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Space Considerations when Planning a Landscaping Design

By Edited Jun 5, 2015 2 6

Planning a landscape design for your garden? It's not as difficult as the professionals would have you believe! We'll begin with a quick sketch of the space and then walk through the steps of planning the perfect garden.

No matter what the size and shape of your garden is, there are some great ideas of how to make the most of your space to create the garden of your dreams.

Sketching the Space

Sketching out your garden space

Before you start coming up with your design or landscape idea for your garden it pays to sketch out the shape of the area on some squared or graph paper. This doesn't have to be hugely exact -- unless you are planning on putting in large garden furniture and then it makes sense to ensure you have the space for it. If you use square paper it's easy enough to do a quick sketch with say one square measuring either a foot or a yard of your actual garden.

You could then copy this sketch a few times so you can come up with a few different layouts for your garden until you find one you like.

Now you have the sketch, let's take a look at how you can make the best use of your space with some design ideas thrown in for you to consider.

Small Gardens & Narrow Gardens

With small gardens especially, space is a major issue when planning a landscaped garden design. Visual tricks can be used to manipulate the space you do have, to make it feel larger, or better proportioned:

Winding pathway

Use a curve - Lay an area of lawn, or make a garden stone pathway, starting at the widest part of the garden, and curving it round in a C shape. If it narrows at the furthest part of the garden away from you, you create visual interest and the illusion of more space. This gives areas at the sides of the C shape to incorporate planting, and a hidden corner for an arbor or statue.

Use a winding path - Especially useful in narrow gardens, a winding path makes the garden feel wider, and diverts the eye to the end of the garden, utilizing the length of the space.

Example plan of arranging a garden in geometric shape areas
Arrange your garden in geometric shapes - Using simple squares, or a central circle to base your garden design around, you can fit more in, and create more visual appeal. Break your garden up into squares, dividing them with pathways, low hedging, or planting. Soften the edges with larger plants or trees around the perimeter. Basing your garden around a central circle adds a focal point (try a tree or fountain) and creates interesting spaces around it. You could even incorporate the two ideas of squares and a central circle to create an Italian backyard villa feel. If your garden is particularly narrow then try rectangles instead of squares and lay them out on diagonal lines.

Large Gardens & Wide Gardens

Many of the visual tricks used to create the feeling of space in the gardens above, can also be employed in a large garden to exaggerate the space further. The winding pathway is frequently used in spacing a landscaped garden, creating both flow, and spaces at the edge of the garden for planting. A few more tricks you can use to fully exploit your space are:

Squares within squares - By using a series of squares (or rectangles) that link together, you have a simple design that can incorporate many elements - patio, pergola, decking, lawn, vegetable patch, sand pit etc. Don't forget to use planting around the edges of the garden to soften the space.

Oval garden plan

A central large oval - A big open space of lawn in an oval (especially laid on the diagonal), celebrates the feeling of space, and can incorporate a winding path or stairs leading up to it.

Diamonds and S shapes - These are particularly useful tools in a wide garden. Use the winding pathway idea, only working horizontally across the garden, you could also make it a wider section of lawn, flowing in the same way. Much like the squares within squares idea, interlocking diamonds working across the garden, adds interest and directs the eye away from the perimeter of the space.

The Problem with Stairs

Garden stairs
If you have features in your garden that just can't be eliminated to make way for your beautiful landscaping ideas then you'll just have to work with them. Stairs in particular can be a problem, although there are ways of using them to your advantage.

Incorporating a rock garden around the stairs, so the stairs almost become part of the rock garden itself is one trick you can use. In fact if you just have a sloping garden then a rock garden or shallow drop stairs can work wonders.  If you use similar stone or rock materials for both the garden and the stairs, the area will become more a part of the garden rather than an area of trouble!

Considerations in Planting - How to Space Correctly

Planting is obviously a key consideration when planning the space in a landscaped design. How you space the plants in your garden depends on:

Spacing plants
  1. What the plant is.
  2. Where it is being planted.

One of the major causes of fungal plant disease is when plants are too close together, as not enough air is circulating around them. A distance of 6 inches space between plants is usually sufficient, but watch as they grow to allow sufficient air circulation, and room for growth.

If you are planting trees or large vegetables, then obviously more space between plants is necessary.

In contrast, wildflower meadows and herbs benefit from dense planting. Using the trick of dense planting around hard edges, such as against the backdrop of a house, fence, wall or even pathway, helps to soften the edges, making the straight lined elements look less harsh.

Space in landscape design can be used in various different ways in the garden to achieve the look you want, no matter what size of garden or what plants you use.




Jun 10, 2012 5:15pm
These are great tips. I don't have a garden (yet) but I love to look at inspirational ideas :)

Thumbs up!

Jun 11, 2012 2:40am
Thank you Anja. I think many people don't put much consideration to actually planning a garden, but we spend so much time planning and decorating inside. I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for reading :-)
Jun 13, 2012 2:00am
Nice Ideas! Worth noting. Thanks for the article.
Jun 13, 2012 2:21am
Thank you Matt, and thanks for taking the time to comment :-)
Jun 13, 2012 8:29pm
I really like the ideas in this article, thanks for sharing them. Congratulations on being featured. Thumbs Up!
Jun 14, 2012 3:27am
Thank you! I like planning and making the most of what we've got so I hope it's useful. My first featured article too! Thanks for reading :-)
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