Planning And Garden Design

Last Updated on July 1, 2021 by Grow with Bovees

A carefully planned garden has a great many advantages over one which just ‘happens’.

Apart from being more attractive and versatile, it is often easier to maintain because it has been designed with specific goals in mind.

Being acquisitive by nature, gardeners tend to spend a great deal of time searching for imaginative ideas.

The desire to improve one’s immediate surroundings by introducing interesting features — such as rockeries, ponds, patios and steps — is a natural one, but the danger lies in trying to implement too many ideas without considering their relationship to one another and to the garden as a whole.

Your ultimate aim should be to create a design which fulfills your practical needs, is pleasing to the eye and sympathetic to its surroundings.

Whether you are starting a garden from scratch in a brand-new garden or tackling an established one, it is advisable to take a little time before any work begins to get your garden landscaping ideas onto paper, or use one of the many garden design apps now available: a basic overall plan will not only lessen the chance of your making expensive mistakes, but will also help you to achieve a measure of harmony.

Consider the following when incorporating a new garden feature:

Scale and Proportion

Each element of the garden should be in proportion to the size of the plot, the house and the other garden features.

No one item should be allowed to dominate the design. A large, elaborate sculpture may look incongruous within the confines of a small city garden but, placed in the center of a large suburban garden, it could form a very effective and pleasing focal point.

Remember to take into account the way the garden will look once it is established — the small Norfolk Island Pine that looks so charming alongside your patio may one day dwarf not only your house but the entire street as well.

Space And Garden Layout

A feeling for space is something that many gardeners develop with practical experience.

One of the primary objectives of garden design is to make optimum use of the available space, and this often involves creating subtle optical illusions.

A large garden can be made to feel more private by creating a feeling of enclosure, perhaps by incorporating a small courtyard garden area: a small garden needs a simple, well-designed layout that creates an impression of spaciousness.

Before incorporating a new feature, consider your basic garden plan carefully and try to assess how the changes will mold the space within the garden.

Unity and Balance In The Garden Project

Ideally, the garden should form one, unified whole, with each element of the design flowing smoothly into the next.

There should be some thematic link between the individual components. A hi-tech aluminum pergola will look out of place against a rustic stone cottage; a natural-looking pond fringed by ferns will not enhance a rigidly formal layout.

One way of ensuring unity between house and garden is to introduce ‘bridging’ devices that help to blur the distinction between indoors and outdoors, such as patios, courtyards and pergolas.

Balance is also important: a prominent feature can easily make the garden look lopsided and should be offset in some way by another feature.

Interest and Variety

It is vital for the garden designer to find ways of introducing variety to the garden, particularly if it is a low-maintenance design that features few colorful, showy annuals and bulbs.

One of the most effective ways of creating visual interest is to landscape the site: undulating mounds and gradual changes of level are often more appealing than a flat, featureless plain.

This is especially easy if it is a sloping garden. Plants, such as ornamental grasses, can also be used with great effect.

An imaginative mixture of colors, textures and forms in flower gardens will ensure that the garden looks attractive all year round.

Nothing holds a garden design together more successfully than a single, distinctive theme.

A common mistake made by gardeners is to borrow ideas from a variety of sources without considering the overall effect; another is to choose a theme which does not suit the style, size and location of a garden.

Over the centuries, various styles of garden have emerged, evolving in response not only to the practical needs of the people who created them, but also to environmental factors, such as climate, geographical location and the existing plant life of the region.

Garden styles have also been influenced by foreign ideas which have been adapted to suit new situations.

Discovering Your Style Of Beautiful Garden

There are a number of factors that will influence your choice of garden style, but the one that will probably be the deciding influence is personal taste: your garden is, after all, a unique expression of your personality, whether it is a plant-filled balcony, a secluded herb garden, an enclosed patio or a large suburban plot.

The following points may need consideration:

Consider People In The Outdoor Space

Just as the interior of your house is planned and decorated to suit your lifestyle, so your garden should be planned for easy maintenance and to cater for the immediate and future needs of your family.

A family garden for a growing brood provides an interesting challenge because its style must be versatile enough to cope with the changing needs and demands of the people who will inhabit it.

Young children need plenty of open space and an environment which is safe, practical and preferably indestructible, so it would be senseless to include potential hazards such as large paved areas, steps and water features.

A garden design that is flexible will be able to accommodate changes without major upheaval.

Do You Want To Grow Vegetables?

You may wish to include an area in a sunny spot to allow you to produce some of your own food.

This is a very satisfying aspect of having a garden, and many experienced gardeners enjoy the time spent in their vegetable gardens, as well as the tasty produce that they harvest.

Ease of Maintenance

This is a crucial factor and one that is often ignored in the planning process.

A busy person who has little time to devote to the garden would be extremely unwise to create sweeping lawns and flowerbeds filled with annuals and bulbs: a garden like this demands conscientious nurturing to look at its best and could easily become an expensive and frustrating eyesore.

A practical, low-maintenance garden need not necessarily be dull or uninspiring, provided that it is imaginatively planned.

Try to match your garden to the amount of time you have to devote to it and to your actual physical stamina.

There is nothing more frustrating for an elderly gardener than watching a large garden slowly decline into a tangle of neglect because the physical strength to cope with routine garden tasks is no longer there.

One example is having to clear up vast amounts of fallen leaves every year, from deciduous trees, such as maples, when evergreen trees could have been planted instead.

Consider The Cost Of Your Dream Garden

Be practical when creating a garden — your wildest and most elaborate dreams of lush green landscaped lawns, lakes and cascading waterfalls in the Italian tradition may be ruthlessly cut down to size by limited financial resources.

Try to take into account the hidden costs of a particular style of garden: although the initial expenditure is invariably the highest, it nevertheless costs a fair amount of money to maintain a garden.

The House And The Garden Space

A garden is in many ways an extension of the house — a type of ‘outdoor room’ — and it is important that the style you choose blends harmoniously with the architecture, scale and proportions of the buildings.

It is possible to mix styles, but this should be done with great care. Few could fail to realize the incongruity of laying an Oriental style garden around a fussy Victorian house.

The Site For Garden Inspiration

No garden can be divorced from its surroundings.

Here, both the climate of your region and the topography of the surrounding landscape will need consideration. The former is a factor which is very often ignored by inexperienced gardeners, whose gardens are doomed to failure because they include species that are totally unsuited to the climate of the areas in which they live.

If your garden is perched on the side of a dry, windy hill, it would be unrealistic to plan a sweeping expanse of lawn. Instead, consider incorporating large paved areas and low-maintenance rockeries filled with hardy perennials and suitable rock garden plants, such as succulents.

Choose The Plants Carefully

Selecting, grouping and displaying plants effectively can be a great challenge to a gardener.

To be truly successful, a garden needs a carefully composed planting scheme.

Plants add life, color, texture and form to the basic layout of a garden, softening and punctuating the space defined by its hard structures.

Even the strongest garden plan will be weakened by piecemeal, haphazard planting: ultimately, it is the way in which the plants are combined that distinguishes the great gardens of history from the rest.

Of course, one can never completely control the way the garden will eventually look.

Once the ornamental planting has been decided and positioned, nature will take over and add finishing touches of her own. It is this unpredictability that makes gardening so challenging and rewarding: no garden is static, and you will need to be flexible and innovative in your approach if you are to keep pace with these changes.

It is not advisable to buy plants on impulse and to plant at random, no matter how great the temptation might be.

If you are creating a brand-new garden or faced with one that requires large-scale changes, it makes sense to devise a detailed planting plan on paper. You can also make use of free landscape design software. Try to visualize the plan in three dimensions — this will help you to approach the planting in a more systematic way.

If you are unsure of what garden plants are best suited to your garden, it’s a good idea to consult your local garden center, or to obtain some illustrated gardening books that will give you an indication of the sizes, shapes and colors of the various species.

A thorough knowledge of the climatic conditions of your area and the soil type of your property will also help you to select plants with confidence.

Trees and Tall Shrubs

Trees and tall shrubs form the basic framework or ‘skeleton’ of a garden.

These are generally the largest elements in the design and form a backdrop for the other plants, at the same time creating an interesting skyline and providing partial shade.

They should be planted first as they tend to set the pattern for everything else that is subsequently added. When choosing and positioning trees and tall shrubs, it is important to take into account the eventual size that they will reach.

Will the full-grown plants block out the sun, infringe on a neighbor’s property or undermine your house with their invasive root systems?

Medium-sized shrubs, herbaceous plants and perennials are used to fill in the gaps between the tall shrubs and trees. It is important to choose plants with contrasting forms, textures and leaf shapes, thereby creating a varied tapestry that will provide interest and color all year round.

The more diverse the plants are, the stronger the grouping will be.

Finally, the remaining spaces in the foreground are filled with annuals, bulbs and bedding plants that provide quick seasonal color. Ground covers and other low-growing species can be used to create attractive edgings and borders.

Create Year Round Interest

It is wise to aim for a succession of color all year round by including plants that flower at different times.

Think of your display as if you are painting a picture, and consider the effects that the various colors have upon each other.

Blues and mauves placed next to pale yellows and pinks create a pretty, subtle display, but the same colors placed next to deep scarlet will result in a much more vibrant effect.

Certain colors — such as orange and bright red — may seem to clash when placed side by side in a large border, but they could also be a very effective means of brightening up a dull corner of the garden.

A selection of foliage shrubs with unusual colors will help sustain visual interest once the annuals are past their best. Shrubs with purple, silver, copper, cream or variegated foliage can create an intriguing patchwork that is unaffected by seasonal changes, while the glowing reds, browns and yellows of deciduous leaves will add warmth to the autumn garden.

When gardening experts talk about “form”, they are generally referring to the shape of the plant rather than to its color or texture.

Your choice of plants will depend to a large extent on the style of your garden — for an informal ‘cottage garden’ effect, a relaxed planting scheme with soft, rounded, delicate-foliaged shrubs is the obvious choice, while a more formal setting may demand neat, compact plants such as conifers and standard roses.

Species with strong sculptural shapes, such as strelitzias, cordylines, yuccas, New Zealand flax and palm trees, have a dramatic quality that tends to arrest the eye, making them ideal as accent plants or focal points. They also blend particularly well with contemporary styles of architecture.

The scale of the plants will depend on the proportions of your house and property.

The tendency nowadays is for smaller gardens, and many popular garden hybrids are now available in dwarf form.

It is important to establish how big the plants will be once they are fully grown: a common mistake made in new gardens is to over plant the beds and to position the plants too close together.

As a general rule, groupings of shrubs should be bold and simple, with the taller plants positioned at the back of the beds where they will not obscure the smaller ones. Ideally, any grouping should look as natural and spontaneous as possible.

Even in a highly stylized garden, it is worthwhile taking a lesson from nature and observing the way in which plants are distributed in the wild.

Leaf shapes and textures are also important.

Again, the more varied the selection is, the more interest and impact the grouping will have. Try to create a pleasing contrast in shapes, sizes and textures, and to make the most of the tactile qualities of leaves.

Large-leafed plants can be offset by those with spiky, sword-like leaves; feathery, fine-foliaged plants can be used to balance the intensity of dark, glossy leaves.

Enclosing Your Garden Layout

There is something immensely satisfying about enclosing one’s own patch of ground, whether this is done by simply planting a line of low shrubs to demarcate the limits of the property, or by erecting an impenetrable, 2-meter-high brick wall.

Apart from ensuring privacy and security, a permanent wall or fence can serve a number of other important purposes: it can shelter the garden from the wind, muffle intrusive traffic noises, screen undesirable views and help to keep children and dogs in (or out) of the garden.

Within the confines of the property itself, internal walls and fences can be used to great effect to divide the garden into separate enclosures or to hide unsightly utility areas, containing things like the compost bin.

Quite apart from their practical functions, walls and fences can greatly enhance the character of a property by creating an interesting framework or backdrop for the garden.

Fences

Fences vary in their effectiveness at cutting down on traffic noise and wind, but are an excellent low-cost alternative to masonry walls and generally require less skill to erect.

If your aim is simply to demarcate the perimeters of the garden, a simple, inexpensive post-and-rail wooden fence or a decorative wrought-iron fence is a sensible choice; if privacy and security are priorities, a sturdy, close-boarded wooden fence is essential.

For a windy site, a fence with widely spaced boards or a lattice or basketwork weave is more effective than a solid fence, which tends to deflect the wind upwards rather than to diffuse it. A permeable fence also has the advantage of allowing cool breezes into the garden and affording glimpses of the landscape beyond.

Wood is a popular choice of material for fences, being a remarkably versatile material with almost unlimited decorative potential.

A disadvantage of timber is that it requires more preparation and upkeep than wire or brick but, if correctly sealed and treated, can be as durable.

The choice of designs and styles is enormous.

Ranging from colonial-style picket fences, through rustic, split-pole ‘ranch’ fences to woven fences and traditional, close-boarded paling fences.

An unusual alternative is a rough wooden fence. Constructed from untreated logs, saplings, railway sleepers or lengths of bamboo attached to a hardwood or post-and-wire framework. The natural textures and colors make an excellent rustic backdrop for plants and any timber fence is good support for climbers.

Walls

Bleak concrete and brick walls are a familiar sight in many urban areas, where the need for privacy and security often prompts homeowners to define their boundaries with an emphasis on practicality rather than on aesthetics.

Most urban properties are regular in shape and many are surrounded by rigid structures which further stress this regularity and create a blank, somewhat forbidding effect.

When planning a new boundary wall, it’s worthwhile taking an inventive approach and finding ways of breaking up the harsh symmetry of the structure.

This may involve rethinking your boundaries and shifting the perimeters of the property to create a more dynamic effect.

Interrupt the boundary in places, or allow it to penetrate the property at right angles.

A gently undulating wall or one incorporating different levels can add a great deal of impact to a design. Consider including deep, plant-filled alcoves at regular intervals, or leaving small chinks or ‘windows’ which will frame views into the garden.

Another way of relieving the monotony of a high boundary wall is to use more than one type of material: brick and wood, brick and wrought iron or even a combination of pre­cast concrete and brick.

‘Open’ or permeable walls generally have a less formidable appearance than solid walls and, because of their boldly graphic patterns, have a great deal of decorative potential.

Materials for a wall should be sympathetic not only to the surrounding landscape but also to the architecture of your house and to the style of your garden.

Bricks are resilient and long-lasting, available in a wide range of colors, shapes and textures, and are mostly unaffected by prolonged exposure to the weather. ‘Over burns’ or clinker bricks have a pleasing irregularity and interesting color variations, and are ideal for relieving the monotony of a grim facade of plain brick.

Stone has a wonderful rustic appearance and, because it is so heavy, can be laid with dry joints instead of mortar.

Dry stone walls are not common in many countries, but are well worth considering if you require a low, sturdy, long-lasting barrier which will add character to the garden.

Precast concrete walls are available in a wide range of colors, interesting textures and patterns. They are erected in a matter of hours on site and, if well constructed, can last as long as a sturdy brick wall.

Screens

Just as walls divide a home into different rooms for leisure, work and privacy, so the space within a garden can be molded by the introduction of internal screens.

A lightweight barrier, whether it is a hedge, a delicate wrought-iron frame, a plant-covered wooden trellis or a rustic bamboo fence, may be used to create separate compartments within the design, or to provide shelter from the wind, or to partially hide unattractive utility areas.

Internal screens can be included for aesthetic reasons alone — perhaps to mark the transition from one section of the garden to another, or to provide a growing frame for a selection of fragrant creepers.

Because they are not intended to provide security, internal screens are never as dense as boundary walls and generally do not require foundations.

A lightweight screen can be constructed in a matter of hours by an amateur, and the range of materials that can be used is virtually limitless.

Perforated concrete blocks, timber, wrought iron and wire mesh are among the most common choices, but knotted rope, panels of river reed, plate glass or plastic-coated netting can be equally effective.

Gates

The desire to create a good first impression is a natural one: it is not uncommon to encounter a grand gate on a roadside in the middle of nowhere, even though one would have to drive twenty kilometers to reach the farmhouse.

A gate is the first part of the garden a visitor encounters and serves to create a pause, compelling one to reflect on the beauty of the surroundings before proceeding.

Usually, the mam function of a garden gate is to allow easy access or to prohibit it, but at the same time it can play a purely decorative role by framing views within or beyond the garden.

The type and style of gate you choose will depend not only on the character of your garden and house (against which the gate will be viewed) but also on the functions you require of it.

It is also important that the gate forms an integral part of the permanent boundary wall or fence that it pierces. If your aim is to block out the view of your garden from the street, a solid wooden or metal gate is essential.

A gate with an open or perforated structure — such as one made of wrought iron, slatted timber or wire mesh — will form an impenetrable barrier against children and pets but still allow passers-by to catch glimpses of the garden.

Paving

Every garden needs places with hard, non-slip, quick-drying surfaces.

Paved areas — paths, driveways, terraces and patios — provide a vital link between the buildings and the soft, planted parts.

They define the places where people gather and the routes that they take through the garden, at the same time protecting vulnerable plants and lawns from constant wear and tear.

Gardens nowadays include more extensive areas of paving than ever before. The major appeal of paved garden ‘floors’ is that, unlike large expanses of lawn, they require very little maintenance and do not make excessive demands on the precious leisure time of the homeowner.

Many small gardens — and particularly those in suburban areas — consist entirely of paving, with planting restricted to raised beds and containers.

The increasing popularity of paving is also linked to the trend towards outdoor living and entertaining: a hard-wearing surface of some sort is essential for patios, barbecue areas or pool surrounds.

Another advantage of paving is that it can increase usable space in the garden by allowing one to make use of areas that might otherwise stand empty, such as a damp, shady spot beneath a tree where most plants simply will not thrive.

Paving involves more initial expense than a lawn or ground cover of some sort but, if properly laid, can last a lifetime.

Any paved section should be in proportion to the size of the property and the scale of the garden.

Generally speaking, it is best to keep the outlines of the paved areas as simple and uncluttered as possible. Decorative paving patterns are useful for drawing attention to certain areas, but should be used in moderation as their boldly graphic effect can sometimes detract from the overall design.

As a general rule, the stronger the pattern is, the larger the area should be.

An area paved with a non-porous material such as concrete, slate, tile, asphalt or flush-set bricks should ideally be laid with a slight slope across its surface so that water drains away easily.

This is generally not necessary if you are using a porous material (such as wood, gravel or brick-on-sand) that allows water and air to penetrate the soil below.

It is best to consult an expert before laying paving around a large tree: apart from the risk of invasive roots disturbing the paving, there is also a danger of compacting the soil around the tree and starving it of moisture.

Paving Materials

Paving materials are largely determined by functional criteria.

Perhaps the most important consideration is the suitability of the material to the site. An area subjected to heavy garden traffic needs a hard-wearing material such as brick or concrete, but one that is used less often can be paved with a less resilient material, such as wood or gravel.

The prevailing climate of your area should also be taken into account: a garden with plentiful rainfall, for example, demands a hard surface that drains well and does not become slippery or mossy.

If your garden is in an area that is prone to soaring temperatures, bear in mind that dark-colored paving tends to become very hot. Also consider cost, safety and ease of maintenance;

  • Is the material easy to wash or sweep clean?
  • Is it non-slip?
  • Does it stain easily, and will weeds grow through the cracks in the paving blocks?
  • Will it have to be laid professionally?

For a well-integrated effect, the materials that you select should reflect the character of the garden and house and that of the surrounding structures, such as walls, fences and other permanent garden features.

Consider the color and texture of the material carefully, wetting the slabs if necessary to see how they look, landscape rock can appear dramatically different when wet.

Cobbles

Rough-textured cobbles can be uncomfortable to walk on and are not suited to a patio area with tables and chairs and other garden furniture; a surface that is too smooth can also be hazardous, particularly if it becomes very slippery when wet.

The size of the paving blocks will depend on the size and shape of the area to be surfaced.

Small-unit paving, which includes bricks, cobbles and precast concrete pavers, provides an attractive surface texture and is ideal for paving awkward areas of the garden, but it is also more expensive than the large-unit paving and costs more to lay.

A combination of paving materials — such as pebbles and wood, brick and concrete, stone and gravel or wood and tiling — can be very effective for creating visual interest in the garden and can also cut the cost of paving a large area.

As a general rule, keep the areas of each material as large as possible and try to interlock the materials in some way so that there is an easy transition from one to the next.

Bricks

Bricks form a hard, long-lasting, slip-proof surface and, because they can be laid in a wide variety of patterns, are perhaps the most versatile paving material for gardens.

Being small units, they can be used to make gradual changes of level and direction and are ideal for paving awkwardly shaped areas.

They also lend themselves to creative designs and are very effective for edgings.

Although somewhat expensive, the available range of colors and textures is enormous, and bricks tend to blend well with both plantings and architectural features.

Care should be taken to prepare a sound base by compacting the soil and adding a layer of clean sand.

Remember to slope the surface slightly to ensure efficient drainage. Both ordinary building bricks and face bricks can be used for garden paving, or you can obtain special half-width paving bricks.

Poured Concrete

Poured concrete is a mixture of cement, sand and water and is cast in situ.

Although it does not have the aesthetic appeal of brick, it is nevertheless comparatively inexpensive and forms a strong, serviceable surface. It may have a rough or smooth surface texture and can be tinted to an earthy color.

Precast concrete slabs and pavers are available in a variety of different sizes and shapes, and some are designed to interlock. They are somewhat cheaper than brick and suitable for paving large areas.

Wood

Wood has an appealing rustic quality that blends well with foliage.

Although fairly inexpensive, log slices do tend to break up after a period of time and should be regularly treated with timber preservatives to prevent decay.

Imitation log rings made from a mixture of concrete and fiberglass can be used in high-traffic areas of the garden and are barely distinguishable from the real thing.

Wooden railway sleepers are enormously popular as a garden paving material but are becoming increasingly costly and are sometimes difficult to obtain. They are made from extremely hard woods, such as oak, and form a durable, long-lasting surface.

Gravel

Gravel forms a hard, attractively textured surface but requires regular raking and weeding to keep it looking at its best.

The chips are available in various sizes and colors and are particularly effective when combined with other paving materials, such as wooden railway sleepers or stone slabs.

It is usually necessary to contain areas of gravel in some way to prevent them from being scattered all over the garden.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiles are kiln-fired at high temperatures and are available either glazed or unglazed and in a variety of decorative patterns and textures.

Hard-wearing, attractive and easy to keep clean, they are mostly used on patios, terraces and balconies. Tiling a large area can be extremely costly, however, and it is a job that should be undertaken by a professional.

Ideally, ceramic tiles that are intended for outdoor use should be frost-proof, colorfast, non-fading and resistant to acids and alkalis.

As a general rule, it is best to avoid strongly patterned ceramic tiles, which may clash with foliage. The formal appearance of tiles makes them particularly suitable for houses with floors that extend into the garden.

Quarry Tiles

Quarry tiles are made of clay and fired at extremely high temperatures.

They are unglazed and therefore more porous than glazed ceramic tiles. They should be sealed with a commercial slate and quarry tile dressing, or with linseed oil and turpentine.

Slate

Slate forms a tough, non-slip surface and is purchased ready-cut in rectangular, square or irregular pieces.

It comes in a wide range of colors, including tones of brown, beige and gray, and — if laid with a cement grout — requires comparatively little maintenance.

Crazy Paving

Crazy paving is not as popular as it once was but is still a good way of surfacing a large area. Slate tends to stain easily and is not suitable for a barbecue area or patio unless it has been specially treated with a commercial slate dressing,

Natural Stone

Stone is a superb paving material but is rarely seen in gardens nowadays as it is extremely expensive and requires specialist labor.

It forms a non-slip, slightly uneven surface and is virtually indestructible. It can be laid in slabs or quarried blocks (setts) and is best suited to those areas of the garden that sustain the heaviest foot traffic.

The slabs can be laid directly on the soil, on a bed of sand or on a concrete base, but laying stone is heavy work and is best left to professionals.

Cobbles or smoothed river pebbles form an attractive hard surface and can either be sunken into cement or left loose.

Paths and Driveways

Paths

Paths allow easy access to all parts of the garden, prevent wear and tear to the lawn and generally make garden maintenance easier.

They can also become attractive landscape elements in themselves, visually linking the various elements of the design and creating subtle optical illusions.

Those that are used primarily for access purposes — such as entry and service paths — should be positioned along the major traffic routes through the garden, usually indicated by patches of worn and trampled lawn.

They should be clearly defined, without unnecessary kinks and curves, and should be wide enough for two people to walk abreast (approximately 1,5 meters).

A path that is used less frequently need only be wide enough for one person and can take a circuitous route through the garden, meandering invitingly among the trees and plants.

Integration of a path into the landscape will depend on the materials from which it is constructed.

A service path that sustains heavy foot traffic needs a hard, quick-drying, non-slip surface such as concrete, brick or stone.

For a path that is purely decorative, less substantial materials — such as log slices, wood, gravel or pebbles — can be used.

Generally, such a path does not need very strong foundations, but its base should be stable and well-compacted to prevent subsidence.

Whatever paving material you choose, ensure that it blends well with the other hard structures of the garden, such as pool surrounds, patios and walls.

Stepping stone paths are ideal for low-traffic areas of the garden.

They can be constructed from stone, concrete slabs or wooden log rings, and interspersed with pebbles, gravel, bark chips, or a decorative or scented ground cover.

The stones should be placed so that they match the average person’s stride — approximately 50 centimeters from the middle of one stone to the middle of the next — and should be sunk 10 millimeters below the level of the lawn to allow for easy mowing.

Driveways

The design of a driveway and its position will be governed by the size and shape of your garden, and by the location of your garage.

Ideally, it should be wide enough for turning and reversing, with sufficient space for extra cars to park. There should also be easy access from the driveway to the house.

Hard, durable paving will spread the load on the soil and prevent the surface from breaking up.

Brick, asphalt and concrete are the most common choices as they are extremely durable and provide good traction.

Slate is not recommended as it flakes easily and tends to stain.

It is important to lay the paving on a solid, well-compacted base that will be able to withstand the weight of heavy traffic without subsiding.

Large driveways are essentially functional areas, and need imaginative treatment to prevent them from looking dreary and monotonous.

A paving material with interesting color variations and textures will lend interest to a driveway; a decorative paving pattern has an equally dynamic effect.

Raised beds, containers or rockeries along the edges of the driveway will also help to soften the overall effect and integrate the structure into the garden landscape.

We hope that has given you some inspiration to get stuck into designing your dream garden!