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Awkward shape garden before the design

Having a garden that is an unusual or awkward shape can often feel like a nightmare to deal with.

Actually, though, an awkward shape garden is often a blessing because it enables you to come up with a design that is very unique, that you wouldn’t have been able to do in a regular rectangular shape garden.

So how do you transform an awkward shape garden?

First off, you need to have a design layout. All gardens should be designed (if you want really good results), but none more so than when there are tricky angles. It’s paramount you put your ideas on paper first, to make sure you everything works well and fits properly before you build it!

Design Tip 1 – Take the eyes away from the angles of the garden

Curves and circles are fabulous at doing just that, as your eyes naturally follow the shape of the curves. However, you can also use interlocking box shapes equally well.

In the plan examples above, you will see two designs for the same awkward shape garden. One using interlocking ovals and the other interlocking box shapes. Whilst both work and do the job well, the oval design is a bit more pleasing to the eye, as it is softer to look at and the curves create more interest than just straight lines.

There is no right and wrong time to use curves as opposed to straight lines, it does come down to personal taste. Most people do seem to prefer curved shapes though.

Before and After Awkward Garden Design

The most important thing is to always, always follow the lines of the house i.e. you put the lines at 90° to the house and not following the angle of the wall fence.

If you follow the fence angle, you end up accentuating the look of the angle rather than disguising it.

You will, of course, end up with some odd shapes, but don’t worry about these because you can easily disguise them with planting.

Design Tip 2 – Distract with height

Adding a tree, pergola, archway or something that draws your eyes up, will also help take them away from any awkward angles. In the garden plans above, we had both a pergola and an arch with a seating area built in.

Having strong focal points forces your attention on something else and away from the odd shape. And of course, planting helps disguise the angles too.

Angled wall becomes less noticeable with design and planting Design Tip 3 – Use the leftover spaces creatively

The beauty of an awkward shape garden are the angled leftover bits that you end up with once you’ve got a very defined lawn shape in place. You will see in the first example garden plan that we made use of the space with a stepping stone path winding its way through the garden.

Again, this draws the eye to follow the path and, because you can’t quite see everything in one go, it makes the whole garden look larger and more interesting.

Want to learn more about design?

If you’d like to learn more about the steps involved to transform your garden, then make sure you attend one of Rachel’s FREE fast-track garden design web classes – Register here.

What about designing awkward shaped sloping gardens?

All the tips above do still apply. My top recommendation when it comes to designing sloping gardens is to first plot out the design layout as if the slope isn’t there

Yes, I know ignoring the problem doesn’t usually work in life, but trust me, on this occasion, it’s the best option. If you give yourself too many ‘issues’ to sort out in one go, the mind is likely to freeze. So work out how you’d shape the garden and then look at the design to see how that works with your level changes and adjust accordingly.

There are more tips for designing a garden that slopes here.

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I’m often asked by people how they can either create a more natural looking garden because they live in the countryside and don’t want anything that’s ‘overly designed’ or folks that are deeply concerned for the environment and want to do their bit for wildlife.

There are also a lot of people who want to attract wildlife to their garden without having it look like a messy field. So I thought I’d cover all the scenarios in this article…

I’m going to mostly address this from a design perspective. I don’t consider myself an expert on the how-to of Eco gardening, so whilst I will give some tips – if you want more in-depth information head on over to somewhere like Ecosystem Gardening.

Firstly, let’s look at the difference between a Natual Garden Style vs a Wildlife Garden

For me as a designer, a natural looking garden means the planting is wilder with large swathes intermingling and there are often areas of long grass and trees.

But when a client specifically wants to attract wildlife, they don’t always want a wild looking garden. And perversely, just because a garden may look quite wild, it doesn’t necessarily attract much wildlife…

I would urge those of you who do want the natural-look garden style to make it beneficial for wildlife too, so all that wildness gets put to good use! Here’s how you do it…

To attract wildlife your garden will need to have the following elements:
  1. Flowers that attract pollinators and if possible some native plants
  2. Undisturbed areas where insects and smaller creatures can make a home
  3. An area of water
The garden must also avoid:
  1. Pesticides and chemicals
  2. Invasive non-native plants (try saying that fast 3 times after a glass of wine!)
  3. Hybridised flowers that produce little or no nectar

So with a little plant research and even a small area of ground set aside, you can do all of the above in any garden, quite easily without it really impacting the design and layout.

Mixed native and non-native planting schemes in California Designing a Natural-Looking Garden

This is something that can really trip people up, especially if they’ve seen my videos or attended one of the free garden design web classes because I teach a simple design formula, they think it can’t possibly work with a natural style garden…

Because it’s well, formulaic (which is what makes it so effective and enables complete amateurs with no previous experience to be able to design like a pro) it appears like it wouldn’t work in a ‘natural setting’.

Think about it this way – even with a natural style garden, you still need it to be functional. You’ll probably still want somewhere to sit, relax, points of interest, maybe some paths to get from A to B etc.

That’s exactly what design is – ORGANISATION OF SPACE. In any gorgeous garden, the flow and layout have been planned, no matter what style it might be.

A design layout can be really quite formal and still LOOK natural. See the images below – they are of the wonderful East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden in Norfolk. As you can see, very wild and free planting in this part of the garden but with straight mown formal grass paths.

Formal layout, but still a ‘natural design style’

What REALLY determines a design style are the plants and materials you use. Yes, of course, design layout does play a part, but not as much as you might have thought…

Admittedly, it’s easier creating a natural look if you are designing the space using free-flowing curves but I hope you can see that even they aren’t essential.

Wildlife garden plans – free form vs formal What Plants Should You Put in a Natural Garden Style?

Depends where you live.

Yes, it really is as simple as that (see list earlier for specifics).

We, humans, LOVE to complicate things. But really, if you want to do yourself and the surrounding wildlife an enormous favour – go with nature, not against it. Grow what grows well in your region. It can be spectacular!

US vs UK ‘Superbloom’! Californian Poppies and Bluebells

Not that I’m suggesting you grow the plants above in your garden as they can be pretty invasive but they serve to illustrate the next key to successfully creating a wonderful natural looking garden…

A single variety of a particular wildflower can be breathtaking but that really limits how long your garden will look good for. So even though you lose some of the big WOW-factor, I recommend you mix several plant species together.

Mixing species look good for longer than a single plant variety So to sum up designing a Natural Style & Wildlife Garden:
  1. Design the garden layout that works for the shape and function of your garden
  2. Incorporate areas for wildlife including water when possible
  3. Choose plants that attract wildlife including some native plants
  4. Free-flowing curved borders look more natural, especially in the countryside, but don’t let that limit you. Straight-line paths can also look natural with the right materials and planting
  5. Don’t use chemicals (yes, that includes artificial fertilizers)!

Any garden can attract wildlife with a few strategically placed wildlife homes and plants – here’s a few I’ve found online:

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How do you tackle sloping gardens like these?

With severe garden slopes, you basically have 3 options:

  • Live with the slope
  • Terrace it (quickly or slowly)
  • The compromise
Whilst the garden design methods I teach here at Successful Garden Design are simple and cost-effective, that does change the moment you have to tackle a sloping garden…
If you’re going to terrace a severe slope or any slope for that matter, you are going to have to spend money on it.
Even terracing a slight slope can be costly
Earthmoving and wall building are two of the most expensive aspects of landscaping. So let’s look at how you can mitigate some of the expense if you’re on a tight budget, and how to do it really well if you’re not!
A garden slope you can live with
The effectiveness of this will, of course, depend on the severity of the slope but if you simply don’t have the funds to throw at sorting out levels your best option is to make the most of.
The most forgiving shapes to use are free-flowing curves in your design layout. They still need to be coherent and work with the shape the garden you have, to be successful (view our free garden design web class for more on design shapes).
Free-flowing curved shaped borders will cope much better with slopes and undulations than any other design shapes – avoid straight lines at all costs, especially if your garden slopes from side to side as well as up and down.
If the slope is very severe a path at the side of the garden that has steps is also a good option to consider so you don’t have to slide down the length of your garden in wet weather!
Terracing a sloping garden
Your choice here is quickly or slowly…
Quickly is when there’s a sudden drop and you need a significant flight of steps to get from one level to the other(s).
Slowly is when you have several levels that gradually get you from the top to bottom of the garden with only 3 or 4 steps per level.
That decision needs to be made depending on the existing levels. Whilst you can completely change the levels with machinery, it will cost less if you base your level changes on what’s there now.
The other factor to consider is safety. If you’ve got young children or older relatives who are a little wobbly on their legs the slower level changes are preferable.
That’s not to say you can’t move and adjust the position of the level change – you can and should take aesthetics into account, just try not to go overboard with your soil moving and think about how your changes are likely to impact your neighbours.
Neighbours probably won’t want you to build a terrace that means you overlook their garden all the time, nor will they appreciate their garden suddenly disappearing under your fence in the first heavy downpour because you’ve changed the levels and not put in enough retaining walls!
The sloping garden compromise
Like all good compromises, this is somewhere in the middle of two listed above.
The things you will notice the most are your patio and lawn areas. So come up with a design layout that links them together and then make them as flat as you can without having to sell any relatives or body parts and leave the rest of the garden to slope naturally. Done well, the planting will eventually take your eyes away from the fact the borders are sloping.
This option will still need retaining walls, but less because you’re only putting them around the patio and or main lawn area.
If you’d like to learn more, attend one of Rachel’s FREE online garden design classes…

Photo credit: 1st image: FD Richards  2nd image: Mike Coghlan

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It doesn’t matter how attractive your planters are – they need to be ‘designed’ into your garden layout in order to look right…

An SGD reader recently wanted to know “how to plant around raised garden beds and structures within a walkway border bed and keep it visually appealing and cohesive“.

The short answer is you can’t (well, not easily)…

A garden with lots of unconnected elements never looks right. They need to fit into the overall design layout…

For instance, notice how the metal planters above seamlessly work with the proportions and shapes of the path landscaping materials. That did not happen by accident. The planters were designed into this scheme from the outset…

An overall design layout is key

ANYTHING in the garden and I do mean absolutely anything, needs to be placed within an overall design layout first, if you want it to be appealing and cohesive.

A good garden design is not a series of unrelated parts. A garden is a whole entity and MUST be treated as such…

The raised beds are an intrinsic part of this design – they are not an addition to it

The problem is rarely one area that’s wrong – it’s usually the whole garden!

I know, that’s really not what you wanted to hear… but all is not lost…

Landscaping around existing raised beds

If you already have raised borders in place, you need an overall design layout that incorporates them into one flowing design.

You’ll just have a few more bits and bobs to design around.

  1. Get your garden measured as accurately as you can and onto paper
  2. Plot all the things that are fixed in place that you want/need to keep
  3. Design a layout that seamlessly incorporates all those elements

If that sounds daunting or too much effort, in the long run, it won’t be.

Just imagine the time you will otherwise spend trying to make the area look right, in a neverending cycle of shifting, purchasing and planting.

If you’d like to know exactly what you’ll need to do to achieve a great layout, do attend one of my free garden design web classes and I’ll walk you through the process.

So whilst I haven’t been able to give the answer that I suspect most people would want – ‘just add X’ and all your visually woes will immediately disappear, I will still give some tips that will hopefully help when it comes to incorporating raised bed…

Try not to make beds too high (left image) and use willow screening to enhance basic timber or block built planters (right image) Designer tips for raised borders
  • Try not to make your raised beds too high because the higher it is, the harder it will be to incorporate.
  • If the construction material isn’t visually pleasing, try to clad it in something that is, like willow.
  • Proportions – make sure the planter isn’t too large or small for the area you’re putting it in. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t put it that size if it were at ground level, don’t do it raised!
  • If your raised beds are seasonal like tiered strawberry planters, forgo some strawberries and plant some trailing flowering plants so that the planter looks good for longer.
  • If a planter is just for veg, placing it at the end of the garden behind screening is probably a better option than on the patio.

    These raised veg beds are far too shallow and large – you can’t reach easily into the middle!

How to incorporate practical elements like coldframes and greenhouses Paint practical elements to blend in with other garden features

Another reader asked this and it can be tricky, especially in small gardens. If you have space, create a special area at the end of your garden or wherever it won’t be in full view.

If not, try painting the frames to match other elements as they have within the image above with this garden shed, raised bed and pergola.

If painting isn’t an option, then try to disguise the greenhouse or coldframe as best you can with a trellis in front of it and have other things around it that will distract your focus away from it.

There are raised veg beds and a garden shed hidden behind this trellis! Want to learn more about creating great garden design layouts?

*Photo credit – top image – Ofer El-Hashahar

*Photo credit: 2nd & 5th images – Field Outdoor Spaces

*Photo credit: 3rd & 3rd from last images – Herry Lawson

*Photo credit: 4th image – Purdryns

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Part 1 – Colourful Garden Walls

Most of us love a colourful garden, but the good news is, you don’t have to rely on just flowers…

Painting walls and features is a really simple way to brighten any garden all year.

What colours should you choose to paint your garden walls and feature items?

The exact colours you paint a wall will depend on the following:

  • Light intensity levels
  • Surrounding architecture/ building materials
  • Local planning rules

The gorgeous Moroccan blue walls of the famous Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech (pictured above*) would not work everywhere. A colour this strong needs a high light intensity. Dull, overcast skies would make the colour look oppressive, making an area feel smaller and dark.

If you love this shade of blue and don’t have a high light intensity then the safer option is to use it as an accent colour.

This gorgeous Moroccan inspired courtyard garden in Spain has used the blue as an accent colour. If they had painted the whole wall blue it would have dominated and made the space feel smaller. The contrast with the dusky pink, however, works well.

If you’re lucky enough to have an alcove in your wall then that really adds visual value. You can not only paint it a different colour to contrast but also add features, as shown above.

No alcove, no problem! You can create contrast with other objects like the chair and window frame in the image below.

Pay attention to your planting!

One important thing to note is the planting. When you have such dominant colours in the wall, the planting needs to be sympathetic to it and not clash or be too busy. The image above shows a really successful combination, the flowers are a similar shade to the walls and the rest of the scheme is mostly green, which lets the wall do all the talking.

Choose your wall colours wisely

Make sure, above all else, that whatever colour you are painting in the garden goes with the architecture of both your house and any houses nearby. You don’t want it to stick out like a sore thumb.

By all means be adventurous, and bold, but with care! So for example, one of the hardest colours to incorporate is a vibrant purple – it screams modern, slightly ‘New Age’ – not many properties will get away with it.

Look to nature for guidance. The Moroccan blue matches the Mediterranean and African skies and therefore looks right in those regions. The terracotta wall matches the surrounding soil of the Med region. And the pinky red also has earth tones and looks right on the uneven rendered walls, reminiscent of ancient mud homes.

If you really want something bright, like the yellow in the first garden, do it as they have, as an accent colour.

It’s all about continuity of location, materials and structural elements

The wall in the garden above is painted the same colour as the terracotta pots and its shape mimics the swimming pool, so it ties in perfectly with the surroundings. Creating continuity with elements you add to the garden helps takes your design to the pro level.

Here’s another example of continuity with colour and shape. This was a Chelsea Flower Show garden, so a little over the top, but you get the idea!

What if you’re not allowed colourful walls in your region?

There’s a little trick they use in Spain, where pretty much every Andalucian village has white walls. So instead of painting them bright colours, they do it with pots and features. Cordoba is particularly famous for its ‘patio’ gardens as they call them.

The photo above was taken in November, so it just goes to show how effective adding colour to elements other than plants is!

But beware, colour alone does not make a great garden, the design does. Colour is just the icing on the well-designed cake!

If you’d like to learn more about design, then attend one of Rachel’s free online garden design classes.

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There are many different styles of materials that you can use for paths. Garden paths can be made from anything from gravel to paving, pebble mosaics, brick, timber to recycled church floor flagstones!

Before we get going on what type of materials you should use, we need to look at the most important part and that is getting the path in the right place.

How to make sure your path in the right place

This might seem like a really odd thing to be talking about because your path goes from point A to point B, so surely it is obvious where it needs to go!

It might be obvious where you need the path, for example from your patio to your garden shed. However, just because that’s where you need it to go, it doesn’t mean to say that a straight route is the best option visually.

If you can get a slightly more interesting shape into the path, or have it over to one side of the garden, rather than just having a straight line, it will make your garden much more interesting to look at.

Yes, you may have to take a few extra steps each time you go to your garden shed, but that’s a small price to pay if the position of your path improves the overall look and flow of your garden. Let’s face it, you will look at it a lot more than you will walk on it!

When you add anything into the garden it has to work with the whole garden, so it’s really important you take into account everything else that is there.

The biggest mistake that most people make is just to add things. First, they had the shed, then goes in the path, patio etc. This makes a very disjointed and uninteresting looking garden. If you take a little bit of time to plan the shape of all of these elements together, even if you don’t put them all in at once, it will make for a much better-looking garden.

A well-designed garden is like a jigsaw puzzle, everything has to fit in its place or doesn’t work. Great looking gardens are not a series of unrelated features, everything ties in together and have been thought about.

So consider sweeping your path from one side of the garden to the other, or having it curve around a circular lawn to get you to the shed or the other end of the garden.

What materials should you use for your garden path?

This will all come down to your tastes, style of garden and budget. Traditionally, brick paths have been very popular. If you’re going to use brick, do not use house bricks because they are not frost proof enough and will crumble over time. You need to use clay brick pavers which are specially designed to cope with the frost. Pavers are solid and do not have the indentation underneath them that house bricks do.

If you’re looking for a budget path option, then gravel is going to be the cheapest option. It is not always the most comfortable material to walk on, so if you hate walking on gravel, then adding a few steppingstones through it will make it nicer to walk on.

If you want a contemporary feel to your path then smooth natural paving will work well.

Pebble mosaics can look fabulous, though they are very time-consuming to do, but if you’re feeling creative you can have a lot of fun with them.

Garden Path Styles

You can create so many different styles of path, depending on the materials you use. Anything from modern, to natural, rustic and contemporary stepping stones to solid paths and everything in between. As always, pay attention to the shape, texture and size of the materials you choose for your path. Make sure they will be practical for your needs as well as look good.

Construct your path properly

A lot of times people think that they don’t need to use concrete when they build a path because it only has foot traffic on it and sand will do. Unfortunately, you can’t just put paving stones directly onto the soil or sand, because they will move and then become quite a dangerous tripping hazard. Brick paths can be laid on sand, but they will have a consolidated hard-core base underneath the sand and the edge bricks will be concreted into position to hold everything in place.

So, I encourage you to get creative with your path but do put it on paper first and check that it’s going to work with the rest of your garden.

BUT do be warned, nice paths alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/

*Photo credit: Hampton Court Garden – Herry Lawford

*Photo credit: Black pebbles – Paul Downey

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So although I’ve never met you, the chances are high I can guess where you’d stick a focal point or garden feature…

Where there’s a big hole… in your planting! ;o)

Would I be right?

I may not of course, but it’s what most people do.

Makes sense – can’t get plants to grow well, might as well put a statue, birdbath, or attractive feature of some description there.

As much sense as that makes, it’s a really bad idea unless your…

Focal point lines up with key viewpoints

So what do I mean by that?

Well, the sightline down your garden from the house ie the main window or doors you look out from the most.

Or at the end of a path or patio.

Wherever your eye would naturally come to rest is a great place for a focal point as shown with FP in the image below.

Now, if you’ve created a design layout for your whole garden (something I highly recommend if you want success without wasting a ton of cash), then you can get a bit more adventurous with your focal point placement.

Use focal points to draw the eye to where you want it to go

You might think that goes against what I said earlier, but it doesn’t when you strategically place them in a good design layout.

With a good design, the shapes you use within it do one thing – control how the garden flows. This is a fundamentally important part of landscape design that’s rarely talked about.

With the right shapes, you can make wide, shallow gardens look longer. And vice versa, long, narrow gardens can be made to look wider. Small gardens, larger, and awkward gardens can completely lose their awkwardness.

A lot of the time the shapes you use to counteract adverse garden sizes steer the eye away from the problem so it’s helpful to have focal points (red dots on last 2 images) leading the eyes from side to side as a visual journey with a final one for a visual full-stop at the end of the garden.

Doing it this way is a world apart from plonking an expensive work of art wherever there happens to be a gap in the planting!

Strategic placement enables you to get the most from your garden and your focal points!

What makes a good focal point/garden feature?

Anything with a good solid outline.

It can be something simple as a pot, bench, topiary, statues, gazebos, upright timbers or more adventurous sculptures.

Unusual things can also be used like ornate gates windows, mirrors, (the focal point is what it reflects back, not the mirror itself).

Literally, anything solid as that gives the eyes something definitive to rest on.

You can put a focal point in a border but equally, they can look good just on their own if they are in the right position.

The three heads below are positioned at the end of the garden before a woodland area, and the group make a big impact. I like how it looks like three friends are contemplating life and the slight angle each one is turned makes it feel intimate, rather than a row of soldiers lined up!

How many focal points or features should you have?

This is one of the hardest to advise on. It all depends.

I know, horrible answer, but it really does!

Here are a few guidelines though:

  • At the end of paths
  • At the end of the sightline from the main window or doors
  • Every time a design shape changes direction (see image below)

Weird rule – small gardens can often take a lot more focal points than larger gardens.

I’m not entirely sure why smaller spaces can get away with more focal points, but they just seem to. If you try to put a lot of focal points in a large garden, it immediately looks cluttered (if you can see them all at once).

As you can see in this tiny garden, there are 5 focal points (6 if you’ve counted the topiary in the pot twice as it’s reflected back in the mirror!).

This was a display garden at a garden centre so there was a lot of product placement in an area that was 4 x 5m. But even though there’s more here than you would probably do at home, it does go to show how small spaces can take a lot more than you’d imagine…

Don’t waste your money, design first! This garden was designed by the very talented Hay Joung Hwang

The key takeaway I want you get from this article is the importance of design. When statues, gazebos or any garden focal point or feature is designed in at the outset it makes a heck of a difference.

It really doesn’t matter how many thousands you pay for a garden feature, if it’s not part of the design, it will never look right. Ouch!

If you’d like to learn more about design then do attend one of our free garden design web classes.  They are approx 40 mins long and I will cover exactly what you need to do to successful design your garden without wasting time or money.

*Photo credit: top image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hickoryrose/

Second from last: *Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/herry

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You’ve read the books. You’ve gone online and researched which plants to put in your garden.

You may have even colour themed your planting border and put the design on paper…

But after all that effort and time spent researching, planning, purchasing, placing and planting, your garden still doesn’t look as good as you hoped.


Planting Border Design Failure Reason No.1

A fair chunk of the time, the reason a garden doesn’t look great, isn’t actually down to the planting, it’s down to the overall design layout…

As strange as it might sound, the shape of your borders plays a big part in how good your planting schemes will look.

A good design layout will give you 60-70% of the success – even if you do a really poor job with the planting scheme, design will save the day!

If you’ve not yet designed your garden layout (it’s not too late to do something about it, even in quite established gardens) head on over to my garden design web class (it’s free) and I will walk you through the simple key to great garden design.

Planting Border Design Failure Reason No.2


Most plant borders look messy.

Plants by their very nature tend to be all over the place unless you spend hours pruning them into shape.

Who has time for that?!

It doesn’t matter how careful you’ve been with your colour scheme, getting the right heights etc. Unless your eye has something solid to focus on, the planting will tend to blur into one big messy mass.

With correct plant design (which I teach over at the Plant Design Formula website) there are ways to make sure this doesn’t happen…

But there’s also a quick and easy cheat you can use that will salvage an existing planting scheme.

Here’s one simple tip from our Plant Design Formula Course that will instantly fix a messy border

There’s no rule that says the ‘clarity’ within your planting borders has to come from the plants (though that does of course help!)…

Which means we can cheat!

Take a look at this Chelsea Flower Show garden – on first glance it’s gorgeous… but look what happens when the structural element is taken out…

One small structural element removed and suddenly things have got a bit messy!

Here’s a garden by the brilliant Matt Keightley in his 2014 Chelsea Flower Show Garden – Help for Heroes.

Now Matt’s planting scheme is wonderful regardless of the structural elements, so on this occasion, the structure is icing on the expertly designed cake!

Here are some more photos of Matt’s inspired Help for Heroes garden so you can see how he’s skillfully incorporated the structural granite blocks throughout the scheme.

Notice how he’s mirrored the shape of the granite blocks into the clipped Buxus (box) bushes.

How to incorporate structural elements to your planting schemes

The trick to adding in structural elements are not to overdo them. You can choose a single shape and repeat it as shown above, or simply have different structures at strategic intervals.

When using different elements you won’t need many, so space them out like the example below:

A simple pot and bench really help bring clarity to this very busy planting border.

And see how much a simple willow animal sculpture can improve a very dull and uninspiring border!

So have fun with it and let me know how you get on. And remember, if you’ve not yet created a good design layout, that is paramount!

If you’d like me to walk you through ALL the elements to creating a gorgeous planting scheme as well as provide you with a searchable plant database that you can organise by colour, flowering season, size, shape, growing conditions etc. then take a look at the Plant Design Formula online course.

*Photo credit: The amazing Karen Roe for the images of Matt Keightley’s Help for Heroes garden.

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Gardens can be pretty costly these days – Horticultural Week says in the UK around 4.9 billion pounds per year is spent. In the USA, Garden Research report people spend 47.8 billion dollars!

So why isn’t the world full of amazing gardens?


It’s not how much money you spend on your garden that makes the REAL difference…

Obviously, there is a minimum you’ll need to spend, which will depend on:

  • where you are
  • what you’re building
  • what size garden you have

But once those costs are factored in, spending more than the basic amount won’t help, unless you…

Do the one thing that most people don’t!

When it comes to gardens, at best, most people just ‘Dream It & Do It’.

At worst, they skip straight to the ‘Do It’ part!

But if you want success and a gorgeous garden there’s a VITAL step you must do in the middle…

Before & After Design Dream It, DESIGN IT, Do It!

Why is design so important?

Very few of us can visualise.

Even fewer can do it effectively.

Even Professional Landscapers Get Gardens Wrong Without A Design!

The garden at the very top of this page is glorious, isn’t it?

Here are a few more images of it… But can you spot the slight faux pas with the formal pond?

As beautiful as it is, a lot of the key elements don’t line up – something that is vital in gardens, especially formal ones…

The leaf fountain centrepiece doesn’t line up with the path or benches, making the pond appear lopsided.

Now, this garden is so beautiful that it doesn’t detract too much.

It’s also highly likely that on this occasion a lot the main elements were already in place because the area used to be a tennis court, so it probably wasn’t possible for the designer to line things up properly.


If a garden is put on paper at the outset, these kinds of mistakes don’t happen. Getting the big picture view enables you to see what’s not working before you spend time and money building the garden.

If you want to learn more about design register for one of our FREE Garden Design Web Classes

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Do you dislike Christmas shopping as much as I do?

I doubt that’s possible but just in case you do we’ve made your life a little bit easier with some fab selections for the design conscious gardener (oh and there’s some fun ones as well).

We’ll start with the fun ones!

Garden Games from Greenfingers.

The one thing I do love about this time of year, are fires. If you’re lucky enough to have one, then check out this very smart Kindling Bucket from Garden Trading.

And the perfect accompaniment is this stylish metal log basket, also from Garden Trading.

While we’re enjoying a fire – how about outside too?

This beautiful Morrocan inspired fire basket and grill are great for outdoor entertaining and keeping warm!

Or for those with a larger budget and a love of being up close – a fire table!

For the Allotment-Loving-Shed-Dweller!

So, we all know someone who loves to disappear for hours in the Shed/Man-cave/Allotment.  Whether they spend more time drinking tea than digging up the potatoes, show them your love with one of these special gardening-lovers pressies.

Willow Trugs

Willow Trugs – £29.95 at SarahRaven.com  We all love a trug! Perfect for harvesting…and for storing, and stylish in the kitchen too…

A great golf organiser for the garage or shed

If you really want to give a special gift this Xmas… Rawlinson Willow Gazebo

How about treating your loved one to this lovely willow gazebo?  Creating a special place for that cuppa, reading the newspaper or just to unwind at the end of a long day of digging and weeding!  This free-standing structure can fit easily into any garden – on a paving area, gravel area surrounded by planting, or simply on the lawn.  It will make a real impact. Rawlinson Willow Gazebo – £315 at GreenFingers.com.

Easy on the Purse Strings – funky favourites on a budget!  

These gorgeous gifts are all such a STEAL – nobody would know that they came in for £10 or less!

Unwins Mediterranean Kitchen Garden Herb Kit

Sarah Raven Seed Tins -£4.50 at SarahRaven.com

I love the bright turquoise colour, and a set of tins is Soo very useful for ANY gardener

For the Design-Conscious Gardener  

Gone are the days of boring old watering cans and lack-lustre hand trowels.

Who says ‘practical’ can’t also be ‘stylish’?! These multifunctional pocket secateurs are great!

Online Garden Design Courses (Worldwide)

Of course, what better gift for the ‘Green-fingered gardening guru’ in your family, than to arrange a special online course or workshop for them.

Buy your Mum, Dad, Grandad, Auntie one of our Garden Design Online Courses, and they can take part whenever they have time, in their own home, and they will thank you forever!

Any of the online garden design courses can be purchased as a gift and instant access sent to your loved one for Christmas. Instructions on how to transfer a course as a gift are in the welcome email on purchase. And of course, all gifts come with our same 60-day money back guarantee!

Or how about the greatest gift of all… a career change?

If you or a loved one is serious about a career as a garden designer and wants a fast-track way to attain it without spending thousands or years at college, check out our new website Successful Garden Designer. And there’s a special offer until 6th January for the SGD Diploma.

Your suggestions…

What wonderful garden related goodies have you come across? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy shopping – tis the season for it! ;o)

From all at SGD, have a good one!

Please note: On some of the gift ideas above, we receive a small commission if you purchase through the link, this helps keep me sufficiently supplied with mince pies over the festive season! Please also note, that I do not have direct experience with the companies listed above, so do buy at your own discretion.

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