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How To Start Planning Your Garden

Published on January 8th 2021
A close up of a flower
Written by Charlotte Nuttgens
There are many of us out there that dream of what our garden could be like, but don’t know where to start. As it’s so wet and windy, now seems like the perfect time to start planning for next year.
As a garden designer, I have the pleasure of creating beautiful spaces for people to enjoy, but if you want to plan your garden, then there a few simple rules to follow.
In the next few articles, I’m going to take you through a series of steps so that, with some careful planning and creativity, you can start making your dream a reality.
a lovely garden
There are three simple things you need to think about to start planning your garden.
  • What do you want?
  • What inspires you?
  • How soon do you want it?
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What do you want?

It might seem like a vague question, but the answers need to be fairly specific.
In my ‘Garden Planning Checklist,’, you can have a look at several features which you might want to include in your plan. This checklist is similar to the document I use when I visit my clients for the first time.
The checklist is just a starting point and by no means should every box be filled. Everyone’s different so if there’s something wacky you want, crack on!
a person writing on a piece of paper
Depending on how big your garden is, the main thing to remember throughout is to keep it simple. Too many choices will make you sad; trust me on this.
Secondly, don’t underestimate basic needs. We all have a romantic idea of sitting out in the garden throughout the year, having summer BBQs and wandering around admiring the lovely plants; which we will do.
But keep in mind, you will mostly see your garden on the way to the compost bins or log store, so remember the essentials too.
Remember the essesntials when planning your garden

What inspires you?

Inspiration can come from all sorts of weird and wonderful places; from cushions, you saw in a restaurant, or a painting you saw in a gallery to a little Erigeron growing from the side of a dusty road.
A close up of some green Erigeron leaves and white flowers


Erigeron spp.

Try not to think on a grand scale but a collection of little tokens from a few favourite places. Create a mood board (Pinterest is amazing for this) with colours, accents and souvenir memories.
Flower arranging can be used as a way to see what plants you like together. Be realistic; the result might not be the spitting image of a garden you saw in the Flower Shows from previous years. Think about what is achievable and how many friends you can rope in to help.

How soon do you want it?

This one's about time and money and which one are you willing to spend more of.
There are multiple benefits of being patient and allowing nature to take its course; letting the plants nestle in and thrive as they mature in their own space. And importantly for lots of us, it's cheaper and more achievable (with a few pointers in the right direction).
Once you’ve planted your borders, they might look a bit empty, but you’ve given the plants the space they need to grow, self-seed and multiply - which means free plants!
a lovely garden
If time isn’t on your side and your willing to loosen the purse strings a little, you can achieve a more ‘finished’ and ‘complete’ look in a shorter period.
It’s possible (and very exciting) to visit specialist nurseries to choose beautiful, mature trees, shrubs, topiary and established herbaceous plants to give an instant effect.
It could almost be achieved in one or two extravagant shopping trips, but this approach does need a relatively good level of gardening know-how to make sure you’re choosing the right plant for the right place.

So now it’s over to you.

Pinterest mood boards are great to get the ideas flowing. Do your research into plants that suit your garden, and research gardens that have similar characteristics to your own. Make some loose plans about what your budget is and when you want it done by.
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