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Design Inspiration

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Design InspirationLandscaping

Designing and building your own garden landscape can be highly rewarding. Not only will it create a pleasant space for you to enjoy, a well designed garden can add value to your property should you come to sell. The secret of a good garden landscape is to combine aesthetic appeal with practicality, and to create your own unique look that has a lasting appeal.

Planning Your Garden Design

It is important to prepare a plan before you even think about picking up a spade. As you think about the kind of layout, plants and features you might like, compare them against research into your garden’s condition. What existing plant life is there, and if you intend to use them, how will they be integrated into your new plans? Examine the soil type and drainage conditions, as well as what areas of your garden get the most light and shade. These factors will affect what kind of plants and materials can be used in particular locations.

Checking soil health and structure
Checking soil health and structure

Think about the overall style of your proposed landscape. You can create a formal look with straight lines, or have curves and a slightly looser appearance for a traditional country garden for example. Curves are often seen to be the best choice, but see what works for you. After all, it is your garden, so don’t forget that the key aspect is designing the landscape for your pleasure.

Once you have some solid ideas, write out a plan containing your main concept, your budget, and time frame. List the equipment you will need, and where all your materials and plants might be sourced from. Bear in mind that it highly unlikely you will find all you need from one garden centre or hardware store. It is also advisable to write an initial break down of your schedule so you know roughly what tasks lay ahead.

Landscape Design From the Start

To create an attractive garden landscape: keep it simple. You may have 1001 ideas seen from garden centres, TV shows, and public displays, but if you cram these all into one garden you will end up with a confused space. Look at how the living plant life will work with the non-living elements of paving or walls to give you a better idea. Try not to be swayed by the latest trends in garden design; they make look outdated and awkward very quickly. Stick to the things that you know will always be your firm favourites and incorporate them in exciting ways. Good use of space is more important to the overall impression of a garden than installing a trendy backlit water feature.

Island beds are one way of introducing some distinctive design to your garden. These often look best with curved shapes, and can draw one’s attention to a certain point of the garden. Remember to keep a sense of proportion and scale however. If you have generous borders, an island bed in the centre of your garden will look misplaced if it is too small and sparse. Using your house and garden walls will help give you a sense of proportion.

A focal point for your garden will help to draw the eye through the garden. Think about positioning a sculpture, a bench, or some other feature toward which your garden can lead. If your garden is large, spaces can be separated by an arch or pergola, which itself becomes a feature. Again, it serves to draw attention through the garden as your visitors explore.

Construction of Your Garden

Before you start to create your beds, borders, and other features, double check the functionality of the space you are to use. If you have children in the garden frequently, lawn space may be important and there may be safety issues with some of your proposals. Ensure that you are landscaping a garden for actual use; add walkways if necessary and make it a level of maintenance that you can manage.

Landscaping your garden is a lengthy process. Sculpting the land and preparing the planting areas is one thing, but the garden will not start to come into fruition for several months, and will take a few years to really bloom and establish its roots. Be aware therefore that your garden will not look full or complete for some time until the plants have grown and spread.

Break down your construction into separate tasks depending on the stage of construction, time of year, and the materials that you have made available. The landscape design process will inevitably be interrupted by your life outside the garden, so take into account the fact your plans will stop and start.

Planting Plants For Beginners

Get to know the areas of sun and shade in your garden so that you can select plants that will survive. Don’t be afraid to mix many types of plant size, colour, texture and form to create a dynamic and interesting design. There are many plant combinations that you can try; seek some expert advice to help get you started.

Be bold and confident in your schemes. One of the main failures of beginners is making the plant beds too narrow for fear that they will not fill them. Make your beds wide enough for three layers of plants; the front, middle and back. Five feet is a healthy width to create your full plant layering. The wider the bed: the bigger the impact.

The variety of plant sizes and forms will give a 3D depth and fully utilise the space. Although your beds will be wide enough for three rows, do not plant in straight lines or the bed will have gaps and look staid. Position taller plants at the back, but do not just think about a particular patch from one point of view, consider how the planting scheme will appear from all angles. Also remember to check your plant labels to see how much each one will grow, planting them at distances accordingly. Don’t be too generous with the spaces if you want to achieve the appearance of a full bed.

The order of planting should follow first the larger species that will be positioned toward the rear. These offer a focal point and should be planted first. Next should be your year round plants and evergreens, followed by the decorative grasses and flowering shrubs. The final step allows you to scatter in your “prettier”, blooming flowers and bulbs for the next season.

Adding seasonal variety in your planting will create a changing landscape for you to enjoy. For front or particularly public areas however, evergreens should be deployed so that there is a year round feature in place. For this reason, evergreens should also be placed by deciduous plants so that the space is not empty come winter. Check the labels of your plants for their seasonal properties and try to visualise how your plot will appear in all seasons.

Play with the symmetry in your garden and see what different visual impacts you can create. Matching-sized shrubs either side of an arch will create a formal symmetry, while a more contemporary asymmetrical set up can involve three different sized pots one side.

Remember: it is your garden, so design it for you, and you should end up with an attractive, colourful landscape that can be enjoyed for many years.

Design Inspiration

Once there were no flowering plants: no roses, poppies, daisies or geraniums – just lush, green and unfamiliar jungle. Well, you’ve seen it in the movies. Now you can create your own patch of ancient jungle, thanks to a range of plants that would have provided lunch for dinosaurs in their time.

Creating your own lush Jurassic Park is fairly straightforward. The idea combines the rich greens of ferns, cycads, tree ferns and pines with a splash of water and informal close planting. And what the combination may lack in colour is more than made up for in lush greenery, architectural structure and an attractive, if unfamiliar, air of mystery.

Green Dreams

Perhaps the most important component of any Jurassic Park is ferns – their strong architectural forms and primeval air are just the thing to provide dense planting. For the edges of borders, try the arching fronds of the Lady Fern and the smaller delicately coloured Japanese Painted Fern. To provide height, think about tree ferns such as Dicksonia Antarctica – they will provide shade for the smaller ferns beneath, as well as the wonderful contrast between their leaves and the browns of their trunks.

Go Exotic

Another way to emphasise the unfamiliar is to add a variety of exotic plants such as the Japanese cycad – a cross between a tree fern and a palm tree – or a variety of true palms. Some of the best examples include the Canary Island Date Palm and the Chusan palm. These can also provide height to your borders and could be planted carefully to provide focal points or clusters of architectural structure.

Wet and Wild

No dinosaur would be happy without the trickle of a jungle stream or two. You can create your own simple rills bubbling through foliage using small ponds at different heights, linked by shallow channels filled with small and large pebbles. One or two pumps can be used to circulate the water from the lowest pond to the highest. You could even have a bit of fun using concealed motion sensors attached to fountains that are placed to squirt visitors as they explore. But if you have a bit more space, how about an oasis in the jungle with water running beneath a seat or even pouring through a glass-topped table!

Design Inspiration

Modern meadows are a key look this year – gorgeous grasses informally planted together, mixed in with tubs of tulips or dotted with single white foxgloves, and always providing unbeatable colours, movement and texture. There’s no doubt that at the moment, grass is officially gorgeous.

The main idea of modern meadowland is to combine natural planting style with a contemporary, formal layout, creating a traditional meadowland re-interpreted for the modern world. Getting the look can take some thought, and patience, but it’s worth the effort. The secret is to make the maximum use of the colour, texture and height of grasses to give a feast for the eye.

The use of grasses in particular is especially useful since these plants provide gorgeous subtle shades of colour for most of the year, and this is capped by elegant seed heads later in the summer. Once established they take little care, and of course insects and birds love them.

Stalks and Seed Heads

However you plan to plant, one of the most important ideas is to use the variety of heights that different grasses give you to add depth to your planting. For example, use shorter varieties at the front of borders where you can see them. Don’t plant singly but in large clumps – or in straight lines to mark paths or divisions in the garden. Taller varieties can go almost anywhere – even near the front if they aren’t planted densely – giving movement and adding strong architectural features.

For smaller clumps with beautiful delicate flower heads, try Briza media or Briza Maxima. For stronger architectural spikes with fabulous golden seed heads, try Stipa gigantea Gold Fontaene.

Subtle Shades

Grasses aren’t just green. How about browns (Carex milk chocolate), rich greys and blues (Elijah Blue Fescue) or the exotic Blood Grass ‘Imperata cylindrica Rubra’ with mid-green leaves that turn blood-red from the tips downwards and have fluffy silvery-white flower spikes in summer. In particular, this spectacular grass provides a wonderful contrast to other golden, blue or even black foliaged grasses.

Perfect Textures

Grasses make it easy to create almost any kind of texture in your garden. For instance, choose from the delicate softness of Pheasant Grass (Stipa tenuifolia), the explosive, spiky mounds created by Miscanthus Yakushima Dwarf, or the upright steely stems of Juncus Carmans.