Garden Design Suggestions

Here is a list of design ideas and considerations to take into account when planning your garden. Don't worry if you cannot draft. Get paper and pencil (do it on the computer if you can) and sketch out where things will go and construct a basic layout. As you start to envision the design, you can add the ideas to your drawing. Use pencil (with an eraser) so you can try out lots of different ideas.


1. Create a meadow: Since the space that was just vacated by the lawn is already meadow- like, simply turn it into a water efficient meadow. You can accomplish this by selecting a predominate ground cover to fill the space and then use additional plants to accent the ground cover. If the area is large enough, you can do several meadow-like areas with different ground covers.

Dry Creek bed

2. Create a rock catch basin and dry creek bed: Bringing stone into the garden gives the space a natural effect and strength. The old lawn area might be a great place for a rock catch basin and dry creek bed. You can add plants around the edges or even intersperse them among the rocks. This creates beauty and function but also collects rainwater to recharge the groundwater.


3. Create mounds as stages for plant groupings: Creating contours to the old lawn area can be accomplished by clever grading and/or the addition of more soil and soil amendment. Use the mounds as display pieces. Taller, more upright plants should be placed on top of the mound while shorter ones take their place in front. If done well, the mounds will be subtle and blend into the landscape.

Focal Point

4. Create a focal point: Every good garden needs elements that draw the eye. A focal point can be statuary, a bird bath, a boulder, garden art of any kind, and also especially interesting plants. Plants with interesting forms, vibrant flowers or variegated leaf colors are good focal points. Once you have selected one, then build plant support around it. Focal points need not be loud, just interesting.


5. Create a destination: Great gardens are inviting; they ask you to linger for a while. Create something to see or do in the garden to tempt the viewer to wander into the garden to stay a while and discover something. Benches and mini-patio spaces are great for this purpose.


6. Blend with the Neighborhood and Your Own Garden: Find ways to bring plants into the garden that you enjoy from neighboring gardens. It will help to create a unifying feeling about the area and be restful to the eye. It is also a short cut for finding plants that are successful in your micro-climate. Tie in plants from your own landscape into this new space.

Go native

7. Go Native: Why not blend with the native flora of the region you live? This creates a theme for you when picking plants. Bringing in boulders, rocks that contour the landscape space. Native flora will help to create a natural feeling that is important to this kind of garden. Many nurseries have a section set aside for native plants. In the plant list section of this web site, there is a California Native category to help you.


8. Unity in Diversity: Too many different plants makes the garden look busy and out of balance. If you use too much of one element or plant, you create a uninteresting layout. A great garden strives to create a balance between unity and diversity. Look for smaller plants that you can repeat many times through the garden space to tie things together.

Keep it Simple

9. Keep it simple: Ignore the above rule and use a single ground cover to fill the space once occupied by the lawn area. If you have supporting plants around the old lawn, then a single ground cover, when well chosen, can keep the lush green feeling going, this time without the excess water and care of turf.

Create Contrasts

10. Create Contrasts: Don't be afraid to go bold. Select plants with foliage or flowers that stand in stark contrast to standard green colors that most gardens have. Contrasts can happen through form too. Succulents and cacti, for example, stand out because of contrasts of form.

Seasonal Considerations

11. Seasonal Considerations: Anyone can design for Spring but a clever designer finds things that have flowers or berries in the other three seasons of the year. Think of your garden space as a theater with different acts taking the stage and then stepping aside to make room for the next performer.

Attract Attention

12. Attract Attention to the Front Door: If the opportunity allows, find a way to draw the eye to the front door. Your garden should be like a welcome committee for your home. No one will see or use your garden more than your family therefore make it as inviting especially for them. If you had something of color in the garden space where the lawn once existed, find a pot with similar flower or foliage color to put by the front door.