Beautiful outdoor gardens take many forms, shapes and designs. A formal garden with clipped hedges and perfectly maintained flower beds is one option. A country garden with the borders spilling over with brightly colored flowers in reckless abandon is another. Modern garden design uses geometric shapes, beds and specimen plants to provide the beauty minimalists prefer. Whatever you choose, there are factors common to all beautiful gardens.
No matter how beautiful, if a garden doesn't have the elements that are a high priority to you and your family, you won't spend much time there. Plan what you want in your garden. A vegetable and herb garden might be tops on your list if cooking is one of your hobbies. Or perhaps a play area for the children or an area for entertaining is in the No. 1 spot. A beautiful garden encourages you to come out and spend time in it.
Sunlight, good soil and drainage are three key factors of beautiful gardens. Make a sketch of the garden area and note what areas are in the sunlight, what areas are in shade and what areas get a bit of both. The next time it rains see where and if the rain puddles and if there are any areas of runoff. Correcting boggy areas may not be as difficult as you think with French drains or raised beds. If more sunlight is required, remove a tree or prune the lower limbs to let in more light.
Most soils are adequate. Beautiful gardens require more than that. Plants thrive in rich loamy soil with lots of organic matter. Add lots of compost, rotted manure and organic matter to the garden. Work it in well to a level of at least 24 inches. When planting trees, bushes and perennials, add additional organic matter to the bottom of the hole. If you have any doubts about the quality of your soil have it tested through your local university or agricultural center.
Choose plants that do well in your area, your hardiness zone and the amount of sunlight they'll receive where they are planted. Plants that require sun will grow spindly and turn yellowish in the shade. Plants that prefer shade will burn in direct sunlight. Very few plants such as azaleas and hydrangeas require acidic soil, for example, but when they do, those plants won't do well in alkaline soil.
Be honest about how much time you can devote to the maintenance of the garden. An overgrown lawn full of weeds and bushes gone wild could be avoided with appropriate design and plant selection.