Garden design for large gardens: 3 garden designer techniques to make the most of a larger garden
Many of us yearn for a larger garden. More space for the kids to play, more space for the lawn we’ve always wanted, more space for more plants. And yet it seems that our gardens are getting smaller by the year. Plots for new houses (many of which were actually previously part of somebody else's garden) seem to be getting more and more compact, and inevitably it is the garden that often gives way to enable a slightly larger internal living space.
Despite this, one really common reason for a customer to seek out help from a professional garden designer is a feeling that a garden is too large. For people 'lucky' enough to have lots of outdoor space there can often be a real concern that there is too much to do, too many plants, and too many options.
Big can, however, most definitely be beautiful, and there are strategies that all good garden designers will use whenever they are asked to design a larger gardens.
1. Designing our perfect seating and entertaining area
Whilst a larger garden doesn't automatically demand an enormous budget, money is often an issue. It is unlikely, therefore, that we are going to be able to create an intricate garden throughout the whole of our outside space (I’d argue that you probably wouldn’t want to anyway, but we’ll perhaps save that for another time).
Good gardens have a definite feeling of balance about them, and in a larger garden this can be achieved by a successful blend of formal and informal spaces. By 'formal' I don’t necessarily mean precisely clipped topiary or expertly manicured lawns (although both can be breathtakingly good in the right setting), but more that the areas of the garden that we use or visit most often will usually be more 'ordered'. They will have a clearly defined shape, a considered choice of materials, and are often 'tidier'.
For many of us, the most important part of our garden is our main seating and entertaining area. By definition, this needs to have a sense of purpose, and it needs to be practical. This usually means that it needs to be relatively close to the house. As always, there's a balance here- if it is too far away from the kitchen it will quickly become very frustrating, but if it never gets the afternoon or evening sun we are unlikely to use it that often. The biggest tip, however, is to make sure that our main seating and entertaining area is large enough to comfortably seat the number of people who are going to regularly use it. We've got the space, so let's make sure we use it.
In essence, positioning the most frequently used spaces closer to the house will ensure that they are likely be more enjoyable and more comfortable to use. These areas can then ‘blend’ out into areas that are often considered to be ‘less formal’, such as lawn, planting and trees.
Successful informal areas are also really important to a balanced garden, but it is important to recognise that for many of us they are most frequently ‘visited’ by the eye rather than the foot. They will provide the pleasant views from the house and from our seating and entertaining areas, and will undoubtedly spend time in them, but just not as often as our more formal spaces.
2. Garden design for movement and direction: focusing on our garden's views and paths
I firmly believe that every successful garden needs a sense of movement and direction, and that this is especially important for larger spaces. This can be achieved by creating a journey or route to explore the garden, and again it is important to remember that we most often enjoy the garden through our eyes. We are all naturally inquisitive (to varying degrees perhaps!), and by ensuring that it is impossible to see everything from a single location we 'invite' ourselves and our guests to walk through the garden to ‘explore’ its delights.
Having internal screening and hidden spaces might sound counter-intuitive. After all, we've got a large garden and we don't want to make it look smaller. In reality, however, a garden in which we can see everything straightaway never feels as big as one where we can't, and there is far less encouragement to get outside and explore.
If we are fortunate enough to have a stunning view beyond our garden’s boundaries then we really should do all we can to make the most of it. I’ve designed some delightful gardens that are by necessity ‘self-contained’ and ‘inwards looking’, but nothing beats a garden with a special view. Maybe we could frame our view with carefully positioned trees or planting, or perhaps we could direct a path to help lead the eye? If nothing else, we should position a bench from which to enjoy it.
If we don’t have the benefit of an external view then we can create our own ‘internal’ views or focal points. This needn’t be complicated, it might simply be a piece of sculpture, a particularly interesting tree, or simply a favourite bench. Whatever our internal view is, it needs to catch our eye and make us smile. If done well, focal points will instantly give our garden a sense of purpose and interest. And let's not stop at just one…medium to larger gardens can support two, three or even more focal points to create internal views.
3. Garden design with scale
It may sound obvious, but larger spaces really do demand a sense of scale. It doesn’t automatically follow that objects and features should be larger in a bigger garden and smaller in a more compact garden (actually, over-sized things can work really well in a smaller space), but it is important to remember that in a larger garden we may often be looking at things from a greater distance.
This means that a bench positioned at the end of the garden needs to be easily visible from the house if it is to successfully serve as an effective focal point (remember: it should ‘invite’ us out into the garden). To the same end, it is important to consider materials and colour. A timber bench may look wonderful from close quarters, but may be lost over a distance of 30m. A brightly painted bench, however, will probably stand out rather better, and make us smile every time we see it.
Ultimately, and as I always say to my garden design customers, it is important to remember that we often experience our gardens more from inside the house than from the outside. It’s vitally important, therefore, that we are able to see one or more of our key focal points from our significant doors and windows. Kitchen windows are important here, but so are living room, study and bedroom windows if they overlook the garden.
OK, so there we have it. Let's use these three garden designer strategies to help make designing a larger garden a little less daunting.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.