Decorating your garden, however big or small, is a fun and worthwhile task. Of course, it often involves some hard, physical work, and it can be very time-consuming. For this reason, it's good to have a plan of attack for your garden! By this, we mean that you should plan in detail what you want to do before you move forward and begin. Having a vision in mind is very important.
Gardening, and the mere act of sitting in a garden, can have a wonderful benefit on your mental and physical wellbeing. For example, just working in your garden can contribute to your daily exercise, and being outside in the sun will boost your energy levels as well as provide you with an extra dose of Vitamin D, not to mention the benefit from all the extra oxygen coming off the plants and trees.
In this article we'll show you how to go about planning your garden. We'll cover what you need to know about the flowers and plants, and explain how to do the landscaping, decorate patios, as well as other types of paths. We'll even explore growing vegetables. In short, we'll show you how to make the most of your garden.
The first step to building the garden of your dreams is planning. Having a well thought out plan will help you develop all the things that are important to you within your garden. It'll also allow you to develop a physical layout that you can use as a guide.
Think of it as a map.
In fact, we recommend drawing a map, as well as putting together budgeting and timelines. Putting together a solid plan will allow you to address the things you have control over and the things you don't. It'll help you build a vision of your desired outcome, before diving into the heavy work.
Make a Map
First things first. Let's assess what you already have. Grab a pencil and paper. It doesn't need to be fancy. After doing a first draft on your own, you may decide to hire a professional cartographer who specializes in gardens and small-scale maps. They'll be able to draw it out to scale in a detailed manner.
But even if you decide to go this route, we recommend doing a sketch or two on your own. It'll help you get an idea of what you have and dream about what you want.
Whether you do it yourself or hire someone, the goal is to detail the slopes, stairs, existing paths, and sheltered areas. Consider things such as:
- Are there parts that don't get sunlight?
- Are there areas that are exposed to more wind?
The more detail you include, the better.
The drawings themselves don't need to be detailed and specific, but it is important to highlight all the details which could affect the design of your garden.
Many people enjoy using software such as CAD (Computer-Aided Design). CAD software can help you create precise drawings and plans. The maps drawn using CAD software are more architecturally precise. Especially if you choose a software program that's designed specifically for garden planning.
Some software programs allow you to add templates for garden plants, trees, structures, and even furniture.
But keep in mind, that your first basic garden map is intended to take a close look at what you already have . . . we'll start planning for your dream garden later.
Draw Your Plan and Your Dream Vision
With your current garden map in hand, you can begin thinking about building your dream garden.
Be sure to make a copy or two of your current garden map so you can experiment with different ideas without needing to start from scratch.
Looking at what you already have in your garden, you'll be able to easily see where you can plant a bush, a tree, or add a bench. You may even identify areas where you'll want to do a complete remodel!
Let's face it, some people can look at something and "see" the finished product. They instinctively know what will look good and how they want it laid out.
But if you're like the rest of us mere mortals, then you probably need a little inspiration.
Gardening magazines are an excellent resource. They're often full of beautiful gardens and plant ideas, and you can also find advertisements for garden furniture and decor.
Websites is another great place to look for ideas. There are plenty of sites featuring professional gardeners and amateurs. You'll have a chance to get some great ideas, read helpful tips, and maybe even join an email list that will keep you updated with the latest news and ideas.
One of the more popular gardening websites in the world is the Royal Horticultural Society. This British-based website has plenty of gorgeous garden inspiration and information about plants.
And, of course there's social media. Social media platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest are chock-full of amazing garden ideas and inspiration. Simply search using the hashtags:
You'll get hundreds, if not thousands of hits and can easily spend the rest of the afternoon coming up with ideas.
Once you've decided what you want in your garden, it's time to work out where it should be in your garden. And fitting things in isn't always easy. All gardens are limited in size by the boundaries of the space. You'll need to be realistic about what you can and can not do.
If you have sheds or other structures, you may want to remove (or move them) to free up space. But unless you can purchase additional land around your property, you won't be able to extend beyond your property line.
Plan Your Paths
A good starting point is to plan where you want your paths. Mark out water sources, such as sprinkler systems and ponds, and don't forget to consider drainage. You'll want to make sure that the water drains away from your house, rather than towards it where it could cause problems.
Rain gardens are another good thing to consider implementing if you have enough space and adequate drainage. These are flower patches that soak up the rain that drips from the roofs of buildings and other structures.
The video below covers different types of paths and should be able to give you some ideas of what might work well in your garden.
Watch the Video
Plan Your Garden
At this point it's time to start planning where you want to grow plants in your garden. Mark out where you want to place shrubbery and foliage, then designate areas for flowers.
Do you want a vegetable patch? A greenhouse? If so, find a spot on your map, and always prioritize what's most important to you since you may need to make compromises.
How will you use your garden?
- Will you host outside dinner parties for friends?
- Will you host BBQs?
- Would a patio make things more comfortable?
- Do you have children or grandchildren who would like to play in your garden? If so, you may want to include a flat lawn space.
- What about a pond? Do you want fish?
Some of your planning will be dependent on the geographical area of where you live. For example, if you want to plant ferns and other soft foliage, it's not really practical in a dry state such as Arizona or Nevada.
Talk to other local gardeners, or seek advice from your garden store on what plants, vegetables, and foliage is best suited for your area. Always be practical and realistic when choosing plants for your dream garden.
Consider the upkeep and the level of care required. If you're not able to dedicate the time to pruning, then purchasing prized rose bushes probably isn't a good idea. In this example, lower maintenance plants and/or shrubs would most likely be a better match for you and your garden.
Determine a Budget
Once you have a rough idea of what you want in your garden, it's time to decide how much you're willing to spend to make it happen.
The best way to do this is to get some quotes, but you can also work out a rough estimate yourself if you plan to do all the work. Find a number that's doable for you and build-in a little extra for the unexpected.
You may be pleasantly surprised that its less expensive than you originally thought, or you may begin to think "what the heck, I need to reign in my spending".
The good new is, at this stage, you shouldn't have spent anything since you're still in the planning stage. This gives you time compromise and look for lower cost alternatives.
Many homeowners skip this step since they think they don't need a budget. But failing to plan your spending can be a dangerous choice. Your garden may end up costing more than you would have ever paid.
Invest in the features that are most important to you, and fill the rest in with more budget-friendly choices. You can always upgrade down the road.
Once you've decided on the ideal budget, be sure that it's realistic and that you have some built-in wiggle room, you may also want to set a red line maximum budget that you will never cross.
A few of the common costs associated with decorating a garden are:
- Cost of materials for patios, pathways, and decks (includes things such as cement, slabs, wood, gravel, etc.)
- CAD software, if you choose to use your computer to design a map of the garden. And/or the cost of hiring someone to make the map for you.
- The cost of hiring or buying any power tools you may need.
- The cost of buying seeds, stats, and saplings for your plants and vegetables.
- Soil and fertilizer costs.
- The cost of a water system, such as sprinklers.
- Any water features such as ponds or fountains you may want to add.
- Furniture for your garden or patio.
- A BBQ or grill.
- The cost of fencing and walls.
- Professionals you may need to consult during the process.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but it does give you an idea of things you should work into your budget.
You've probably already figured out that you're going to need to consider investing some time into this project. In fact, it's going to take a considerable amount of time, especially if you plan to do all the work yourself.
It'll take time and dedication to get it right. You may want to consider setting aside a good chunk of your time each week to work on your new garden, whether that's doing physical work, shopping or planning.
You should also consider when the best time is to do the work. Some projects, such as digging and planting are better suited when the ground is soft, other tasks such as building structures are best done in dry weather.
Booking Time Off
Depending upon the scope of your project, you may even want to take some time off from your job or use vacation time. When you can dedicate uninterrupted time to projects like this they'll move along much faster.
You may not be able to get the vegetables or flowers growing during dedicated work spurts, but you should be able to reach the planting phase.
Whatever you decide to do, building a garden of your dreams should be a fun experience, one you can look back on with pride once you've finished.
When you're choosing the plants for your garden, there are a number of different things you should consider. We've already discussed the importance of selecting plants that make sense for the area in which you live, but there are a few other factors you need to take into consideration:
- Are the plants high-maintenance and require a lot of care?
- Are the plants compatible with the other plants you'll be planting?
- Are they aesthetically pleasing?
- Will they physically fit in with the rest of your garden? Too big? Too small?
- How fast will they grow when they reach full maturity? They may work great for a few years, but what about later? Young shrubs, plants, and trees take up considerably less space than mature shrubs, plants, and trees.
As you can see there's a lot to consider, and each decision can impact another. For example, planting small trees that'll mature into large trees could damage patios, sidewalks and even your home itself as the roots begin to spread and grow.
If you don't have a lot of space, you may want to consider planting some smaller flowering trees that won't grow as large. There are also dwarf trees that remain smaller which you can add: Apple, cherry, pear, and other fruit trees are available in these smaller sizes.
You may want to consider adding a cherry tree, magnolia tree, or a lilac tree if you want to add accents to your garden. These trees also are known to attract bees, so you can do your part in keeping our dwindling bee population thriving.
Watch the Video
Consider the Sunlight
While you're still in the planning phase, pay special attention to how the sunlight covers your garden area. It's easy to plant a large shrub or tree that'll block out the sunlight which the other plants need to survive.
Adding a little shade to your garden is nice, but you do need to be careful or you might block the sunlight that you're planning to enjoy on your patio!
Many homeowners have the ultimate goal of having a garden that produces delicious vegetables year around. After all, there's nothing quite like homegrown vegetables, they not only have more flavor than store-bought veggies, but you also can control the amount of chemicals used.
However, if this is your first vegetable garden, you should know that some vegetables are easier to handle than others. If you're a beginning gardener, these vegetables are a good starting place:
- Green beans
- Summer squash
- Tomatoes (especially cherry tomatoes)
- Spring onions
- Hot peppers
And, you might be surprised to know that herbs are extremely easy to grow. In fact, you don't even need a garden! You can plant them in pots and keep them near your kitchen so they are easy to grab whenever you want to add one to your dinner.
If you're goal is to be a four-season gardener, the above list covers all the seasons, so you can look forward to fresh homegrown produce throughout the year!
Vegetables are not only delicious, but they also add wonderful health benefits from both eating and growing. Spending time outdoors does wonders for mental and physical health, and planting vegetables is no exception.
Hey, you can even count it as your daily exercise!
Consider This Before Planting Vegetables
If you've ever planted a vegetable garden before, you'll likely know that the actual act of planting is pretty straightforward, but there are other factors which can be a little trickier.
The first thing you need to decide is if you're willing to invest the time and effort into producing a vegetable garden. Vegetable gardens aren't low maintenance and you'll need to give it attention from beginning to end. Some homeowners, find that it really isn't worth the effort and choose to buy their veggies at their local farm store.
But if you're up for the challenge, a vegetable garden can be a very rewarding experience.
You'll need to make sure the soil and ground is suitable for the particular vegetables you want to grow. You may need to bring in soil and fertilizer. You'll also need to keep your garden weed-free, and prune, water and feed the vegetables.
Then there's harvesting. There's times your kitchen may be overflowing with more veggies than you can possibly handle, but neighbors, friends and family are almost always willing to help take some off your hands.
All of these things take time. For the green-fingered gardeners, this may be their idea of heaven, but if you don't enjoy getting your hands dirty, then this may not be the best option for you.
Not all soil is the same, and some is better suited for growing food produce than others. In order for your vegetables to survive, let alone thrive, you'll need to ensure that your soil is packed full of organic matter. To do this you'll need composted manure which can be added in the Spring and Fall months.
It's also a good idea to test the pH level of your soil before you even start to plan what vegetables you want to grow. Knowing the soil pH will help determine what veggies are best suited to your garden.
Watch the Video
Sunlight and Shade
Consider the amount of sunlight and shade the vegetables you're planning on growing may need, compared to how much of each your garden actually gets. This will have a huge impact on how well your veggies grow and it can make or break your experience.
In addition, the climate in which you live is also something to consider. Some veggies (as with any plants) prefer certain climates and environments. You may not be able to replicate this in your garden unless you use a greenhouse or something similar.
Having a garden full of beautiful flowers is one of life's greatest pleasures. It's a feast for the eyes and the ultimate goal of every garden enthusiast.
Of course, you don't need flowers in your garden, they're not essential.
However, incorporating flowers into your garden, even if it's just a relatively small patch or border, not only adds color, but can really add to the awe affect.
Choose Your Style
One of the most enjoyable parts of creating a flower garden is deciding what colors and styles to choose. Perhaps you want a flowering cacti with very bright, exotic flowers to emphasis the modern look of your home.
Or, if you live in an older house, you may want to go for a more quant look. Adding pretty and dainty flowers, especially those that trail around your windows and doors will give your home and garden a whimsical feeling.
Evergreens are a great choice for all gardens.
Regardless of the time of year, they'll add a bright green color on even the most dismal Winter's day when all of the other plants are dormant. We highly recommend incorporating evergreens into your garden.
Some of our favorite evergreen shrubs and bushes that suit all gardens include:
- Cherry laurel
- Mugo pine (great for Zen-style gardens)
- Azalea (they flower when in season, but remain green all year long)
- Mountain laurel
- . . . and so many more!
When choosing your garden flowers and shrubs it's important to keep in mind how much time you'll be able to invest (or want to spend) in caring for your garden. The video below gives some helpful advise in selecting the right plants for your individual needs.
Watch the Video
Keep in mind that evergreen shrubs, trees, and bushes need to be selected for your climate and environment.
Research the best evergreens for your garden and reach out to a local garden store who has knowledge of the soil in your area for more detailed advice.
Color Your Garden
Color is also an extremely important factor when you're considering what flowers to plant in your garden. You'll want flowers that work well together in terms of color if you want to keep the garden looking uniform, or you could experiment and choose lots of different colors for your flower patch to make it eye-catching and vibrant.
Try pairing yellows and purples, or going for oranges and pinks. Colors that you may not think work, often look beautiful when placed together.
Don't forget to consider sizes and textures.
For borders, it's likely that you'll want more dainty flowers that stay low and grow near the ground. For example these are all excellent choices:
- Sweet Alyssum
If you're looking for a little height, you may want to plant:
- Chimney Bellflower
All of these are vibrant and eye-catching, and would be a good match for any flower patch that you're trying to add a bit of height variance into.
Attracting Butterflies and Bees
You may want to attract wildlife to your flower garden such as butterflies and bees.
Bees love anything from wildflowers to border flowers, and even some of the flowering trees we've already discussed. This video will show you how to attract pollinating insects into your garden.
Watch the Video
Selecting flowers for the fragrance can also make your gardening time very enjoyable. Some of our favorites include: Lavender (all varieties look and smell beautiful), honeysuckle, all varieties of rose, freesia, gardenia, heliotrope, and even dainty tuberose.
All of these will give your garden the sweetest scent imaginable and it'll be a struggle to get you and your family out of the garden and into the house!
Where to Plant Your Flowers
Where you plant your flowers is really a personal decision. You should consider where you'll be spending the most time and/or where you'll be able to relax and enjoy the beauty. Here's a few things to keep in mind:
- Do you enjoy seeing flowers from your kitchen window as you cook and do chores?
- Do you enjoy seeing your house framed in gorgeous colors?
- Do you like seeing flowers in a fenced-off area within your garden?
- Or near a bench where you can sit with a cup of coffee in the morning sun?
Start with as much open space as possible when you begin planting your flower bed. Flowers tend to grow and fill-in quickly.
Chances are, it won't take long before you're looking for more space!
We recommend allowing at least 5-feet for an impressive flower patch. Particularly if you want a flower island in your garden. A patch of this size will allow ample room for around three layers of plants.
Bear in mind, when you make long flowerbeds, you'll also need to add more width. This video will show you how to build a flowerbed in limited space.
Watch the Video
Smaller gardens may not be able to dedicate the same amount of space as larger gardens, but they can still grow beautiful patches of color.
But just because a garden is small doesn't mean you can forget about the border!
Once all the greenery is in place for your garden, it's time to consider some hard landscape features. These include things like patios, pathing, and decks. Depending on how much space you have available and your ultimate goal, you may decide you want to add multiple hard landscape features.
Maybe you want a path that weaves peacefully through your garden to a secluded patio or bench.
One of the benefits of including patios, decks, and pathways in your garden is that they have a definite purpose. As an example, paths are used to walk on as you move around your garden. They'll prevent your flowers from getting trampled, and will also help keep your feet dry on damp days.
Patios and Decks
Patios and decks can be easily utilized for all sorts of activities such as dining al fresco, grilling and BBQing. Or simply relaxing with a magazine, or even kicking a soccer ball around with your family.
Adding patio and decking can be done by yourself if you enjoy DIY projects, or you can hire someone to do it for you. Keep in mind, that it's a pretty big job and it's important to get it right.
Hiring a professional is often the better choice.
Pathways are almost always an essential component to a garden. They're also not as complicated as patios and decks, so you can most likely tackle them yourself.
Some pathways use gravel and concrete squares, others have gentle moss growing among flat rocks. Some are even put together with planks. Whatever type of pathway you choose you'll want to make sure it functions well and does the intended job.
Placing Paths Correctly
One of the most important decisions in your garden is where you'll place your paths. You want the paths to be in areas that make the most sense.
They should be in places where there's plenty of room to walk and you'll not be hindered by flowerbeds, trees, shrubs, or vegetable patches.
Ideally, you want your paths to have a direct route to the destination, not twisting and turning around your garden. But with that said, sometimes it's nice to put in an "off the beaten road" path that allows you to take a scenic route and enjoy the view.
But keep in mind, that having your paths follow a more or less straight line will mean it'll be easier to line them with your flower bed borders or short fences if you choose.
In terms of size, pathways should be around 3-feet wide. If you think you may need wider paths, then you should make this adjustment during the planning stages of your garden design.
However, if you don't have the room to allow 3-feet for your pathways, then you can make them a little smaller, but be aware that paths that are too narrow can often be difficult to use, especially if you want to include flowers as a border. This is because the overgrowth of the flowers could make your path even more narrow.
Pathways can be made from a variety of different materials. If you're handy with laying stone and brick, then you might choose to go this route. A less expensive option would be to use wood chips or gravel.
Depending on the aesthetic you want to achieve, you could use a mixture of different paths. Sand and gravel together work well for a zen-style garden, you can even add strategically placed flat stones as stepping stones.
Although, if you're looking for the English countryside feel, then you may want to consider dark stone paths.
Whatever path style you choose, don't lose sight of the style of your garden, and your budget.
Once you've decided on the landscape of your garden and the hard landscaping elements, it's time to start thinking about the furniture you want to use.
Unfortunately, unlike inside furniture, there aren't as many choices to choose between when it comes to garden furniture. But that doesn't mean you don't have choices . . . and some good ones at that!
Maybe you want a bench in your garden, or on your patio.
Maybe wicker chairs with cushions. Or maybe wooden chairs
Whatever you choose, keep the theme and aesthetic of your garden in mind. A zen-style garden would be better suited to zen-style furniture.
Sometimes mixing and matching works well, and other times you want everything to look neat and tidy. Deciding whether you want to keep a solid, uniformed theme throughout, or a fusion of rustic porch vibes with an English countryside-themed garden feel is something that's best thought through before you start spending money.
Bottom line, the most important thing is that you're happy, and that your garden is a place where you want to spend time. Your furniture will play a big part in that role, so be sure that whatever you choose, that it brings you joy!
After determining the style of furniture you want, you need to decide how it'll be used. If you plan on having a lot of family and friend BBQ get-togethers, then having plenty of tables and chairs will be necessary.
If you only anticipate entertaining your immediate family in your new garden, then you may only need enough chairs to match the number of family members. Although, you may want to add in a bench or two in case you have a few extra people.
Are you the kind of person that likes to change things up every year or two? If so, you may want to purchase new garden furniture every couple of years. In this case, how the furniture wears isn't too critical.
However, if you want to invest in sturdy furniture that'll last for years, then choose furniture that's resistant to water, pollution, and rust.
Wooden furniture is a great choice for whatever climate you live in since you won't need to worry about bringing it inside if it begins to rain. Another popular option is iron garden furniture. It can give your garden a regal look and feel, and it matches well with English countryside and Victorian garden designs.
As you can see, decorating your garden requires careful planning. But it also yields results that will most definitely improve your mental and physical well being.
There's just something special about having a relaxing garden to sit in after a long, hard day at work. It's a wonderful way to unwind and leave the stress behind. Not to mention puttering around on a Sunday afternoon while tending to your vegetables and flowers.
The garden you build will evolve through the years, and how you envision it today will develop into something far better than you could have ever dreamed.