The Joy of a Well Designed Garden

To design gardens that look and feel appealing and are a joy to visit think like an artist and use the basic design elements such as colour, line, texture, form and scale.
By using the basic design elements and their combinations will provide the tools to create balance, unity, harmony, transition, repetition, accent and proportion for landscaping any garden.


“Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers — and never succeeding.”

Marc Chagall, 1887-1985
Garden at Le Pigonnet France 2018

The elements of design as a whole may seem daunting when attempting to make decisions on landscaping and building a new garden, refreshing an older garden or simply adding a new range of plants. Taken one by one though, design elements can be the very tools that will get you started.

Le Pigonnet France 2018

Garden rooms or spaces are just like the rooms inside our homes that we so easily and often decorate. Using different materials in borders, plants, walls, paths, doorways, screens and clever planting, we can create rooms in the garden and anchor the garden to the site to make it not only pleasing to the eye but comfortable to be in. The rooms of a garden create order and make the space more manageable and safe. So, the house and garden are unified rather than separate spaces.

Alhambra Palace Garden 2018
Alhambra Palace Spain 2018

Form is created by the shape and contours of the plants you choose to grow in the garden. By combining certain shapes in your planting will define the style of the garden—clever use of hedges, topiary but also strong architecturally interesting foliage and plants.

Chateau de Rilly Montagne 2018
Summer House Garden of the Architect 2018

Frame your view, just as a window inside the house frames the view of the garden, so too can elements in the garden or in the distance be framed. By screening out any distractions, you can focus the eye to go to the desired object or view in the garden. For example, looking through a trellis or a symmetrical path creates a balance and organised composition in the garden. From inside the house, look at what plants or accents in the garden can be viewed through the windows.

Gardens of the Architect Spain 2018

A welcoming entrance creates a sense of transition from one area to another. A glimpse or introduction to what lies ahead. If the entrance is architecturally similar to the house it will create a unified space.

Carla Fineschi Garden 2018

Accents will draw the eye and create a feature. By careful positioning of sculptures, coloured plants, large pots, architectural plants or other elements will give the garden focus, and visually organise the space making it more interesting, and exciting. Fragrance can also be an accent, so place highly scented plants where people can enjoy them easily or as a special feature by doors and entrances.

Chateau de Rilly Montagne France 2018

Structures can be both aesthetic and also functional, and can help create rooms in the garden or can screen the view making it visually interesting. If the garden has richly diverse plantings the structure can link the garden to the house in a smooth transition.

Jardim Botanico De Queluz 2018

Now let’s look at my favourite part, the colour, textures, patterns and rhythm in the garden.

Colour is important and creates a mood within the garden rooms. It is definitely worth taking the time to design a colour scheme with your plants. Colour is, however, very subjective, and will also change with the quality of the light.

Garden colour 2018 Cathedral of Seville

Light -coloured blooms and plants will appear further away and make the garden appear larger than bright and dark colours. My suggestion is in each garden room use one colour scheme or a transition from one to another.

Alhambra Palace 2018 Spain

Be careful of attempting a colour scheme that will not work in your climate. For example, heavy shade is not the best for vivid, bright blooms and maybe better as a diverse range of foliage plants or colours that will give you more light. Lilac, greens and greys act as good transitional colours for roses and other blooms. Generally, a lot of one colour creates a statement space rather than bits of colour here and there.

Walkway to Summer House Spain 2017


“What pleasure is there greater than to go round one’s garden on a sunny day with a fellow-enthusiast, and to sing that cheering litany which runs, in strophe and antistrophe, ‘Oh, wouldn’t you like a bit of this?’ ‘And I could send you a bulb of that.’ Down delves the glad trowel into a clump, and it is halved, like mercy blessing him that gives and him that takes.”

Reginald Farrer, 1880-1920, British plant explorer, rock gardener, and author

Abundance is the only way I think gardens should be. Always full and generously planted with a diverse range and amount of plants so the garden is visually dynamic. Plant in ample amounts that if needed you could share and not leave holes in the garden. Fill the garden with your basics, and remember to stagger the bloom time of accent plants so the garden is always spectacular. Abundance is easily created if you plant by height with taller plants and shrubs at the back through to low or groundcovers at the front.

Alhambra Palace 2017

Mystery or curiosity can be created by glimpses in the distance or creating obscured views to focal points that are not seen immediately on entering the garden. Intriguing pathways that set up a surprise factor and excitement as one walks through, giving a sense of anticipation.

Chateau de Rilly France 2018

Whimsy and fun in the garden provides that personal touch and sense of fun and delight. I am not a fan of brightly coloured bits and pieces but do like rust coloured sculptures and vintage inspired objects, obelisks etc. Mirrors, sculptures, statues, outdoor benches and much more. It all depends on personal taste.

Alhambra Palace Spain 2018

Style is created by careful choice of the elements in the garden rooms. If the various elements like pots, furniture, artworks, birdbaths, obelisks and arches are in the same style it will go towards a unified garden look. Contemporary versus vintage or, sleek and shiny versus rustic for example. Try to keep the elements the same age or the same style, remembering that as the garden grows, the pieces will also age. As they age will they still be the style you are after? So think about the materials things are made of as well as the style of the objects.

Carla Fineschi Rose Garden 2018

Before you start take a really good look at the space you have available and the style already inherent in your environment- the house, trees, large shrubs, entertaining areas, garage, pool and other structures that cannot be moved like water tanks etc. Study where the sun travels and the climate of the garden. Think about the sun, wind, frost, heat, shade of the area and what exactly it is you want the space to be.

New garden being built around statues Jardim Botanico De Queluz 2018 Spain

A personal hideaway, a garden around a fire pit, an area for children, an entertaining spot, a native garden with sculptures, an expansive lawn with herbaceous borders or a cottage garden. Look around your local area and see what grows best to give you a start on plant types that will thrive. And remember to check all the utility lines before starting to dig up lawns or make significant changes as broken pipes and services can be expensive repairs.

Content Di Baker 2019

Images taken as cited by Di Baker

Header Imager Di Bay Alhambra Palace Spain 2018

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