Whatever your outdoor space, with a little thought and preparation, it can become your personal Garden of Eden, as the Oxford Garden Design owner explains

Words: Sheena Marsh

Designing a garden can be a daunting task. Perhaps yours is overgrown and wild, or a brand-new, uninspiring blank canvas, or maybe already created for another purpose. Whatever the current state of your plot, with a bit of thought and planning, it can be transformed into your ideal outdoor space. 

Start by making a full assessment of what you have already. What do you want to keep or lose? Also, think about who is going to use the garden — it is important to consider everyone, especially the wildlife. Studying the aspect, the natural features such as trees or boundaries and any potential views, are essential in the initial planning stages.

 You also need to consider some very practical points, such as how much time you have to look after the garden, whether you want a lawn, do you need a shed to store your tools and equipment in, how big does the terrace need to be — and is it for relaxing or entertaining? Only then can you start to look at layout and planting combinations.  

Ultimately the house will determine the style of your garden. If you’re lucky enough to live in a thatched cottage, an informal style is best, but beware, too often a classic cottage garden turns into a hotchpotch of planting without any real artistry. The true cottage style is a harmonious combination of soft, tonal planting set against the shapes, textures and colours of the building materials. 

The opposite applies to a modern property, which requires a contemporary design, with minimalist planting and, perhaps, just a few carefully chosen architectural specimen shrubs or trees. Every style of building no matter what period can be mimicked in some way in the garden: in the colour of the stone or brick, or the choice of containers and furniture, and of course, in the planting.

Before you plant anything, find out about your soil. Is it acid or alkaline, and does it need improving? This will have a direct bearing on what will thrive on your land. Tailor plant choices so the colours blend harmoniously. Bear in mind how tall each plant will grow and how this will affect the distribution of colour in your scheme. It is critical to know how much sun each area of your garden gets; some plants require full sun, others prefer a shady spot. Preparation is the key to success. At planning stage anything can be changed — it is much more difficult once the beds have been dug and the plants are in the ground.

Think of your garden as an extension of your home — careful design will mean you will enjoy using your outdoor ‘room’ for years to come. 

Garden designer Sheena Marsh is the owner of Oxford Garden Design, where she leads a team of landscapers and horticulturalists. For more details, visit oxfordgardendesign.co.uk