Tips on how to create beautiful gardens


Beautiful gardens appeal to our senses – The colours and immense diversity of design combinations, fragrance, flavours, sounds from birds and insects attracted to the plants and variety of textures. Go for a drive around your neighbourhood and take notice of the gardens that catch your eye or next time you visit a friend’s garden, be observant and tune in to what you love about it. No doubt, they will be applying some design principles and elements that apply whether they are used in art, graphics, building, interior or garden design.

Simple concepts can make a huge difference to the enjoyment of your garden. Designers use these principles all over the world to make spaces really stand out and visually beautiful. Here is how:

  1. Add flowers – splashes of colour break up green, provide variety, contrast and focal points. You do not specifically have to plant flowers – a wide range of herbs and vegetables have beautiful flowers too including chives (purple), spring onions (white), dill (yellow), thyme (pale pink to purple), basils (white or purple), pineapple sage (red) and rosemary (purple), rocket (white), as well as all flowering vegetables and fruits. Beneficial insects will also be attracted to your micro garden and they will happily pollinate and clean up any pests for you. Flowers are a ‘win-win’ in any garden.
  2. Control weeds – remove and compost plants that compete with what you really want in your garden, particularly in a small space like a pot or container where they are more obvious than in a larger garden.
  3. Group plants with the same foliage or flower colour for greater impact. Theming an area of your garden by clever use of colour is an easy trick to use. Stand back and take a look at the colours in your garden now. Put a basket of four or six of the same coloured flower in a pot for mass planting has a greater effect than just adding one flower. Surrounding these with another contrasting colour will ‘frame’ the picture, add balance and use another design trick – repetition.
  4. Add some garden art – this can be anything that reflects your personality or adds character to your small space. Stand back and see what the space needs. Perhaps a pot could be jazzed up with a small ornament. If you have a bare wall that you need to hide or are renting and you cannot paint the external walls, try hanging a bamboo blind as a backdrop to your plants or staple some fabric to a lightweight timber frame in a contrasting colour and then position your pots and furniture in front. This is portable decorating and can really help you enjoy your outdoor space for very little cost. You can also use this concept indoors.
  5. Use colourful pots or feature containers to draw the eye to a focal plant or area.

You can again use design techniques to make this element look more important by contrasting the size of the plants or pots you surround it with and create dominance with the pot you want to highlight as the key feature. Ensure the ones you put around it are smaller than the focal pot. This helps to create unity as the eye focuses on the feature pot and then around the rest of the surrounding garden.

  1. Use multi-functional edible herbs and flowers for the kitchen, borders and fragrance. Choose herbs like curly leafed parsley, clumps of chives, mounds of lemon thyme and compact Greek basil with marigolds and violets. Not only do they provide variation in colour but add beauty, flavour and structure too.
  2. Create unity and diversity by repeating a colour provided by a variety of different plants. Colour themes are a very effective design trick for adding beauty.

Choose a feature – for example, this may be a plant, statue, piece of garden art or even outdoor furniture. Whatever is special to you, highlight it by drawing the eye to it.

Choose a focus plant such as a productive citrus tree in a pot by centring it on your veranda.

  1. As you come out the door, it should catch your eye immediately. Use a pot or container that is a different colour to the others so it makes a statement. Position plants lower on either side of the pot so the eye goes to the tree first as the highest point.
  2. Outdoor art can take many forms and be made from a wide range of materials. From pieces that sit in pots, on tables or furniture to wall mounted frames and collections, these can be a talking point and focus, or help theme your outdoor room.
  3. Edible art– with a little imagination, pots and containers with a highly productive food garden can also be a feature to highlight. One combination that works well is using the principle of proportion by putting a taller plant such as spring onions in the centre of a round pot and surround it with lower growing salad vegetables and herbs. By selecting plants with different textures and colours, you can come up with a striking combination. The spring onions in effect become the lead actor with their long structural leaves and stunning flowers and the supporting actors are the fragrant and colourful leaves of the other plants.
  4. Furniture– If a table and chairs are a focal point in an outdoor garden, then adding some colour to the table with a living arrangement is ideal. Try herbs that you can use as a freshly picked garnish when eating outdoors like parsley, coriander and chives. They provide wonderful digestive enzymes too.

Avoid clutter – This may be challenging if you have a really small space and want to grow a lot of plants! However, overcrowding will only make access difficult and the overall use of the space challenging. Try to balance hard surfaces with the plants you select and avoid using too many different materials. Consider growing some plants indoors and spread them out to areas of the home where they suit the light conditions. Ferns for example love the humidity and lower light conditions in many bathrooms whereas outdoors they may take up too much valuable personal space that could be better used for other plants or furniture. Use vertical spaces like walls, railings, containers and hanging baskets to free up floor space on a small deck or balcony.


Choose multi-coloured foliage – In some circumstances where you may have reduced sunlight, you may not have many options to grow flowering plants. You can still add colour and structure by choosing plants carefully.

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