Basics of Garden Design

Basics of Garden Design image by Paths & Walkways in Garden Design


If you're planning a garden, there are many things to keep in mind. While you're probably aware of the usual advice to predict the size of maturing shrubs and trees or to arrange plants so that they each get sun, you might not think of things like drainage, walkways and paths or how to place benches and garden art. if you plan to integrate these things into your garden design from the beginning, then you won't find yourself "squeezing them in" at a later date.

The Sun

The sun is an important part of your garden design. In some areas, you'll need to make sure that your vegetable garden is on the south side of your house to be sure that it gets enough sunshine to reach harvest by autumn. The position of the sun in relation to your garden will determine the variety of plants that will be able to thrive there. Whether it's flowers, vegetables or herbs, every plant has specific needs and preferences that need to be understood so that they may grow the best.

Walkways & Paths

Deciding where your walkways and paths will go is an important part of garden design. When you harvest vegetables, you'll need to be able to reach them, so paths need to be at least 18 inches wide in most cases. For flower gardens or herb gardens, harvesting won't be a big deal, but weeding and cutting flowers may be, and you need to have enough walkways and paths to be able to have access to each of your plants.

Garden Art

If you plan to integrate sculpture, a gazing ball or other garden art into your design, plan to have a paving stone at the bottom in order to keep the foliage around it trimmed down, or strategically plant a nice reseeding ground cover to keep the area from being overrun with weeds. It's a good idea to make sure these are placed where you can see them from the pathways or benches. Conversely, some people like to have their garden art hidden, to surprise visitors and keep the plants on "center stage."

Provide for Mature Landscaping

As your plants get older, they will grow a lot. You can use gardening software to help you predict the size that your trees and shrubs will be. Until they're matured, annual or perennial flowers can fill in the empty spots. Making allowances for the future growth of your garden will ensure that you never have to move a tree or that the roots aren't destroying your walkways. Additionally, it will enable you to make sure that the larger plants are in the back and the smaller ones are in the front.

Benches & Sitting Areas

Having places in the garden to sit and relax might be an important factor in your garden design. Be sure to place benches away from flowering shrubs that may attract bees. An evergreen shrub is generally safe. Place benches and tables on paving stones, bricks or pebbles. This will protect the bases from rust or decay and make sure that they don't tip or sink. An alternative to a bench would be a hammock, a fire pit or even a swing


In certain areas, the path of drainage might be an important factor in garden design. You may be legally required to keep them clear of foliage, or lined with pebbles or sand. Floodplains, hillsides and other ecological zones are often subject to drainage requirements. If you think your garden area is subject to drainage regulations, contact your city planning office to get the details.

About this Author

Lisa Russell has been a freelance writer since 1998. She's been published in "Rethinking Everything Magazine," "Playdate" and "Home Educator's Family Times." She has a professional background in education, cosmetology and the restaurant industry. Russell studied early childhood education at Antelope Valley College, and is pursuing a degree in law.

Photo by: Paths & Walkways in Garden Design