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This page is the first in a series of garden and landscape design articles designed to provide you with help and ideas for your landscape design project.
Creating your own garden design can seem a daunting and overwhelming task but help is at hand.
The step-by-step guide below won't do the thinking for you but it will steer you through the process relatively painlessly.
Whether you want to design a new garden from scratch or redesign an existing garden, remember that garden and landscape design is a logical process and everyone is capable of designing a garden by following a few simple steps and principles.
And just imagine the thrill when the garden of your dreams becomes a reality!
Ready to go? Let's begin...
Sounds easy, doesn't it? But this is one of the most important stages in the design process.
Your garden is for YOU, absolutely. And no one else can dictate the features and amenities that should be in it.
So picture how you will use your new garden. What sort of activites do you enjoy?
Do you imagine the sound of laughter and clinking glasses on a summer's evening, or long lazy outdoor lunches with friends and family? Take a look at the tips on creating a garden for outdoor entertaining.
Perhaps you yearn for a quiet, secluded space, away from the cares of everyday life, where you can meditate, practise yoga or simply relax undisturbed with a good book?
Do you have children? Maybe they would love to have a treehouse or climbing frame right in their own backyard? Gardens are great places for the whole family to enjoy so think about creating a safe family garden.
Do you have a passion for plants? Is your idea of heaven having a garden packed with flowers, shrubs and trees?
Or do you prefer the idea of low-maintenance gardening?
Now make a second list of the features that you might not want but nevertheless have to be there. Include things like oil tanks, rubbish and recycling bins, and washing lines. These features are rarely attractive but they serve a purpose and your new garden and landscape design will have to accommodate them.
These lists form part of your 'design brief' so keep them ready for the planning stage.
Once you've settled on a garden lifestyle it's time to think about the style or mood you want to create in your garden.
You may already have a clear idea of the style of garden you are aiming for. But if you're still undecided it's time to seek inspiration.
Take some time to visit gardens that are open to the public and horticultural shows. These are great sources of inspiration and will give you plenty of ideas that you can adapt in your own design.
It's also essential to invest in a few good garden and landscape design books and to read or subscribe to the one or more of the many excellent gardening magazines that are available. These provide a wealth of inspiration and advice and will repay their cost many times over.
Your garden should be an expression of your own personality and tastes but if you've never tried your hand at garden and landscape design before, it can help to start off with one of the recognised garden styles or themes.
For example, if you're a die hard romantic a garden based around a cottage garden design is bound to be a winner.
Do you prefer the sleek modern look? If so, a contemporary garden design may be the answer.
Is this cheating? Does copying an existing style of garden mean that you are not creative? Absolutely not, these styles have grown up for a reason - they work. You can express your individuality by the way that you interpret your chosen style.
Give some thought as to how your chosen garden style will work with your ideal garden lifestyle. If there are inconsistencies, think about possible adaptations.
It is also entirely possible to divide your garden into two or more 'rooms' with a different style in each but don't overdo it or the effect can look too chaotic.
By now your new garden should be taking shape in your mind's eye and you can add the details of your garden style and mood to your design brief.
You are now prepared and ready to move on to the garden planning stage.
Good planning is the secret of creating a succesful garden and landscape design, so although by now you may be champing at the bit and reaching for your spade - wait!
Careful planning will save you a lot of wasted effort and expense.
Start off by getting to know your garden so that you are quite clear about what you are starting with and how it will impact on your design.
Ask yourself plenty of questions and make a note of any problems.
Look at your garden's microclimate. How does it change with the seasons?
Does your garden receive a lot of light or will you be gardening in the shade?
What about soil type and drainage?
Which existing features and plants will you keep? Which will be moved or removed altogether?
Once you are totally familiar with the characteristics of your garden you can start drawing up the actual plans.
This bit isn't nearly as difficult as it sounds.
Start by measuring the site noting the length and position of the boundaries, the size and position of any existing features you want to keep and the size and position of your house walls.
Transfer these measurements on to paper using a suitable scale. This will be your base plan.
Now draw the different elements of your design, to the same scale, on tracing paper and overlay it on the base plan.
The beauty of using tracing paper is that you can compare several different layouts and designs.
Don't forget to mentally picture each of your layouts in 3D to make sure they really are going to achieve the effect you are looking for.
Keep making changes until you are happy with the layout.
Now it's time to think about some practicalities!
If your garden and landscape design incorporates major works and new structures, check to see if you will need any form of Planning Permission or Building Permit before you start work. Most local authorities provide lots of information online and are usually very helpful if you give them a call.
Carrying out the work yourself is the cheapest option if you are competent to carry it out and have the time to do it.
On the other hand, you might prefer to pay for the convenience of having a professional builder or landscaper do the work. As a compromise, you could have the main structural work carried out professionally, and then add the finishing touches yourself.
You may in any event need professional help for some parts of the project. For instance, if you need to install electricity, safety is of prime importance and, certainly in the UK, you are required by law to have the work carried out by a qualified electrician.
A new garden can be surprisingly expensive so it is helpful to work out some costings at this stage.
Go through your design and do some research to find out how much you will have to pay for each item and then compare this against your overall budget.
If it's all looking too expensive and you are not in a hurry you could think about phasing the work over a period of time which will help with the cash flow.
Alternatively you might be happy to consider cheaper alternatives by opting for less expensive materials. For instance, you could use timber decking or gravel for hard surfaces rather than real stone flags.You should now be in a position to finalise your initial costings by adding together the price of the materials you will need, any equipment you will need to hire, and professional fees.
Further helpful garden and landscape design ideas and tips can be found on these pages:
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