Designing A New Home Garden


Some people love their garden. They are fanatics, and heaven help anyone who damages one of their plants. For others, the garden is a place to use; somewhere to get outside and enjoy life. There are even others who don't really care too much about the garden, but have one anyway, just because it's a good way to keep their property looking presentable, pr perhaps because they "inherited" it when they bought the property.

Gardens come in all shapes, sizes and types; and the right one for you is determined by what you really want, the area you are working with (natural features) and how you plan to use the garden; if at all. The pity is, most people don't really plan their garden, and they often end up admiring other peoples places, and never being quite satisfied with their own property. There are exceptions of course; but more people would have what really suits them if they took the time to do a little planning.


The first step is to consider your priorities? Look over the following list and rate each reason for having a garden in order of priority?

  • To spend time and take in the tranquillity and peace.
  • For children to play in.
  • Adult Recreation (swimming etc).
  • Entertainment area/s.
  • To grow food (fruit, vegies, poultry etc).
  • To grow flowers/colour foliaged plants.
  • To make the home (inside & out) cooler.
  • To provide a buffer from the outside world (visual and sound).
  • To provide storage space (e.g. a shed).
  • Increase property values.
  • To house a collection of plants.
  • To create somewhere to work.
  • To keep fit by gardening.
  • To keep people or animals off or in (e.g. pets) your property.
  • To minimize the occurrence of pest problems such as snakes, rodents, ants or cockroaches.
  • Other reasons (list them).



Once you know what your priorities are, you can then start to develop a garden which meets your requirements. The needs listed above CAN usually each be achieved to a greater or lesser extent; but to achieve some of these things will make it difficult to achieve others. Some ways to achieve these needs are described below:


To Simply Be In And Take In The Tranquillity And Peace

This sort of feeling is created by curved lines, soft forms, weeping foliage and water; among other things. The atmosphere needs to be natural, so man made sights such as buildings, roads and power lines are best screened out by large plants. Views over the sea, farm or bushland however enhance the tranquillity of a garden, and should be left unobstructed.


For Children To Play In

Young Children (perhaps to the age of 5 years), need a wide range of sensory experiences, so the garden needs to have as many different types of surfaces and materials as possible (eg. hard, soft, rough, smooth, flat, sloping etc). For older children, play is a more social or interactive thing, so the garden needs to offer places for them to interact in different ways with friends, relatives and even pets. Gardens need to be secure (ie. fenced) for very young children. They should have places where kids can be creative, digging in soil or sand, making cubbies or building other things. Swings and other playground equipment are useful but there is a lot more to play than playground equipment. Open areas of lawn are particularly important, as are hard surfaces which balls can be bounced on.


Adult Recreation (eg. Swimming, practicing golf swings)

Swimming pools and spas need to be located in clean and safe areas. Dust, soil, leaves or lawn clippings are not welcome in the water, whether carried in on feet or the wind. Rough or slippery surfaces around the water are undesirable for bare feet. Shade is also useful in these areas. Swimming pools can have holes built into the surrounds to take beach or market umbrellas, large trees or palms can be planted thoughtfully to provide shade, and if desirable, shade-cloth or some other structure can be erected to provide protection from the sun (and perhaps help keep rubbish out of the water).

Adults may decide they want areas for other hobbies or sports. Some people use the garden for a hobby such as model railways, model planes or restoring old cars. Others put golf holes in the lawn to practice their putting, or a basket ball ring hanging over the driveway.


Entertainment Areas

Usually a back verandah, patio or poolside area with or without a bar-be-que and outdoor furniture. These areas are generally located near to the house with good access to the kitchen. They can be completely open, partially enclosed, or even completely rooved over.


To Grow Food (fruit, vegies, poultry, etc)

Vegetables can be grown in raised soil beds, in pots, hydroponics or in no dig beds (ie. layers of straw and compost). They can be small or large areas, but either way, they are best located where there is plenty of light. Fruit trees can take up a little or a lot of space. If space is limited, you can grow fruit trees as espaliers on a wall or fence (ie. trained like a climber), use dwarf varieties, or grow them in large pots to restrict their size.


To Grow Flowers/Colourful Foliaged Plants

Colourful gardens are bright, happy and lively places. They can be uplifting when you feel down, and they can provide something you can cut and bring inside to brighten up the house. If you want flowers all year round, you need to choose the plants you grow carefully. Annual flowers, bulbs and perennials generally form the backbone of a flower garden, being chosen carefully to ensure some flowers every week of the year. Some shrubs and perennials flower for very long periods of time, in some climates. These can be a great way to keep colour in the garden. Some roses, for instance flower for months on end; but even these in ideal conditions will have periods without flowers; and that is when the expert flower gardener will plan to have something else near to or amongst the roses in flower.


To Make The Home (inside & out) Cooler

Shade trees, pergolas and anything else which provides shade will help reduce heat indoors. Hot brick walls can be kept cool by growing a creeper (but inspect it annually to ensure it isn't damaging the building). Lawn or shrubs around the outside walls will also keep the building cooler. In some areas, cooling winds are common at certain times. Be sure not to block off such winds with planting or construction in the garden. Areas of water, particularly if it splashes (eg. a large fountain or waterfall), can have a significant cooling affect on a hot day.


Provide A Buffer From The Outside World (both visual and sound)

Planting or fences can be used to simply block unpleasant views. Noise is more difficult to block. Some types of fences can help, and building mounds of soil can also reduce noise; however noise unlike line of sight, moves round corners. A row of bushes often does little to reduce noise. If you want an effective noise barrier, it may be expensive, and you may need an engineer to advise you.

Provide Storage Space

People store all sorts of things in their gardens, from old vehicles, boats and trailers to firewood, building materials, scrap metal and piles of soil. Some people only need small areas for storage, but others may use half of their property.


Increase Property Values

A well kept garden can both increase the saleability and the value of a property. Excessive spending on a garden however might not be recovered when the property sells. If your main concern is property values, then keep the garden design simple, easy to look after but neat and attractive.


To House A Collection Of Plants

For a plant enthusiast, the garden is a place to assemble and grow their prized collection. For some people it may be orchids or ferns, and for others it might be fuchsias or cacti. The type of plants collected will determine the way the garden us developed.


To Provide Somewhere To Work

For some people, their home is also their place of work. Protected work areas with suitable storage space may be particularly important. Be sure that you comply with local government regulations, and that you do as much as possible to not disturb the neighbours.


To Keep Fit By Gardening

Some people enjoy gardening. It's their hobby, and it's what keeps them fit. They might be retired, or they might just work in a job where they don't get a lot of exercise. Such people want a garden which gives them a chance to sweat and get their hands dirty. Vegetable and flower gardens can be built which need regular weeding and replanting; plants which need routine pruning can be planted (eg. roses and fruit trees), and lots of pot plants and hanging baskets can be included in the garden


To Keep People Or Animals Off Or In (e.g. pets) Your Property

This can be done with either fences, hedges, rows of prickly plants or even ponds or lakes. Some properties use a combination of these things.


To Minimize The Likelihood Of Pest Problems (e.g. snakes, rodents, ants or cockroaches).

There is less likelihood of pest and disease problems if the property is kept clean and neat. Avoid leaving food scraps, empty drink or food containers etc. lying around outside. Keep rubbish bins sealed. Locate compost heaps away from the house or outdoor living areas. Wood shavings (not sawdust) can help discourage snakes, which can find the shavings rough to crawl over. Sweet things (eg. sugar cane mulch, sap sucking insects such as scale or aphis) attract ants, so avoid these things. Many pests are encouraged by certain plants and discouraged by others.

Cockroaches are less likely if you have self cleaning palms (which drop old fronds).
Ants are more likely if you have citrus, Hibiscus, Acalypha, and Dodonaea. Rodents and ants are discouraged by planting mints, particularly pennyroyal and peppermint.



Having established what you want in a garden, you can then proceed to drawing a plan. You don't need to be an artist to draw your own plan; and inevitably, you will end up with a better garden, and fewer mistakes, if you sketch a garden design on paper before you start turning the soil. Planning your garden can be a lot of fun, and remember it's a lot cheaper to make your mistakes on paper!

Follow this step by step process and you can't go too far wrong:

  1. Draw a sketch of your property (preferably to scale) as it is now. A builders plan is often good to work off (all you have to do is trace over it).
  2. Make up a list of things you want to put in the garden (eg. washing line, shed, bbq, lawn area, vegie garden, children's swing etc).
  3. Draw in pencil where you think the best place would be to put each of these things.
  4. Now stand back and think for a week or so. If you like, ask friends or relatives what they think about where you plan to put things. Use a bit of common sense and consider whether each of these things is located in the best place.
  5. Rearrange the location of these different components, and settle on final locations.
  6. Fill in the gaps, placing lawn, shrubs, paving, mulch, gravel, etc. between the various components.

Gardens can tend to reflect the personality of the people who create them. Informal people tend to create informal gardens, and formal people tend to create very ordered, neat gardens.
To plan a good garden requires the right frame of mind. If you approach the garden as a chore, that will reflect in the design. Gardens which impress are ones designed with a little flair, and perhaps the application of some lateral thinking. Don't be restricted to duplicating what everyone else has. Your garden is your chance to stamp your environment with your own personal character.

Be different! Interesting gardens need a little daring and imagination.


Become a Professional Garden Designer -Study our Garden Design Certificate: click here


More from ACS