The first step to garden design is to deciding the roles it will play.
Just as you need the measurements of a room to know what furniture you can fit in it, this is where a garden design starts. Start by getting the accurate length and width of the area. The final results depend on taking good dimensions. The layout of your garden plan has to cover many different things before you ever start putting in plants. You will get a lot more joy out of a garden that has good workable space than one where the simplest chores are frustrating.
A true garden is never built in a day. The most beautiful ones took years to reach the richness the photographer caught with the lens. A garden is a journey and your plan serves a road map. It is a detailed set of directions meant to guide you and your soil into the future. Together you will slowly build as time and money allows.
The most fulfilling outdoor living rooms are surrounded by plant life.
What better place is there for eating and entertaining outdoors than a space that is embraced by color and nature? This is a permanent element and is the first space to designate. The size must allow cooking and gatherings that work well. For those who cannot include an outdoor kitchen, you will want to place it close to the kitchen. Plan out the seating and cooking areas making sure your outdoor furniture is adequate.
Traffic patterns are part of your outdoor room and the garden itself. Don’t forget about traffic flow when people are seated. You need paths and walkways that allow for movement of arriving guests and garden equipment. Never make a walk or path under 3-feet wide. Maintenance chores are difficult and even painful when the clearance doesn’t allow easy maneuvering. Getting gut punched by the abrupt hang-up of a wheelbarrow is never pleasant.
Planting beds that are no more than 6-feet across between your paths will allow you easier reach for maintenance. Most recommendations say 4-feet, but many plants you will want to enjoy in the garden may reach a width of 5-feet or more in the future. Also to allow for a tiered planting that looks great from all sides a 6-foot width will hold 3 rows of perennial plants.
Gravel paths are okay but mulch or pavers are more user-friendly.
Going barefoot in the garden is marvelous on a warm day. You won’t be able to do that with a gravel path, plus the stone will scatter everywhere. Mulches break down over time and return to dirt, which is always a welcome thing to have more of on site. The mulched path will need to be lowered again about every 5 years. The effort gives you new soil and keeps the path from rising above your beds.
Paver walks are definitely lower maintenance but isn’t an inexpensive option. Stone flagging is a popular and beautiful choice but is going to be more costly than mulch too. In warmer climates, used brick is a good option. You can also get a lot of textural interest and character from the path that alternates different types of materials. This is a great choice for the add-on-as-you-go garden builder.
Continued in More Elements of Garden Design.