Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Designing a small garden (1)

This is the first part of my thoughts on the design of small gardens.

The other parts can be reached by clicking on these links ...

Part 1 - Follows and is an introduction to why small gardens need designing;
Part 2 - lose the boundaries, borrowed views & landscape, using 3 dimensions;
Part 3 - keep it simple, maximise space usefulness, optical illusions;
Part 4 - keep it interesting, growing for the table and utility issues.

In social conversations, such as when chatting about "what do you do?", I sometimes get the reaction “oh, my garden’s too small to need designing” – but I beg to differ!

I do this based on 2 axioms:
  • firstly that the most successful way of designing a large garden is to link together a series of smaller, human-scale, self-contained areas – often referred to as garden “rooms” – an approach used in the classic English gardens at Hidcote and Sissinghurst. The design of the garden as a whole is about the location, shape, proportion and flow of these smaller spaces and the routes which connect them – but the character of each smaller space is unique, so the task becomes one of designing a series of small gardens;

  • secondly, even with a small garden, you’re as entitled as anyone else to desire an outside space that’s beautiful, enjoyable, restful, productive, property-enhancing, ... and so on.

Obviously, a small garden has a certain sense of scale and doesn’t provide the opportunity to have large trees, massed shrub plantings, swathes of bulky ornamental grasses, a wildflower meadow or an extensive pond – features that may well be used as part of the overall landscape between the garden rooms in larger estates – but that doesn’t mean they are free of design challenges. The training & experience of a professional garden designer can help to get the best from a small space in terms of usefulness, adaptability and adding value to the property.

If you fancy having a go yourself at achieving a more attractive result than the “2-foot-wide flower border around the fence with a randomly-shaped grass lawn alongside the builder’s patio” that’s often the norm for small suburban gardens, the other parts of this article will give a series of guidelines that will help you get there. You can easily reach them by clicking on the links at the top of this post.

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