Our guide to garden design
Molly Longman

Our guide to garden design

First published date April 15 2015 Amended date April 16 2015

Maybe you’ve been watching too much Gardeners’ World, or perhaps you’ve been inspired by the annual Chelsea Flower Show. Whatever the case, if you’re thinking of getting into garden design, there’s a course for you! Garden design courses are perfect for creative types, and will teach you about general design principles, the importance of site and soil, the art of landscaping, and more.


Green thumb meets creative eye meets technical mind

Garden design consists of more than just planting bulbs and hoping for the best. Creating plans for a landscape layout takes a conscious combination of horticulture knowledge, competence in design principles, and even architecture skills. A course will help you become proficient in all of these areas.


Hard vs. soft landscaping

Landscaping is generally divided into two categories: hard and soft. Soft landscaping includes natural features, like lawns, embankments, as well as the planting of orchids, oaks, and other shrubbery. Hard landscaping, however, includes the planning of patios, paths, walls, and water features.  Different design approaches will be applied to accommodate each type of landscaping.


Elements to consider before plotting your dream garden

Location – The climate of a certain region, as well as topographical landscape features, such as steep slopes, vistas, hills, and outcrops, should play a large part in determining the layout and kinds of plants that will grow in a garden.

Soil – The quality of the soil in the area you’re plotting your garden will determine what kinds of plants and trees will flourish in it.

Sunlight – Taking the amount of sunlight a space sees into account is important when planning design. Hostas, for example, thrive in shadier areas – they don’t have access to last season’s Ray-Bans, so plan accordingly.


You can thank garden designers for...

Hyde Park, the Baroque Gardens, and Central Park are a few scenic beauties that could never exist without the careful planning of garden designers. If you need some inspiration to get you into a course, just walk around these not-so-natural wonders and observe the walls, water features, and gorgeous plants that surround you.


How to get into the industry

The first thing to do is sign up for a course, of course. Once you’ve got gardening design down, you should get the proper licenses and permits to start your own business.  After you’ve designed a few of the most exquisite gardens in town, people will be knocking down your door with a trowel, hoping for you to make their garden your next masterpiece.


Hints and tips for beginners

  • Have a focal point – or a series of them. The most beautiful gardens have at least one feature that really draws in the eye, such as a sculpture, fountain, or exotic plant.
  • Before planning a design, have a list of wants and needs for the garden, and makes some rough sketches. Perhaps you need a place for the children to play, but you want to grow your own vegetables. Before you start focusing on intricate gazebos and exotic plants, make sure you’re satisfying your needs.
  • Don’t be afraid to think out of the box! There is plenty of room for creativity in garden design, so don’t be afraid to speak up in class and try something new.


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