Five top tips to consider when planning your garden’s design: goal-orientated design

1. Decide what you want to do in your garden.

Do you want a garden for your children to play football in or one that will accommodate as many people as possible for BBQ parties? Do you want a garden to show off your favourite plants, or one that will help you to produce as much fruit and vegetables as is possible? Do you like garden ornaments, and if you do which sort? A quality garden design that is planned around how you want to live will change your life! You must understand the space you have and how you want to use it.

2. Design from the inside out

Your garden should be designed to suit you and your needs, not for the Joneses next door! Visualise how you might walk through it, not how you might look at it from a distance. How will you use it?

3. Each part of the design should be to achieve a goal, ‘form follows function.’

If you design your garden so that you can relax in it with your family, but landscape it in such a way that means a table and chairs do not fit, then you have not achieved this step!

4. The design comes first, plants and hardscaping follow.

Unless your whole garden design is based on one statement plant that you have already bought, you must work on your design before anything else. If you visit a garden centre or nursery for inspiration, do not be tempted into purchasing plants too soon!

5. Flow from house to garden.

As an extension of your house, your garden is an additional living space. A quality garden design will make the house and garden seem like one.

What is the difference between a perennial and an annual?

Among the most common terms that are bandied about in gardening are perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees. What do they mean?


  •  Soft-stemmed
  •  Live year on year, dying back in the winter and re-growing in spring or summer the following year.
  •  Value for money as they will live and flower for several years after planting.
  •  Relatively short flowering period.
  •  Examples: Hostas, Irises, and Daylilies.
  • Bloom for a period of time rather than an entire season.


  • Soft-stemmed
  • Live for one season. (Some plants may be used as annuals in cooler climates but grow more like perennials in warmer climates)
  • Colourful flowers, flower all season.
  • Cheaper than most other plants
  • Flower all season
  • Examples: Busy Lizzies, (bedding) Geraniums, Petunias.

Two other important terms to understand when buying plants for your garden:

Evergreen: plants that keep their needles or leaves year-round

Deciduous: plants that lose their needles or leaves in the autumn


Plant nursery tags deciphered; a little knowledge goes a long way!

What is the difference between species and cultivar?

All plants have a Latin name. Many will also have a common name. The most common oak trees that can be found in many parks and cities around the UK, for example, have the Latin name Quercus robur, which is the species.

You do not need to be about to read or speak Latin to be a great garden designer though, so don’t worry! When you see a plant’s name on a tag in a nursery or garden centre, there will usually be two Latin names in italics, and quite often a third name in English. The Latin is the species, and the English is the cultivar.

The easiest way to explain this is to think about dogs.

  • A Great Dane and a Dachshund are both Canis Familiaris – the species
  • The cultivar here would be ‘Great Dane’ or ‘Dachshund’.

Cultivars are the same species but can look very different! Cultivar is simply the cultivated version of the particular species

Photograph on the plant tag

The photograph on a nursery tag will usually show the plant at its peak height and condition. This is fine as long as you can appreciate that the plant may not look like that for years!

Descriptions on the plant tag

The nursery tag is trying to sell the plant to you. Research the plants you want to buy from more than one reference point


This will give an indication of how the plant will react to the colder weather. The temperature that it can survive at is an important one. For a focal point plant, you may be happy to wrap and protect it during the winter, but you may not feel this way about a whole grouping of plants!


The light required by the plant will commonly be displayed as a symbol. The options given are usually full sun, part sun/part shade, and shade.


The size given will indicate the width and height of the plant once it has reached maturity. This could take make years for the plant to reach this. If you are unsure, do check the growth rate.

Growth rate

This is only occasionally featured on nursery tags. As a garden designer (yes, that’s you now!) you may choose to buy a small plant and let it grow. This will save you money in the long term but if it will take ten years to reach the height, was it worth it?