Summer is the ideal season to complete a garden landscaping project, whether you have a modest plot or several acres on your hands. The term landscaping might bring to mind digging lakes and building terraces in the grounds of a stately home. However, it can simply mean making improvements to a regular garden to help you enjoy it at its best.

With the right tools and some forethought about what you want to achieve, it’s perfectly possible to change an uninspiring outdoor space into an attractive area that can be enjoyed for many years to come. Here are some tips to help you plan the perfect landscaping project.

Set out the big picture

You don’t have to stick to every detail in your plan, but it is important to set out a list of what you want to include in your garden, and have an idea about the layout. You might wish to employ the services of a professional garden designer, or have a go yourself.

If the garden is steeply sloped, you could decide to build steps or terrace to create level areas. This will make it much easier to install socialising spaces such as patios, and make the land easier to maintain and mow, and less prone to flooding or puddling on the lowest portion of garden.

Decide on the hardscaping

Consider which hardscaping features to include, such as patio or decking areas, walls and fences, steps and walkways, water features, and gazebos, sheds, and other structures. Sketch out on paper, or using a computer aided design programme, where you want to install the features.

This might be influenced by the position of the sun at various times of day, so that your patio is in the premium hotspot, for example. Take into account the effect that hardscaping will have on drainage, and make sure that you put extra measures in place to offset loss of vegetation.

The hardscaping of a garden can balance out and complement the vegetation of a garden. Some designers aim for a 50/50 split with hardscaping and greenery, but there are really no fixed rules. However, a garden with no stone, wood, gravel, or brick features at all can lack coherence, and feel incomplete. It will also be a huge chore to maintain!

Hardscaping is not just practical: there is such a wide range of materials available, that it can be used to create elements of design and decoration. Even traditional concrete slabs can now be bought in super smooth textures for a contemporary look, or pre-weathered, stamped, or stained to add interest and soften the harshness of plain concrete.

Natural stones are a more expensive option, but they will last a lifetime, and perfectly set off the planting. Again, they are available in a variety of finishes, from rustic and ridged textures, to a more polished and formal look. The general advice is the get the best you can afford, as in the long run, cheaper products can be false economy.

Get the planting right

Planting up a garden well means selecting plants that will survive and thrive in the local climate, soil type, and aspect of your garden. Of course, there is also a decorative aspect to planting, but simply choosing them for visual effect may lead to a lot of wasted time and money.

Include as many native species of trees, shrubs, and flowers, as you can, to encourage wildlife to your garden. Cultivated varieties rarely contain enough pollen to attract bees and other insects, which impacts on the biodiversity of the area.

Once you have worked out the technical aspects of which plants will grow best and where, consider the visual impact of the planting. Create vibrant colour contrasts in beds and borders, and think about adding variety with the texture, height, and size of each plant relative to the others.

Create different zones

It is important to think about the overall harmony of the garden, so that each zone leads to another without any abrupt contrasts. Patios or decking can be contrasted with taller planting and bright colours, and linked with natural stepping stones to lawned areas or water features.

It is becoming increasingly common to leave a section of the garden unstructured and unmown for much of the year, to encourage the growth of wildflowers, and attract birds, insects, and small mammals. Other eco-friendly measures, such as avoiding the use of fertilisers and pesticides, and using locally sourced materials, are now widely practiced.

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