Garden ideas – 24 beautiful designs you'll love for your yard
Garden ideas – beautiful designs you'll love for your yard
This round-up of garden ideas will help inspire you to create a wonderful retreat in your backyard. Garden ideas can cover everything from quick improvements, such as new containers packed with blooms to larger-scale projects, such as redesigning an area of your garden for vegetables.
In good weather, our gardens are our go-to spaces. They have the power to create the peace, purpose and pleasure we all need in our lives. Plus, they can provide us with cut flowers, vegetables and herbs.
So, if you're looking for garden inspiration and design ideas for your outdoor spaces, look no further than our pick of the best garden ideas for any size or shape of space.
We have covered garden ideas of every manner in this guide, from coastal to English to vegetable gardens. Take inspiration to create a space that's personal, and special, to you, whether a relaxed and informal family space, or a more formal garden design.
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Grow a garden you can bring indoors
If you love flowers, why not plan a cut flower garden? All this really involves is planning your planting around the blooms you love. It might be that you indulge in typical English garden ideas, such as rose gardens, for example, or perhaps Mediterranean gardens are more suited to your local climate?
'Plant roses among grasses and perennials, with the plan to let them intermingle,' says award-winning garden designer Colm Joseph. 'When choosing roses, go for those with simpler, open flowers that are closer to the wild or hedgerow roses, rather than anything too ornamental or blousy. Although wild roses only usually flower once in early summer, they produce beautiful hips for fall and winter interest.'
And if you're looking to keep your roses – and all other plants – healthy, then you may need to learn how to add calcium to soil. This act will ensure the soil is at the best pH for growth as they encourage strong cell walls that ensure the plant grows upright.
Grow a kitchen or herb garden
You needn't have a large space to grow fruit, vegetables or herb. You can be creative with kitchen gardens and grow it all in one huge pot, or in a series of container gardening.
'If you are a beginner to gardening or have little time for maintaining a garden, herb garden ideas are simple and satisfying,' says Homes & Gardens' garden editor Rachel Crow. 'You can grow enough in a container like the one above, in a window planter or even indoors.'
Pack a punch in a narrow space
If you are looking for plenty of planting but have a thin plot, look to clever narrow garden ideas. One of the best is to put in neat raised beds and layer planting, from tall to mid-height to low to make your flower beds pack a punch.
'Planting trees to espalier is a good way to create screening and plenty of greenery without allowing trees' branches to protrude into a narrow garden,' says Rachel Crow.
Future / Annaick Guitteny
Consider plants for a north-facing plot
If your garden gets little natural light, you'll need to look specifically for north-facing gardens. For your borders, this includes the best shade plants, including shrubs that can keep your garden green throughout summer and winter.
But it will also include tricks to keep the garden light and bright, from choosing white-flowering plants to laying pale-colored, light-reflecting stone or wood for your patio. There are many different white gardens you could try.
Plan vertical planting into a small space
Vertical gardens include everything from living walls through to planting on terraces in sloping gardens.
'Don't be afraid to use tall or upright plants to emphasize the verticality of your plot,' says gardening writer Natasha Goodfellow. 'Sloping gardens can be difficult to work with but they are also often far more interesting and appear larger than a flatter site.'
Future / Mark Bolton
Create a view
Designing a vista that you can enjoy just a step from your property is top of the garden ideas wish list. Think about how entertaining spaces can flow out from the house with seating areas and smart patios.
In this total overhaul of an overgrown five acre site, central to the design is the large terrace area that sweeps around the house allowing views straight out from the kitchen and living room across colourful borders to the lake and wildflower meadow beyond.
‘To maintain those views, patio planting across the terrace is predominantly low with swathes of colour from Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’, Rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’ and Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’,' says Claire Merriman of Claire Merriman Design.
'Repeated spheres of Elaeagnus ebbingei, Hebe topiaria and Pittosporum tobira Nanum pull the areas of the terrace together while stunning multi-stem Koelreuteria paniculata trees allow views out into the wider landscape.’
Pots on the terrace allow seasonal planting to be added throughout the year.
Claire Merriman Design
Design with water in mind
Water is a wonderful element to incorporate into outdoor spaces. Not only will it attract wildlife but the sight and sound can be incredibly soothing especially in town scenarios.
‘The magnificent scale of an antique limestone trough adds immediate importance to this city garden,’ says garden designer Butter Wakefield. ‘It effortlessly creates a sense of drama whilst providing a focal point to the immense side elevation of the house.’
For a unique water feature, frame a trough like this with a combination of white and pale pink climbing roses and the evergreen jasmine.
Divide a large lawn with hedges
‘Over-large lawns can feel purpose-less,’ says designer Charlotte Rowe. Dividing the space into garden rooms will ensure that green spaces have different purposes, such as a terrace area for eating or a patch for growing vegetables.
In this project, a rethink of a garden resulted in two lawns separated by layers of box and hornbeam as well as pleached hornbeam trees, which is among the ideas for landscaping with evergreens.
‘The pleached central hedge cleverly divides the garden, but also allows views down into the shadier part of the garden where the owners have raised garden beds with vegetables and salads as well as a garden shed,’ adds Charlotte Rowe.
Subtle lighting makes this garden atmospheric at night – key trees and pleached hornbeams are uplit while Cor-Ten steel posts, with a rusty finish, create low level lighting along the gravel paths.
Create presence and proportion
In big open spaces, this is one of those garden ideas where it is possible to create interest and intrigue with large-scale topiary and symmetry. The classical Georgian style house in this project, designed by Jo Alderson Phillips and Rob Jones, needed a garden of equal presence and proportion and was built on the site of a neglected tennis court.
‘The anchors here are a succession of yew topiary domes leading through each colour coordinated garden with the owner’s sculptures creating beautiful sight lines,’ say the designers. ‘We bought the topiary, which each weighed two tonnes, at Solitair in Belgium, a nursery that specialises in these fantastic mature specimens.’
Hedges and intriguing doorways around the garden are planted with Ilex crenata ‘Dark Green’ (Japanese box) and more structural evergreens are provided by umbrella pruned Pinus sylvestris with Osmanthus fragrans providing scent later in the year.
Define a path
Whatever the shape or size of your garden, it will almost certainly have a path that travels from the back door to the end of your garden. Think about the function as well as aesthetic when looking at garden paths and deciding on the line or curve of your path.
In this garden by Charlotte Rowe, in the far end of the garden a swathe of Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ fragrances the air alongside the path, providing summer nectar for the bees. Understated chunky wooden benches are placed on the other side and under the shade of the garden’s mature trees to create a place to sit and admire the garden.
Install a fireplace
Whatever the season or climate, a permanent outdoor fireplace is a design focal point as well as a source of heat in the cooler times of the day.
Bear in mind that these kinds of fireplaces need to have specialist installation and look for high quality, compact outdoor fires that can withstand year-round weather conditions and use.
Be bold with color
Color is the new eye catcher for garden ideas. It's often the norm in classic gardens to paint outdoor details in harmonious colors to blend in with surroundings, but outdoor worthy paint formulas are meaning that we can paint architectural features, such as pillars, garden walls and screens in all manner of uplifting hues.
‘We love the idea of adding unique combinations to create a Mediterranean feel amongst dark green foliage,' says Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director of Little Greene.
Pair a piercing blue paint like 'Marine Blue' on architectural details and pillars with a hit of bright sunshine yellow using plant pots painted in 'Mister David'.
Create a night garden
Good outdoor lighting are key to creating a perfect ambience outdoors and adds a certain je ne sais quoi to social events. Chosen carefully, it submerges everything in a warm glow while adding a magical touch to your evening.
‘Garland lights are a classic way to create a celebratory atmosphere as night falls – a little roof of light which literally brings people closer together,’ says Coralie Claeys, Managing Director of Vincent Sheppard.
These ‘Light My Table’ string lights can be clipped onto the sides of a table and don’t need to be fixed to anything nearby.
Be playful with sculpture
When embellishing the garden with additional decoration like a sculpture, consider its surrounding environment and the impact your garden decor may have on your chosen design and overall space.
‘Decorative items can both harmonize with their immediate surroundings in tone, texture and form or, indeed, create a striking contrast,’ says sculptor David Harber.
‘For example, a bright, bold reflective metal piece will both mirror its immediate environment and effectively borrow character and charm from the planting and landscaping surrounding it.’
Take tiles from inside to outside
Incorporating decorative tiles into an outdoor scheme can create a transition from the house to the garden. This can be particularly effective if the same tiles are used inside and out creating a fluid line from interior to exterior.
'Decorative tiles also work particularly well in small gardens,' says Lee Thornley, founder of Bert and May, 'and can help to define zones.'
Lay them on the floor and up walls to create an inviting feature or outdoor room – this works particularly well if you are looking for outdoor kitchens which demands a natural transition between indoors and out.
Use screens to define areas
Garden screens are one of those garden ideas that are an excellent way to create little sanctuaries. Great for providing both garden screening from neighbors and some faraway escapism with pretty Moroccan inspired fretwork.
‘Be creative with the screens you use, using them to section off areas of your outside space to create specific relaxation zones,’ says Sophie Birkert, founder of Screen with Envy. ‘This year has seen the home become multifunctional and this can be extended into the garden, with different sectioned off areas designated for different activities.’
How about a kids-only area and a cozy snug just for the adults?
Screen with Envy
Choose furniture to last
When buying garden furniture, it’s important to think about maximising its use. Look at arrangements that focus on comfort which will set the scene for a lazy brunch, or smart armchairs which add a little glamour for cocktail hour.
‘Sun-soaked spaces are ideal for al fresco entertaining, so choose lightweight furniture that you are able to move your seating to follow the best light,’ says Barlow Tyrie.
A pedestal table with taller legs will create elegant long shadows as time passes, and a high vantage point dramatically enhances your view of the garden and beyond.
Add a firepit area
A moveable heat source in the garden means we can stay out longer and later whatever the season. Choose from backyard fire pits, chimneas, and bowls.
‘I have a firepit in my garden that also doubles up as a barbecue,’ says designer Sarah Vanrenen, ‘and we enjoy many nights outside by the fire cooking and keeping warm at the same time.’
Create a zone in your outdoor space that feels like an outdoor living room or cozy nook.
‘Sometimes a patio can be daunting because there are no defining walls or parameters so I often treat gardens as I do houses, and make “rooms”, by compartmentalising with planting to make different and interesting areas to go to and to sit in,' adds Sarah.
Make your garden bee-friendly
Every garden regardless of size can be both bee friendly and beautiful. Bees, like us, favour flowers with bountiful open blooms, and long flowering seasons.
‘Bees are after pollen and nectar and generous examples include geraniums, lavender, open dahlias and globe thistle,’ says Sean McMenemy, Director of Ark Wildlife. ‘Plus herbs such as marjoram, sage and chives and flowering shrubs like buddleia, cotoneaster and apple blossom.’
Why not make a bee ‘nectar filling station? It’s simply a pot or pots filled with flowers that attract bees and a shallow dish of water (bees need to drink). Make sure you keep flowers blooming in the pot from March to September by changing them as they fade.
Position a pergola
A pergola is a simple way to create an enclosed space with a smattering of fragrance if the right plants are incorporated. Be sure of your reasons for embarking on this kind of project before you get going as size, position and planning permission all need to be considered when you're looking at pergolas.
‘Only have a pergola or an arbor if you think you absolutely need one,’ says designer Charlotte Rowe. ‘I say this, as often people think that they will give you shelter from the rain when in fact they really don’t and are more useful as a garden shade idea providing shade from the sun. So my first tip would be to think carefully about whether a pergola or arbor will add value to your garden and be sure that it will not give you too much shade!’
Then consider position. You can create a sense of romance with your chosen placement.
Garden designer Rebecca Smith recommends a pergola that arches over a path through the garden to create a shaded and scented tunnel: ‘In a long garden, a pergola placed at the end of the garden can create a “destination” for different times of day and can also help screen a garage or garden shed for view,’ she says.
Future / Mark Bolton
Dress your space
When designing an outdoor space it’s important to consider a number of things, primarily comfortable seating, lighting and texture.
‘Our Hayburn sofas are the perfect way to combine comfort and relaxation with contemporary aesthetic and efficient design,’ says George Miller, Home Designer at Neptune, of the brand's patio furnitures.
‘With deep-seated cushions and an all-weather wicker-weave base, the seating has been designed to be outside rain or shine. Add a simple sheepskin or throw to ward off the cool evening chill and scatter cushions for a drop of color. Dressing your space with layers will create character, personality and an inviting atmosphere.'
As for lighting, weather-proof cordless lamps and festoon lights are both perfect for sliding into the darker nights.
In their various finishes – ranging from wood or stone effects to tactile surfaces that resemble concrete – tiles combine superlative appearance with outstanding longevity.
Be sure that whatever you choose for your patio the materials are resistant to loads, slipping, frost, thermal shock, mould, stains and the action of chemicals including salt, often used to prevent ice on outdoor surfaces.
Gardens, patios or paths across lawns can be laid dry on sand and gravel for a contemporary take and facilitates drainage.
Work with a garden designer
‘Most designers are “civil engineers” with a love of plants, meaning that the entire project comes under their jurisdiction,’ says Louisa Bell MSGD.
But it’s not just about the technical side. ‘A good designer has the imagination to create a bespoke design for you,' says Juliet Sargeant FSGD, 'plus the ingenuity to solve the site problems and the practical experience to implement the plans cost-effectively.’
Being clear about your needs from the offset will help with the design process and a good designer will make sure to draw out every detail about exactly what your wants and needs are – knowing how to commission a garden designer will help get the best from them.
‘The best projects are formed by a great working relationship and the process is fun. The right designer will be able to help in the right way,’ add Ben Chandler of Farlam & Chandler.
Farlam and Chandler
Define a space with a rug
For courtyard gardens, roof gardens, terraces, yards or other outdoor areas, a rug is a useful way to define a zone and create a purposeful area. Go for an outdoor rug that has the design and feel of its indoor cousins but is water and weatherproof.
‘I like to design rugs that are visually amazing, that people will enjoy,’ says Nani Marquina of nanimarquina.
Choose materials that are weather resistant such as recycled PET fiber that gives a second lease of life to plastic bottles, guaranteeing the traceability and certification of the materials and the manufacturing processes.
Originally published on Homes & Gardens
The design tips, garden ideas and planting tricks you need for the perfect backyard