What is Landscaping for UK Gardens 

By  Enda

Think and Plan Before Landscaping Your Garden

Landscaping is a term that in its literal sense means shaping the land. The more common interpretation of landscaping is to create the best look for your garden. Landscaping takes into consideration the type of soil you have, the climate, and the natural resources available to create an outdoor space that you can enjoy.

Landscaping, even for a small garden, is usually a fairly big task to undertake. Not only does it cost money, it will also take up quite a lot of time and energy. Almost always you will end up paying a professional landscaper, if you want to have the very best designs..

However before you hire that professional, here are some tips that could save you both time and money. Landscape gardeners are never a cheap option, though many of them are very good at what they do.

In our opinion, the principle of landscape gardening is often over rated and really not that necessary, especially for a small garden. For medium to larger gardens landscaping really can make quite a difference. If you watch any gardening shows on TV, you may hear landscaping compared to the painting of a picture. Personally  we think that is over stating it a bit, but there are a few similarities.

At school, if you did art, your art-work teacher has most likely explained that any good picture should have a point of chief interest. That is the item or area that catches the eye and draws the viewer into the scene. This is usually referred to as a focal point.

The rest of the painting simply complements the central idea. In that way landscape gardening is indeed the same idea. In your mind there should be some kind of picture or design of what the end result will look like.

Lack of Landscaping Ideas

landscaping gardens in the UK

The biggest problem for most people is that they have little or no knowledge about gardening. Simply because of that, they believe that planning a garden out, and making it look good is simply beyond their comprehension.

When it comes to considering a landscape of any kind, we would like you to know that you actually don't need any knowledge at all. The simplest method of working out what you would like your garden to be is to do nothing more than have a look around your neighbourhood.

Pick out those things that you do like and just make a simple note of them We will give you a few ideas of what we mean:

  • Lawns - do you like a nice lawn, is it striped, a nice rich green colour, etc
  • Garden borders - Like the idea of a border around your garden? Then what width is the border and what colour of plants do you like, what type of plants, what height are they?
  • Hedges - Did you see any nice hedges that you like? If so make a note of their colour and what height you would like yours to be?
  • Trees, shrubs, bushes and plants - As above, just make a note of colours and size.

Now you are not going to be able to landscape a garden with those ideas, but you will know what you actually like. In our opinion that is even more important as you are the person who will have to look at it every day of your life.

Landscaping Ideas to Landscaping Design

If you have had a good look around, when you are out and about, then you should have a reasonable idea of what you like. If you have seen a nice path, was it paved, made of bricks or gravel? All those small details help create in your mind what the various elements of a garden are.

Our advice is to make small notes of the details that you like. Sketch out on some paper, those ideas that you like and simply have a play around with them, and try to imagine if those ideas would work in your garden.

Now you could of course be thinking of landscaping a front garden, a back garden or a side garden. If you have to do all of these, then just do one at a time.

Landscaping Design for Front Gardens

front garden landscaping

In most cases the garden at the front of the home is the showcase part of your home. The way your front garden looks is an important consideration. Most home owners will have some form of a fence or hedge with gates. Some home owners may have a brick wall with gates. There will be many variations, but essentially there will be some type of boundary around your front garden.

There will be a pathway or driveway to the front door. This could be cement, tarmac, bricks or something as simple as a gravel path. Some people will have enough room to park their car there, and some will not.

The garden itself could comprise of a lawn, some flowers, shrubs and if big enough some trees.

If you are starting from scratch, then these are certainly the elements that you should consider for a front garden.

Start with a sketch of your existing garden, and then beside that sketch, make another one of what you would like it to look like. That way you can quickly see the changes that you need to make. You don't need to make these changes all at once. You can phase them over time and just do one thing at a time, but do it really well.


A well kept lawn with rich green grass instantly will make any landscaped garden stand out. In reality, caring for your lawn does not take a lot of time and effort. If you feed and water grass and keep it free from weeds, it will always look good. Regular mowing then helps the grass to look neat and tidy. If you like stripes, then a roller at the rear of your lawnmower will take care of those.


There are many choices when it comes to the type of hedge that you want to have. Many homes in the UK have a pivot hedge and these look great and are very easy to maintain. There are however beech, box, conifer, evergreen, fast growing, laurel and lavender to name but a few.

The key is to find out which type you like, and then to check out if it grows well in the area that you live. We would also strongly advise finding out how fast these grow and how much maintenance they will need. Check at your local garden centre as they really do have all the answers.

Paths & Driveways

In almost all cases, this will be the most expensive element of your front garden landscape. That is because these are very hard to do by yourself. It will almost always require the need for a builder or a landscape gardener. It really depends on the materials that you pick, and the cost of the builder to do the work.

It also depends if you plan on parking your car in the driveway. Having the weight of a vehicle in your driveway requires a much stronger foundation, and as such, will always be a more expensive option.

Landscaping Design for Rear Gardens

The rear garden is clearly going to be the one at the back of the house. Typically there may be a lawn, a patio or yard and perhaps a decking of some kind. There is also usually a shed and/or garage and for most people this is where the waste bins will be located.

Generally speaking it is a more practical and lived in area, if the weather permits. It has a lot more potential for landscaping and design.

As with the front garden, make two sketches, one of the existing setup, and one of the garden style that you would like. That helps you easily see what, you need to start working on, and then do one small bit at a time.

patio landscaping

Keep a very close eye on your budget when you plan on landscaping your back garden. Costs can very quickly build up for any type of major work. Decks and patios are never going to be a cheap option, and they usually require the use of a builder or landscape gardener.

Landscaping Design for Side Gardens

how to landscape a side garden

The side garden can be quite tricky to get right. It really does depend on the size and the length of that garden as to what you can do with that.

A lawn is the simplest to do though it will need maintenance. Some people prefer planting some shrubs, and then covering those in with tree bark. Others will perhaps pave or use bricks on a side garden.

The side garden will vary a lot in design. The things you should consider are ease of maintenance and the appearance. Small side gardens are better for shrubs and some mulching we believe. Larger side gardens, do look better with a lwan and trees if you have the capacity.

Core Principles of Landscaping Design

There are a few golden rules for landscaping which are worth your consideration. These are:

  • How much time will you have to maintain your garden?
  • What features do you really want to have?
  • How much money do you have to spend on your garden?
  • What facilities do you want to have?
  • What plants and shrubs grow best in certain areas of your garden?
  • Formal and informal landscaping

How much time will you have to maintain your garden?

For us this is the really important and key consideration as there are two time considerations:

  1. How much time do you have to make the changes?
  2. How much time will you have to keep maintaining it?

With any form of landscaping, there is the initial and the most exciting work. This is where you can see your garden start to be transformed. Depending on your ambitions, this can be a few days to a few months. Make sure that you have the available time to get it done.

What is probably even more important is how much time you will need to maintain the gardens on a regular basis.

What features do you really want to have?

ideas for garden arches

A simple garden arch

You are never spoiled for choice when it comes to garden features. From a simple shrub to a patio, to a garden arch, there are any number of features that you can have in your garden. The important thing is to consider what is both practical for your garden, and what features will bring you the most pleasure.

As we mentioned above, when picking these out, always try to remember how much maintenance they will require. Costs should also be a very important consideration. Features such as decking, patios, external electricity, ponds etc can be an expensive option.

These also require a great deal of planning.

How much money do you have to spend on your garden?

In many cases, when it comes to landscaping it is likely that you will have to spend some money. If you plan on getting a garden designed and installed by a professional landscaper, that can get very expensive. The more features that you want to have then of course the more it will cost.

If you are able to, and have some knowledge, then you can reduce a lot of the cost, by doing most of the hard work yourself. We would always highly recommend reading as much information as you can, especially in the early planning stage. That helps you decide your options, and also allows you to take those initial plans to a costing stage.

There are some very big ticket items such as a new garage, a shed, a pond, a patio or a deck. These can easily cost £1,000 just for materials, and more that that, depending on what design you want. Installation costs can quickly go through the roof, so just be aware of how much you are willing, or can afford to spend.

What facilities do you want to have?

When we mention the word "facilities" we are referring to utilities. These are of course things like water, electricity and heating. As an example if you have a pond with moving water, that will require a pump of some kind. That pump will usually be powered by electricity, or even by solar.

The reason we mention this is that depending on what you need, or want to have, you may have to install cables and pipes in your gardens. These should be planned out at an early stage.

What plants and shrubs grow best in certain areas of your garden?

The types of plants and shrubs are always a matter of personal taste. Some plants grow well in the shade, others need partial shade and some grow really well in full shade. So when planning out your garden, and you want to grow plants, then it is worth making notes about where the sun shines at different times of the year.

You should also know your soil type. With that information, you should be able to carefully plant out your trees, shrubs and plants and ensure that they grow well and are healthy.

Formal and Informal Landscaping

Landscape gardening may follow along quite formal lines or along informal lines. Formal landscaping would have a look of straight paths, straight rows in stiff beds, everything, as the name tells, perfectly formal.

The informal landscape design means that you really don't follow any strict rules. Each method has its ups and downs.

The formal arrangement can look over traditional and rigid. The informal can look just too haphazard.

When you are considering a path just remember that the path should always lead somewhere. As an example a path from the back door to the decking at the bottom of the garden.

Almost always it is better to stick to straight paths unless you can make a really beautiful curve.

Key Elements of Landscaping Design

No matter what type of landscaping you go for, there are going to be some key elements. Let's have a look at those.

The Lawn

Lawns and the quality of the grass on your lawn are an important consideration. A lawn creates a feeling of space to even small areas. It is always a good idea to have some type of lawn but be aware that they need regular cutting and caring for especially during the Spring, Summer and Autumn months.

That means having the time to mow the lawn and give it a couple of treatments a year.

If you have children, then you will need a tougher type of grass that can stand up to the wear and tear. If you are child free then you can go for a higher quality grass, and a much better looking lawn.

If you want really low maintenance then artificial grass is certainly a very good option.

Also with lawns try and keep them open. Too many trees, with little flower beds here and there, can make a garden look over fussy.

A single tree or a small group of trees and shrubs is a nice arrangement on the lawn. However avoid placing those at the centre of the lawn and allow them to be in the background.

Avoid large over powering trees and those with deep roots.

Shrubs & Hedges

Find out from your local garden centre which shrubs and hedges are popular and will grow well in your location. Again we encourage you to pick those that your like, and to give some consideration to where you are going to plant them.

Certain shrubs are good to use for hedge purposes. A hedge is much nicer that a fence, but it will need regular cutting and pruning.

Garden Paths

Many gardeners like the idea of having a path in the garden, especially a rear garden. This can give you access to decks, patios or simply to be able to hang your washing out. Typical garden paths may be made using gravel, stepping blocks, paved, etc.

Our advice is to not over complicate this. Again the type of path you design will almost always come down to the size of your garden. Straight paths are fairly easy to create, but meandering or curved paths are a much better design, and help guide people through the garden.

Planning & Final Landscape Design

Spend some time thinking about exactly how you want the final design to be. You need to take account of the style and function of your landscape. Do you want to include an area for entertaining? A barbeque? Is there to be an area for children to play, a fishpond or a swimming pool? An idea of the plants you want to be there will also help. Focus on the area where you spend most of your time. That's a good place to start.

Think Before Hiring a Professional

Think twice before hiring a pro. An independent designer might cost you hundreds of dollars when you may be able to access free plans on the internet or at a nursery. But if you have an awkward block such as very steep ground, a pro might give you the expertise to save costly mistakes.

Consider the Style of Your Home

The style of your home must be taken into account. If you have a rural cottage, formal gardens surrounding it will look out of place. Think also about your lifestyle. Do you want to spend hours caring for many beds of annuals or pruning beds of roses? If so, go ahead and plant them, but if you'd rather spend your free time at the beach, then go for an easy-care garden and landscape.

Popular Landscaping Styles

Here are the various landscape styles you can choose for your own garden:

Formal. This style uses lots of straight lines and perfect geometrical shapes. Orderly arrangement of plants instead of random positioning is employed. Close arrangement and pruning is seen on many landscaped gardens with this style.

Informal. This kind of landscaping works well with cosy cottages. Beds with curved edges instead of straight lines and random placement of plants suit this landscape style.

English Garden. This style emphasizes the harmony between the house’s architecture and the garden.

Formal/Informal Garden. This style often comes with a brick walkway that exudes formality. This walkway leads to the rear with a circle of plants. The arrangement of plants resembles the English garden style but it has no formal borders.

Oriental. It is often the kind of garden found in small backyards. It uses rocks, evergreens and water. A wide variety of plants create several interesting angles with this style.

Woodland. This landscaping suits a house that has a wooded backyard and sloping ground.

Garden Landscaping Summary

Hopefully our thoughts on garden landscaping have helped you out. There is a lot to consider for sure, and our advice is to take one thing at a time, and to it to the best of your ability. Never bite off more than you can chew as that can easily overwhelm you, and actually put you off doing anything else.


I am someone who enjoys a little gardening. Now I am not someone who spend hours in the garden, but I do like both my front and back gardens to look really nice. Well kept lawns, neatly trimmed hedges, and borders filled with plants, make a huge difference, to how your property looks.

Enda McLarnon

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