Basic Garden Planning For the Beginner

By Ian SG Smith

Successful garden planning involves a proper balance between taste and utility. If the garden is to be satisfactory and give lasting pleasure it must be well fitted for the purpose (or purposes, for there may well be several) for which it is required and also be pleasing to the eye. One garden maker may wish to devote most space to flowers, a second to fruit, a third to vegetables. It may be essential to have a place for the baby to crawl with safety, for children to romp or for the washing to be aired. Some gardeners are interested in only a few types of plant, whereas others seek for maximum variety in the available space. It may even be that plants themselves are not a prime consideration, but rather design, which can be largely an architectural matter. Good gardens can be made to suit each of these needs or one garden may be divided into several sections, each with its own purpose or style. The really important point is to be quite clear at the outset what that purpose or style is and to plan accordingly.

In a garden intended for family use a lawn is usually highly desirable, though if space is very limited it may have to be replaced by paving, if only because small areas of grass simply will not withstand the wear of many feet. But where there are small children it may be wise to avoid gravel and cobbles, which can cause nasty cuts, and also bricks, which can be dangerously slippery in wet weather. Non-slip paving slabs laid quite level on a bed of concrete are usually the best substitute for a lawn.

Gardens, or garden features planned exclusively for decoration may be conceived as patterns or as pictures. The former are called formal gardens since they are usually more or less symmetrical and based on regular shapes such as rectangles, circles and ovals. Picture gardens, by contrast, are nearly always informal, based on irregular curves and balanced, but not symmetrical, shapes. One type of planning may lead to the other, perhaps a formal terrace or patio near to the house looking out on to an informal garden beyond. It is in some ways easier to design a formal rather than an informal garden since its pattern is revealed clearly on a paper plan, whereas the picture garden is very much more a three dimensional affair requiring a perspective drawing for clear depiction. Planting can be used to emphasise the pattern of a formal garden and to create the shapes, vistas and focal points in a picture garden.

Water can be introduced into either style of garden, fountains in a formal garden or cascades in an informal setting, presenting no difficulty if the water is constantly recirculated by an electrically operated pump and proper provision is made for a mains electric supply in the original planning.

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