Tips for Starting Your Garden Design

When looking at a garden or potential garden for the first time there are some basics to consider. I recommend you spend sometime thinking about these issues and build the consequences into your plans. Brains baffles brawn in a new garden – well begun is half done.

Himalayan garden sculpture

Location Location

  • Understand the region and area where the garden is located and think about what it may mean. An East coast Scottish location will be colder than Essex but a West coast location may benefit from the warmer gulf stream. Seaside may be windier than a riverside spot.
  • What are the surrounding environmental features such as mountains that could influence rainfall
  • What is the underlying rock structure, limestone or chalk will not favour acid loving plants
  • What is the aspect of the garden or which direction is the sun
  • Where is the prevailing wind – in the UK this is most often from the west

Existing Features

  • What buildings exist and do they provide shade, shelter from wind or a rain shadow (area that gets little or nor rain due to the building)
  • Are there streams, trees, hedges, walls or other permanent features.
  • Hedges can be good wind breaks but the soil will probably be poor and dry underneath
  • Walls may be dry depending on aspect but can support climbers and reflect suns warmth
  • Streams may be developed into natural gardens or become water features
  • Deciduous trees appear distinctly different at different times of the year so check what sort of tree and what its ultimate size and habit may be.

Soil Condition

  • Take samples of soil and test them. Is it sandy, clay or loam soil ( a quick test is to roll a lump of damp soil in your hand sandy soil will appear gritty and wont ball, clay will appear smooth and form a solid ball and loam will ball but then crumble).
  • Is the soil acid alkaline or neutral – test kits are available but check next door gardens if they have Heathers, Rhododendrons and Camelias then it may be an acid soil area.
  • Is the soil deep and full of organic matter ( or like most peoples is need of TLC)

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