Create Your Dream Garden in 5 Simple Steps

A simple recipe filled with inspiration…

Step 1 – The plan

How to create your dream garden can definitely be started from your desk, it requires no digging and no horticultural expertise!

Here I am starting a series of articles that will guide you through this by sharing insights and inspiration from our award-winning garden design team. Our 700 garden projects to date cover almost any space you can think of. We have tried here to draw out the parts that are most useful, and that applicable to pretty much all projects. Whether you are a garden lover or just want a quiet barbecue space, there will be some ideas for you here.

Firepit garden

If you love plants and gardens, have a grand design in mind, or just want an outdoor room for entertaining, I hope to set you on the right track to create your dream garden. Each section has a simple approach and lots more to delve into if you are keen- and we are here to help just contact us here

You don’t need to do this all in order- If you want to leap straight to lots of great images and think lovely Summer thoughts then hop to Step 2!… But come back to the basics at some point as you will need them.

5 Steps to create your perfect garden


A)     What have you already got?

It is easy to forget this- some basics such as orientation, setting, and scale are essential. A simple hand drawn plan can cover most of this, particularly on a smaller plot. On a larger plot or one with a complex or steep slope, a good detailed survey plan is an absolute must. Local surveyors are not expensive, and it will be a useful base document for many projects.

Places to look:

  • The planning portal- if your house is less than 10 years old or any building work has been done there will probably be plans available on line. Click here  and put your postcode in to work out which council you are hunting on.
  • Google Earth can be really useful as an overview depending on your plot and tree cover
  • Create one yourself using tape measures or pacing out and graph paper. Levels are hard to do accurately without a laser level, but you can estimate and at least mark on your plan (“Steep bank here”, or “step up 2 steps here”)

You need to mark the overall scale (pacing it out is ok as a start) and main features like the footprint of the house. You need positions of doors and windows, and lines and arrows to show things you want to address. Include notes like “poor fencing”, “neighbours overlook us from here” or “afternoon sun hits here”. Ideas often begin to pop into your head at this point- “Can we lose this tree?” “morning sun- seats here?”.  This is for information and doesn’t need to be artistic (see the example below).

Bubble diagram for garden planning

Lastly, note what you love in your site as a whole. Many people buy a house because they love the garden (or its potential) so lets make sure we highlight that. Are there views from upstairs windows that are lovely, or is there a sheltered spot in the garden you like to sit in. Did you always want a Monkey Puzzle in your garden, or a rockery?….

Monkey Puzzle Tree

B)     What else do you need or want?

Wish list time! You officially have permission to dream…what do you want in your garden.

  • Create a list of your practical needs such as bin stores, a new patio, a play frame and a vegetable patch.
  • Add things you are keen to explore such as a water feature or firepit area, even if you have no idea what this might look like or how it would work
  • Note the items you would love to see if you can incorporate, but that you may choose to postpone- such as a yoga studio, a stream or a hot-tub

C) How will you use the garden?

Think about what you like to do in your garden as much as the things you want there. To create your dream garden it is as much about making sure you can use it how you want to, as making it look beautiful.

It is worth thinking hard about who uses the garden, who would like to and how. How many people are you planning for? Big party gardens are very different from those intended for more intimate family use. If you have or want a gym or garden studio do you need to make sure you have a well lit “dry line” to this from the house?

Outdoor entertaining is a key part of this.  Will you be largely just barbecuing, or never eating outside? Do you want a full outdoor kitchen? Do you need shelter from sun or from rain?

What do you like about your current garden? This can be specific elements, spaces or just a look. What bugs you most?

The Hacienda Garden Question..

A really useful question to ask is “If you could have any sort of garden what would it be?”

Dont worry about what you think you can have, what you can afford, or what your site might suit. This question is often very revealing. Do you want a peaceful haven or a stunning vista to look at from your house? Do you want a stunning contemporary statement, or would you really love a classic cottage garden? Do you typically just see “jobs” everywhere so don’t care as long as it is neat?

We cant magically create acres of land from a roof terrace, but it is almost always possible to capture some of the feel you want. It might be a detail, a change to the theme or feel, or a geometry that is key.

Many years ago, a client in Holloway, North London, when asked this, said they would really love a “Hacienda Garden”. Given their tiny enclosed and dark courtyard this seemed far fetched, but the comment completely changed the direction of the transformation, and the results were delightful. Close your eyes and have a go at answering this question for yourself!

Courtyard garden with Trellis

This covers the absolute basics and getting this far is a great start.

We are happy to help, and a discussion that covers all of this would typically for the first part of any design consultation. Just call or email us if you would like a chat (details are here )  Feel free to send us your diagrams and lists (I would love to add some here) and if we use them, we will sketch a suggested design layout for you based on your site analysis (you can then use that as the basis to go through the next few steps!).

Step 2 coming shortly- Overall Style

How to define this and what to look for!

This is the first part in our series of Articles linked under- “5 steps to creating your dream garden”. Do browse for other blogs here on our news pages here

CGLA are an award winning team of Garden Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here