Knowing what to do with your garden can be tricky. Few of us have much in the way of professional experience when it comes to designing or landscaping gardens. We might know that we want a new set of flowers on one side, or a water feature in the middle. But, coming up with a fully realised garden landscaping design can be difficult. This is without even mentioning how our homes each have uniquely sized and shaped gardens, with different needs and potentials.
Before you go out and haphazardly buy new plants, or hire an architect or designer without a plan, it’s worth doing some thinking. What kind of garden do you have? What kind of garden do you want? And what kind of garden is yours capable of being?
The following list of garden landscaping designs have been put together to simplify the renovation process.
Each example should serve as both inspiration and guidance for your home. There will be layouts here that you hadn’t considered, or even known existed – the perfect thing to spark creative ideas. Additionally, these examples will allow you to see how certain styles of garden have been laid out in relation to their shape and size. With this, you can gain a better idea of what is appropriate for the size of the space you possess.
What do I need to know before I design my garden?
As noted above, there are a lot of factors that affect your options when it comes to garden landscaping design. If you want the best looking, and best functioning, garden you can get with your money, you’ll need to consider these things:
- Size of your garden
- Shape of your garden
- Do you want to grow fruit and veg?
- Do you need planning permission?
Size of your garden
Whether you have a large, small or practically nonexistent garden, you can always undertake some landscaping. That being said, the size of your garden does make certain options more or less viable.
For example, if you have an extremely large space then you’re in a better position to create a formal garden. By contrast, if you’re lacking in space then an in-ground or even urban garden is probably more appropriate.
Shape of your garden
This wont affect many of your decisions, except perhaps if you have your heart set on a formal garden. Our outdoor spaces can vary greatly in form, and a formal garden requires a very strict structure. If your garden is atypical in how it’s laid out, you may find that this option isn’t viable.
Do you want to grow fruit and veg?
If so, you’re going to need well kept patches of soil, constant watering and exposure to direct sunlight. Certain garden landscaping designs are better for this, others less suited.
In-ground gardens are a natural choice, and also allow you to grow the most. Cottage-style gardens are similarly capable, while indoor urban gardens can accommodate some minor growth but not to the same level.
The regal aesthetic of formal gardens, however, would be disrupted by patches of food, as would that of Mediterranean gardens.
Do you need planning permission?
Planning permission is only really necessary when you’re building something, which doesn’t really apply to landscaping. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, if you’re not a fan of any of the options below you might decide to get radical with your landscaping design. This could include sacrificing some of the space you have outside to build a garden office. In this case, planning permission will be necessary because of the height of the structure you’re erecting.
Here’s more information if you’d like to know more about the regulations around outbuildings, such as a garden office.
A slightly more complicated issue is if you want to add decking to your garden. You can build decking without the need for planning permission; however, it has to follow particular guidelines. First, you need to ensure the decking doesn’t surpass a certain height. The maximum height your decking can be is 300mm tall – anything more than that and you’ll need to apply for planning permission. Second, your decking can only take up an upper limit of 50% of your garden’s total dimensions. This stipulation also includes any other outbuildings, extensions or like things. So, make sure when you’re planning out how your garden will look that you take all of that into consideration.
To know more about the intricacies of whether you need planning permission, check out the decking information on Planning Portal.
1. In-ground gardens
The term in-ground garden is really just a technical way of saying that it’s a regular garden. In-grounds have a natural, traditional look, as they work by creating patches of real soil at ground level to put any plants into. They don’t use raised flowerbeds or artificial stone pathways or man-made features. They’re an incredibly popular choice for both green-finger types and regular homeowners alike.
As garden landscaping designs go, in-ground gardens are ideal for typical, plant-filled gardens. This is because of their simplicity, low cost and overall aesthetic appearance.
Their simplicity derives from the lack of construction that goes into an in-ground garden. Once the size and shape of the flowerbeds have been mapped out, it’s just a matter of creating suitable patches of soil and then planting whatever flowers you’ve purchased.
Because of this they’re a great option if you’re new to gardening and want a chance to learn by doing. You can cut out all the difficulties with laying paving, pathways or building wooden flowerbeds. Instead, you can focus on the creative side of gardening and reap the remedial effects of spending time surrounded by greenery.
As for their price, because there’s no building or large-scale reconstruction it shouldn’t cost too much. You could feasibly turn this into a DIY project – great if you’re on a budget – or hire a gardener for a day. Even if you do hire a tradesperson, they will take less time to conduct the landscaping than they would for other options on this list. This means that labour costs will be lower.
While in-ground gardens might lack the fancy trappings of a Mediterranean or formal garden, they still have a strong visual identity. By getting creative with your flowerbed layouts you can create some stunningly colourful displays. Guests will leave with a great impression and your property value will increase. All of that is in addition to having a great view to look at out of the rear windows.
There are some inherent limitations to this type of garden landscaping design though. By focusing on a rustic, natural look, in-ground gardens sacrifice the opportunity to modernise. This means that you miss out on the structured, more highly produced look of other gardens.
Depending on the size of your garden, you can also be signing up for something quite time intensive. The more flowers you plant, the more you’ll have to water and care for. Additionally, this will translate into a higher number that you need to replace when they reach the end of their lifespan.
Furthermore, in-ground gardens have lots of soil, and as such are prone to weeds. There are a variety of common weeds in the UK, and each one has its own methods of treatment.
2. Urban gardens
This is less a garden landscaping design and more a creative solution to having limited traditional gardening space. A lot of homes either have very small gardens or, in the case of more urban properties, none at all. Because of this, if you want an ‘urban garden’ you need to think outside the box.
Urban gardening is a catch all term that comprises of a few things:
- Indoor gardening: Without any outside space, inside space becomes your next most viable alternative. By using pots, containers and windowsills, you can make your home more green. Additionally, if you have the space you, can convert part of the interior into a solarium or indoor greenhouse.
- Community gardening: If you live in a block of flats, there may be an opportunity to create a garden with your neighbours. Lots of blocks of flats make use of outdoor areas to grow fruit and vegetables. Their residents then contribute to and take from this garden equally.
- Green roofing: Certain roofs are suitable to have a growing medium added to them. This allows you to grow plants and greenery on top of your home, which is great for giving them direct access to rainwater and sunlight.
- Container gardening: A type of garden landscaping design that all homes can benefit from, not just urban ones. For anyone working with small spaces, container gardening involves converting any small container into a makeshift flowerbed. This can include tires, watering cans, buckets and more.
Urban gardening is the ideal (or only) choice for you if you live in a dense metropolitan area. Lacking traditional exterior space, you can instead make use of balconies, windowsills and similar compact areas.
The obvious benefit of this garden landscaping design is that it gets around the issue of having little space. You only need a couple of small areas – whether they are inside, outside or on the roof – and you can quickly spruce up your home with plant life.
Urban gardening is also a versatile option that allows you to add as many or as few plants as you want. If you have an exterior space but are struggling to come up with a complete design, start with this. It enables you to add to your home’s aesthetics without committing to something you’re not ready for. Container gardening in particular is a great way of adding a quirky sense of style to your home’s interior.
Community gardens also have a wide range of benefits, from providing food for others to bettering the local environment.
This is less a form of garden design and more a gardening solution. As such, the more you invest in indoor and container gardening, the more you run the risk of creating a disconnected and confusing interior style. You might start with dandelions in one spot, then add a container of tomatoes to the kitchen windowsill. Soon enough, your house is covered in various plants house in containers of conflicting styles.
3. Cottage-style gardens
It’s hard to define what a cottage-style garden exactly is. A cottage garden is marked by a large amount of flowers and colours, as well as its pathways and period atmosphere.
Others often describe it as the kind of garden that, when you see it, reminds you of an impressionist painting. This is because they focus on a lavish, romantic aesthetic, rather than consistent design or rigid organisation.
Cottage gardens have a long history in England, dating back hundreds of years. Around the 17th century, a lot of British workers owned cottages. However, without the time or space to cultivate a garden for aesthetic purposes, they had to focus elsewhere. With food as a key concern, the workers would plant fruit and vegetables to grow for their families.
Later, in the 18th century, wealthy landowners began to romanticise this life style, and as such created cottage-style gardens for themselves. When they did this, the replaced the patches of fruit and vegetables with lustrous flowers that they could afford. It’s this style of cottage garden that we emulate today.
More suited to rural properties or those in cul-de-sacs with lots of space, cottage-style gardens are a big project.
Putting aside the obvious benefit of having a stunning, memorable garden that will impress any guest, this is an ideal low maintenance garden design too. Because you’re working with a loose sense of structure, you don’t have to worry too much about overgrowth. With how vibrant the garden will look, a little untidiness will go unnoticed.
This type of visual design also means your garden will be incredibly unique. No two cottage-style gardens will ever be alike.
Furthermore, a cottage-style garden is considerably cheaper than some of its counterparts. Unlike formal gardens, which involve more construction, cottage-style gardens can be started with a small selection of seed packs. From there you can invest more in larger plants – shrubs, small trees, bushes. Installing pathways will put the final cost up, but it will still be cheaper than formal or Mediterranean gardens.
Given the variety of plants and the lack of structure, maintenance is both high and demanding. Not only do they require lots of watering, but making sure they’re all watered equally is difficult. Additionally, the larger your garden gets, the more challenging it becomes to keep track of it. Knowing what was planted where, and when, and what needs replacing is something you should plan for ahead of time.
The monetary investment is also a potential pitfall. While we’ve said above that it’s cheaper than a formal garden, but it’s more expensive than in-ground or urban gardens. This is less true of smaller cottage-styles, but the more verdant the garden gets the more the costs will rise.
4. Formal gardens
On the other end of the spectrum to cottage-style, formal gardens are similarly vibrant while also being strictly organised. If you’ve ever visited a manor house then you know what a formal garden looks like. Finely maintained shrubbery, clear visual structure and pathways that beg to be walked along make up this garden landscaping design.
You may be wondering why this is on the list if it’s most commonly found in homes that cost millions.
While you may not be able to create a formal garden to this size, it’s not actually difficult to create one on a smaller scale. With the help of a landscape gardening (or potentially a team) and a professional designer you can have something similar.
A domestic formal garden will likely have a series of paths, well maintained bushes and carefully selected patches of colour to compliment the form-focused design.
Tight, structured design
If you can’t stand the idea of an unkempt garden, or want to make maintenance easier down the road, formal gardens are ideal. Their structured nature is great for creating design around a central shape or pattern that you like.
It’s hard to deny just how impressive some of the manor house gardens are. So, condensing it to a domestic size allows you to transport that feeling to your back garden. With a centralised feature, and a series of flowerbeds organised around it, you’re bound to have guests wanting to come over again and again.
Because formal gardens divide their flowerbeds up by pathways, they naturally lend themselves to being walked around. You can take a walk down each pathway, using this time to clear your head and get a little exercise in too.
High variable costs
Creating a formal garden is one of the most resource intensive options on the list. Not only do you have to buy seed packs, you also need bushes/hedges, to buy and pay someone to lay the pathways and perhaps even a water feature for the centre. Between this and the large space needed (see below), you’ll need to put up a considerable financial investment.
Large, rigid structure
If your home has a small outdoor area, this particular garden landscaping design may not be practical. Formal gardens require a lot of space. Without it, they cannot effectively create the patterns and pathways needed to look so impressive. Formal gardens typically have a sense of openness to them. The last thing you want is to build one that feels cramped.
Also, as we’ve noted, the structure of a formal garden is critical to its success. Given that, anything that disrupts this is going to be a problem. If you live in a cul-de-sac type area, where your house sits on a curved road, your garden will possibly have an atypical shape. Usually formal gardens will take a squared, triangular or rectangular shape. However, if the corners of your garden are all different angles, then structuring a design is likely going to be too difficult.
Time to plant / build
With all this in mind, creating a formal garden also takes a long time. The designing stage is long and intensive. You’d benefit from a professional designer’s help with this type of landscaping. After that, the actual construction period takes a sizeable amount of time too. The larger the garden, the more this obviously increases.
5. Mediterranean gardens
This garden landscaping design sets out to evoke the atmosphere you’d get sitting down, unsurprisingly, in the Mediterranean. This means you can expect to see stylish but rustic outdoor furniture, intended for relaxing and conversing. Underfoot you’ll find warm-coloured mosaic paving stones. All the while a diversity of Mediterranean plants surround you in explosions of colour and texture.
Mediterranean gardens are great if your home lacks colour, or if you’re bored of seeing typical British plants. They’re also ideal if you often have friends over and you want to sit outside and enjoy the summer weather.
The biggest draw of Mediterranean gardens is by far the number of plants that are not usually found in Britain. Saturated oranges, blues and yellows are commonplace in the Mediterranean climate. Unusual shapes and textures abound too.
In the gallery above, you can see an assortment of plants native to the Mediterranean. Certain flowers, like the Ceanothus (otherwise known as the California Lilac), can be found elsewhere but are still synonymous with the Med.
Perfect social space
Once you’ve decorated your garden with a vibrant assembly of plant life, you can finish it off with the ideal social area. Whether you want a table and chairs to sit at for your morning coffee, or a selection of seats to entertain guests, this design can support it all. Another popular use of outdoor seating in the Mediterranean is to host for a BBQ. Whatever you decide, the aesthetic is flexible enough to support whichever set up you choose.
Parts of your grass will be covered, either with gravel or paving, to accommodate the outdoor furniture. This reduces the amount of greenery you have to keep in check, lowering the frequency with which you need to mow the grass.
Mediterranean gardens are fantastic to look at. But they take a lot of time, effort and money to pull off in an authentic way. Procuring the necessary plants can be tricky if none of your local gardening centres stock them. Even then, they will likely be more expensive than plants like rhododendrons or rose bushes.
Furthermore, actually creating the garden can take time, especially when it comes to laying the paving stones. You’ll need a professional to carry this out, otherwise you risk laying an uneven set. If a DIY project goes really badly, you could end up breaking the stones and even hurting yourself in the process.
With this breakdown of the most popular garden landscaping designs, you should have plenty of inspiration for your own. If one of the designs in particular has caught your eye, be sure to check out the in-depth guide for it.
For a more comprehensive idea on garden costs, check out our 2020 price guide. It provides an in depth view of any and all changes you could make to your garden. Quotatis also has a variety of garden landscaping ideas you can apply to your own home. These are great if you want to liven up the garden with a little extra style. Or, if want to add extra value just before you put the house up for sale these tips work great for that too.
If you would like to find a professional to help you realise your garden landscaping design, fill out the form below. We’ll get back to you with a selection of qualified tradespeople that are local to your area.