth considering the following list to ensure that all elements of your life are included – there’s no point spending money on having a beautiful garden if you then can’t use it in exactly the way you would like.
Before starting to think about what you would like in your garden, it is important to have in your mind what you would like to/can afford to spend on it. If money is no issue then you may opt for the luxury of having the design determine the budget, but if resources are finite, then setting a budget in advance allows for an accurate specification and, consequently, design, to be created. It may be that you want the whole garden done in one go, or that you would like the work split into phases with your ideal garden achieved over a number of years.
Number, age and requirements of family members
It is common for each family member to have a different need for the outside space, some of which may change over time. You may have children that need to let off steam in the garden, want a quiet sanctuary to escape to, require space to come together with friends and family, need an outside office or, all of the above! By thinking about and planning these in advance, the different spaces and uses can be arranged for all to use the garden harmoniously.
Taking into account how these needs may evolve over time, then enables the impact of the design to remain whilst still being a space that grows with you and your needs – for example, the built in child sandpit can later become a water feature, or the flowerbed on the patio is replaced with the dining room extension.
The needs of pets should also be thought of too, as dogs may need a decent area of grass or chickens might require a shade tree, all elements that need to be included as a practicality of everyday living.
Likes and Dislikes
Have a think about what you like and what works in your current garden so that this can be kept, or traits of this replicated in your new garden. It can sometimes to be difficult to know what you want, so, perhaps even more important, is for you to identify what you don’t like or don’t want included.
It is worth being familiar with any restrictions that apply to your site such as Tree Preservation Orders or if you are in an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty, as clearly this may impact on what can and can’t be removed or undertaken.
There may be a problem area in your garden that you would like a solution for. This could be anything that currently restricts the use an area resulting in your garden not being utilised to its full potential. For example, screening to provide privacy, a water feature to reduce the noise from a busy road, altering the conditions in a microclimate to make it more pleasant or improving drainage, can all increase how much use a garden receives and how much joy you get from it.
If you intend to use your garden to entertain, it is worth thinking about what type of entertaining this will be and roughly how often. An annual summer drinks party for your friends and neighbours, where the majority stands, has very different design requirements to a frequent sit down barbeque meal for six.
Sun and Shade
Depending on the aspect of your garden, there may be areas of your garden that receive excessive sun or shade. It is personal preference as to whether you prefer seating or other areas in either of these conditions, or it could be for some that you would like the option of both.
Water in the Garden
There are both practical and aesthetic uses to water in the garden.
From the practical point, thought needs to be put in to how you will water your garden and from where. This could be through collection of rainwater in a waterbutt or via an outside tap. In both cases, access and practicalities need to be considered. If you really don’t have the time to water, then it might be simpler to install an irrigation system or to use more drought-tolerant plants.
Water can also be used to provide background noise or for a focal point. Water does, however, have safety implications for children and some pets so, if applicable, it is worth considering how you plan to manage these.
Lighting in the garden isn’t just to extend the period of use until after dark, it can be used to create mood or enhance focal points. If you would like lighting in your garden, this is best raised before the build so that any necessary cables can be installed before the hard landscaping is completed.
Practical garden issues
Gardens can play a crucial role in the day-to-day elements of life and so think about how and what is your daily requirement from your outside space:
How many bins do you have (recycling, general waste, green bin, paper bin, food bin), what size are they and where do you intend to store them for ease of access?
Would you like to dry your washing outside?
Will you have a barbeque and will this live inside or out?
What type of garden furniture would you like and will this live outside or in?
Do you need garden storage and, if so, for what?
What access is required – will this be people and/or vehicles?
Will you need electricity to any part of your garden?
Do you need a greenhouse?
Do you plan to grow vegetables?
How will you dispose of any garden waste and grass clippings?
Will you require a compost heap?
The Finished Product
Once you have gone through the effort and expense of having the work done on your garden, it is worth reviewing how it will be maintained to keep it looking good. Think through how much time you have or would like to spend maintaining your garden or if you will have a gardener to do it for you. The time allowance and experience available to care for the built design should determine what type of materials and plants are then used to create your garden.