The inspiration to make changes to our own gardens can come from anywhere. From practical necessity as our homes and families change and grow, from other people's gardens, the natural landscape, the buildings around us or the patterns, colours and textures we find in the natural and man made world.
The opportunities available to us are endless so we need to refine them to suit our own needs, tastes and budgets. Collecting photos is a great way to start, a scrapbook, mood board or in a file on line, anywhere we can gather all these external influences together so that they can be refined, thought through and the essence of what we would really like and our own uniquely personal style distilled to create a meaningful pallet of hard landscaping materials, plants, ornamental features and essentials.
The really tricky part is putting these ideas together, relating them to our own garden spaces and in turn integrating our garden and home into our surroundings. This is where the experience and knowledge of a professional garden designer comes into its own, but here are a few tips to get things started.
* Firstly look at the surroundings of the garden, think about how it relates to its landscape, whether it's urban, rural or a part of a housing development. Opening up boundaries to good views allows us to extend the garden outward into 'borrowed' landscape, screening less pleasant views can allow us to concentrate the interest within the garden and appreciate the finer detail.
* Think about the garden as a whole rather than as a series of separate areas and consider the way people move around it, this can be manipulated by the shapes we use in the layout and how pathways are integrated into the overall design. The style of the garden should continue throughout, be bold with curves or dynamic with straight lines, wiggles at the edge of lawns are not a design feature!
* Put time and effort into planning, consider the possibilities and don't rush ahead with one aspect or area of the garden without knowing what will come next.
* We are inside for much of the time so views from windows are important, inside and out can be linked together by our choices in materials, shapes and colour schemes and as it's dark for long hours in winter it might be good to consider outdoor lighting too.
* Patios don't have to be right outside the patio doors and they don't have to be rectangular or laid straight up to the back of the house either. If the house is modern, as long as the soil level is 150mm below the dpc then in general planting by the house wall is fine.
* Our choice in planting style and species needs to be practical as well as beautiful and correspond to our tastes as well as ability to maintain the appearance we want. When it comes to the natural world and the constraints or attributes of the site, nature will always win so make friends with her from the outset, live and let live. We and our gardens will be all the happier for it.
For examples of my work please see portfolio