When discussing garden design, it should be noted that good gardens do not happen. They develop! One cannot expect to make a good job of them without some knowledge of the soil and the plants that it can grow; and to this knowledge must be brought artistry, good taste and a sense of fitness and proportion. Many new gardens are taken over as a bare piece of ground, with nothing in them but soil, weeds and builder's rubbish. Others may be in better shape but dull and unimaginatively planned, both from the point of view of planting and garden design.

The making of a garden is a responsibility and a challenge, for every site is different and creates individual problems. Even a narrow strip, identical at first sight to hundreds of others, can be used in an individual way. Planting a group of trees or creating several levels relieves the flatness, while irregularly shaped borders, instead of the more usual oblong beds, take away the straight-lined effect. Even in the smallest plot it should not be possible to view the whole garden at a glance. It should be full of surprises, with each turn of the path revealing fresh vistas or disclosing new interests.

If you move into a new house without a garden, you may be groping for ideas for a plan look first for some natural aspect such as an established tree, an outcropping of rock, a bank or mound of soil, and start building one from this. If

there is no such point, decide where a dominant tree would have an aesthetic or practical value either to screen an ugly outlook, provide shade or privacy for a living-out area; to frame one end of the house -- even if it is just a tree or shrub you have admired, in the position you would like to see it it will at least serve as a starting point.

Do not attempt any constructive work or planting until you have made a plan of the site. This is most important for certain mistakes cannot be rectified. Felling a large tree, which is later found to have effectively masked a distant gasometer, is a case in point. There is one reasonable exception to the detailed plan this is the rocky sandstone area, which is developed with a natural theme, and when natural bush stone is used for rockery effect. Although here some general plan is advisable, it is difficult to prepare a detailed draft, as each stone suggests its own placement and the selection of the one to follow it; and so a design evolves different from any you will have on paper.

Stand with your back to the house and make your first assessment from this angle. This is, after all, the view most frequently seen. Are there any features worth retaining ? Which things should be hidden?

All gardens have certain natural assets. Exploit these, whether they consist of an interesting architectural feature, a fine tree or even a distant view of a river or hill. Mark these for retention in your plan.

Inevitably, however, there are some things which are best hidden: unattractive outbuildings, pipes running down the sides of the house, clothes lines, neighbours' sheds or in extreme cases, their entire gardens. Climbing plants and shrubs can work wondrous transformations. For quicker results erect trellis or rustic fencing.

If the garden is really to be used, privacy is essential. Some form of enclosure is therefore a prime necessity. Shrubs and hedges, though they take time to establish, are quite permanent. Fences and screens give quick coverage but deteriorate in time and are usually more costly to erect. The ideal plan is to plant a hedge and protect it in its early years with hurdles or interwoven fencing.

Open plan garden designs are obligatory on some housing estates, but even here much can be achieved by skilful group planting of shrubs and trees. These can eventually provide quiet nooks and corners, hidden from neighbouring plots.

A garden should be designed for the whole household, not just the gardener. So recreational areas must be left, and provision made for cut flowers, herbs and decorative features. Leave the greatest expanse of open ground close to the house. This may be designed for tea parties, lawn games or simply for relaxation. The area may be terraced, crazy-paved or put down to lawn; the great thing is to keep it near the house not only for convenience but to create an air of spaciousness from nearby windows.

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