By Jill Morgan
Our large garden ideas are bursting with the latest design tricks and inspiration – just what you need to whip your vast patch into shape. From simple planting tips to fill your outside space with year-round color and interest to nifty ways to help divide and cosy up a dull, empty plot, we can help you realize your vision and get the outdoor space you long for.
Forming a clear, overall plan for your garden layout ideas is well worth the time and effort, but often tight budgets and other commitments mean putting them into action, all at once, is not always possible. But don’t despair, by just concentrating on one smaller area – maybe next to the house or a single aspect of your large garden ideas, you can gradually transform your space and enjoy the changes.
We’ve spoken to leading industry experts and experienced landscape designers to get their advice and top tips. Although no two projects are the same, great ideas are always transferable and these are just the ticket to transform your large garden ideas into somewhere truly special.
1. Link areas with a raised reflective pool
Water feature ideas are the perfect way to bring light and a sense of space into any garden, and nothing can be more dramatic in a large, open plot. Rills and raised water features contrast sharply with smooth paving and dense areas of planting, as well as providing mesmerizing reflections too.
Sit back and watch scudding clouds overhead and lose yourself in the ripples created by the slightest breeze on the water’s surface. In this design a large raised rectangular pool is framed by two rows of pleached hornbeams and links the greenhouse and kitchen garden ideas with the central lawn. The fretwork sphere and tiered water feature are carefully lit from below to create stunning night-time features.
2. Go for a versatile garden shelter
Whether you need undercover space for entertaining, working out or just lounging, a sturdy and versatile shelter is a fantastic investment for your large garden ideas. Not only will it change how you use your garden, but it makes a dramatic focal point too.
Patio cover ideas vary hugely from simple timber pergolas with canvas linings, to substantial, automated shelters. More expensive designs come with features such as rotating louvre slatted panels and retractable screens that form versatile covers and can be configured according to the weather conditions and the occasion.
You could even consider adding integrated outdoor lighting ideas into the beams or roof blades – choose from cool or warm white or color changing LEDs, plus sound and heating.
3. Try some prairie-style planting
Accentuate a large open site with some prairie style planting for your garden borders. Think of vast swathes of grasses and colorful perennials swaying in the breeze, providing an ever-changing display throughout the year.
The secret to making this way of planting work is to keep to a small palette of plants and repeat them at regular intervals. Plant them in drifts and ribbons, weaving them together to create a dense tapestry.
One place that offers plenty of inspiration is the Sussex Prairie Garden in England. 'We believe in an exuberance of spirit and this manifests itself in a mass planting of each variety of plant coupled with a mix of ornamental grasses to lift the levels and add sound, texture and spectacle,' explains creator Pauline McBride. 'Planting in this exuberant style means that visitors can immerse themselves in our welcoming borders as they walk through an ethereal wonderland.'
4. Establish a wildlife pond
Do your bit for wildlife garden ideas and create your new go-to spot, by building a pond. A magnet for birds, insects and mammals too, it’s amazing how quickly it will transform a featureless plot.
Designer Claudia de Yong has worked on a few ponds in her time and shares the following tips. 'The minute you introduce a water feature into a garden, whatever size, whatever style, you are immediately creating other dimensions. Water gently flowing over rocks and stone creates a soft, calming sound. Reflections of tree, plants and even buildings will as depth to your garden.'
Make the most of the site, by going for biggest garden pond ideas you can – they always look smaller once they are full and planting has established. Native wildflowers and grasses will soften the edges and provide cover for wildlife, while a simple timber jetty is the perfect place to sit and gaze from.
Want to have a go a creating a pond yourself? Our guide on how to build a garden pond is a great place to start.
5. Add drama with an eye-popping sculpture
If you have a sizeable plot, think big. A few well-chosen large features will have more impact than cluttering the space with many, smaller features. Consider how and where to site sculptural pieces carefully. Do you want to position them as a dramatic centerpiece at the far end of a long, border-lined lawn or paved terrace, or would you prefer to go for an element of surprise, and tuck them around a hidden corner or separate garden ‘room’ with high hedging?
The style of artwork and choice of materials is a matter of personal taste. Contemporary pieces work beautifully in front of loose and airy, densely planted borders, while more intricate, traditional designs are set off perfectly by a dark, simple backdrop – think a clipped yew hedge or ivy-covered garden wall ideas.
'We’ve recently seen an increased demand for pieces that juxtapose dissimilar metals,' says the team at David Harber. 'For example, organic patinated bronze alongside the crisp, highly reflective mirrored finish of stainless steel or the warm, natural glow of gold.'
6. Devote space to an outdoor kitchen
The pressure to use every inch of our homes recently has accelerated the trend for setting up an outdoor kitchen. If you have the space, why not make cooking in the open air a sociable occasion by setting up an adjacent lounge area.
'Our desire for a great outdoor space has evolved way beyond a portable barbecue and fold-away garden furniture and instead these are now required to be fully functional living spaces,' says Simon Burvill, founder of Gaze Burvill. 'With areas to relax, cook, entertain and dine, we can create distinct rooms to give a natural indoor-outdoor flow.'
Just as with an inside kitchen, ample storage and prep space is a must when considering how to design an outdoor kitchen. Go for a mix of drawers and cabinets, adding built-in fridges, wine coolers and ice-drawers where space and budget allows.
An outdoor sink, either plumbed into mains water or feeding off a concealed storage tank, will make every occasion easier and save endless return trips to the house. Upstands with shelving and hanging racks will ensure spices and cooking tools are easy to reach, and also provides a handy spot for growing herbs and edible flowers too.
Find inspiration for your alfresco cooking space in our outdoor kitchen ideas.
7. Create a natural swimming pond
Love wild swimming or just fancy a spot to dip your toes in the water, then why not go for a natural swimming pond for your backyard pool ideas? Sympathetically designed to fit into the landscape, these pools can be planted up to form an enchanting garden feature as well as an idyllic place to bathe.
Stepping stone ideas, timber jetties and pontoons can all be added into the design, as well as gentle sloping beaches, streams and plunge pools. Dependent on micro-organisms to clean the water, rather than chemicals, these pools will need to be planted up with a careful mix of aquatic plants to maintain the PH balance and prevent algae growth.
Specialists will design, construct and maintain your project, taking into account filtration and drainage issues, any planning issues and planting options. While wildlife, birds and insects will love to visit the pool, it’s best to discourage ducks and geese from taking up residence as they will affect the nutrient balance of the water.
8. Use trees and paving to sculpt the land
Fancy a simple but oh-so effective design? Then mix trees, grass and snaking garden path ideas. Perfect for creating a tranquil spot that's perfect for quiet contemplation or a fun spot for children to play, it’s a great way to make the most of large garden ideas.
In this project, winter flowering cherry trees are dotted across a gently undulating grassy area. Curving turf paths, edged with simple pavers create sweeping clean lines that add movement and balance the slender trees.
'This is part of a very large garden and was originally just a flat bank situated quite a distance from the main house,' explains designer Jo Alderson. 'My client loves trees so we thought it would be fun to create a swirly maze for her grandchildren to discover and run around - together with visiting dogs! Throughout spring there are lots of bulbs popping up through the longer grass.'
9. Introduce curves for added interest
Add character to large garden ideas by introducing a sweeping path and curvy retaining wall. The perfect design trick for dividing up sloping garden ideas into a series of more manageable terraces, it will also add a sense of horizontal movement and help to unify a large open space.
In this beautiful design, a snaking dry-stone wall and block paved path intertwine to create a cosy spot that's perfect for secluded outdoor seating ideas. Surrounded by loose, textural planting it forms the main focal point of the garden. The beautiful, stacked stone wall also presents the ideal opportunity for a dramatic falling water feature.
10. Include a secret hideaway
Make the most of your space by including a secluded garden retreat in your large garden ideas. A shepherd's hut nestled behind a hedge or at the far end of the garden, amongst trees, can make the perfect spot for reading, an extra bedroom or for your garden office ideas.
Traditional in shape and neat in size, these raised huts ooze rural style and charm. Fit them out with a wood burning stove, simple kitchen units and kettle, and they can be comfortably used all year round. Go for a design that's well insulated and can be mains powered and you'll be comfortable outdoors, whatever the weather. Set it up with its own seating area, a log store and some fun fire pit ideas and you’ll have a home-from-home right on the doorstep.
Love the idea but need a more budget-friendly option? Don't discount your existing garden buildings as with some clever shed ideas, even your humble garden shed can become a tranquil outdoor hideaway.
11. Cultivate a wild woodland area
Paths don’t have to be paved, or even hard underfoot, and often the most enchanting are those that appear to be completely spontaneous. What could be more intriguing than a mown path through a wildflower meadow? Quick and easy to do, you can make the route as twisty or direct as you like. Be kind to your best lawn mower by creating your path while the grass is low and repeating fortnightly. Alternatively, you may want to strim long grass first, before mowing neatly. Just check the route is free of wildlife before you start.
'This meadow area provided a lovely transition between manicured garden and arboretum,' says designer Rebecca Smith of her own garden. 'We cut the wildflower area once a year, in late summer when the weather is dry, using a strimmer. The cut plants are then left in place for up to a week, if the weather is dry, to allow the ripened seed to drop out onto the ground, before raking up all the cut stalks and composting them.'
Find out how to plant a wildflower meadow in our guide.
12. Take a formal approach
Large garden ideas often call for a bold design, and it’s hard to beat a more formal approach for instant calm and elegance. Clean lines and symmetry always make a powerful statement, so look for opportunities to incorporate these into an overall plan.
Paved terraces, low retaining walls and sets of wide and shallow garden steps ideas are all great ways to divide up a large space and add interest while retaining a sense of calm and tranquillity.
Pale blooms, lush green foliage and smooth, light grey paving ideas also add to the timeless feel.
13. Add some wow to an extensive lawn
An immaculate, rolling green lawn might be your pride and joy or even future dream feature for your large garden ideas, but how about using your lawn ideas as a canvas for some ‘mow-art’.
For years gardeners and groundsmen have been taking a pride in creating perfect grassy stripes or even checks for lawn decoration ideas, but cylinder mower makers Allett have taken it further with its annual Creative Lawn Stripes competition. Homeowners are encouraged to create imaginative designs using just their mowers and the results are inspiring. The secret to success is in a flat, well maintained lawn and a mower with front and back rollers and a sharp blade.
'The perfect height for perfect stripes is 20-30mm,' says Austin Jarrett, MD at Allett. 'The stripes are created by the reflection of the sun on the bent-over blades of grass. When mowing, make sure that the current stripe slightly overlaps the previous stripe, so that you do not have thin strips of uncut grass left between the stripes.'
14. Plant a statement tree
Need to bring height and drama to your large garden ideas? Then choose yourself a statement tree. Perfect for adding shape and structure, it will instantly help to divide up the space into different areas and create a more intimate and welcoming feel too.
Take time to research the best specimen for your patch and think carefully about your garden’s aspect and soil type too (our guide to soil types has more info on this). Consider whether you prefer a deciduous or evergreen specimen and think about the shape and size of tree that will best suit your garden. If you have a small space but still want to add impact with a tree, make sure you check out our suggestions for the best trees for small gardens.
Look for varieties with standout qualities that particularly appeal to you – these could be dramatically colored or textured bark that is reflected in planting elsewhere in the garden, stunning spring blossom or spectacular, vibrant autumn foliage.
Maybe it’s the plant’s shape that will add interest – a multi-stemmed plant will fill out an empty space right away, lend a wild touch too, while a stately pine or walnut will add a touch of class.
We spoke to the team at tree specialists Barcham for their top recommendations.
- Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon' A ‘maple-like’ tree with spectacular and long-lasting autumn color. The inner canopy turns buttercup yellow while the outer leaves change to a claret red.
- Sorbus aria Lutescens The early spring foliage of this whitebeam emerge as a striking grey/silver/blue and the canopy has a graceful, rounded shape. Red orange berries shine out in autumn.
- Betula albosinensis Fascination The gorgeous cinnamon colored peeling bark turns cream as it matures and has a glossy sheen too. The flame-shaped crown has a clean, architectural shape making it ideal for urban, modern garden ideas.
- Paper Mulberry A lover of chalky soil, this tree is a magnet for pollinators in late summer thanks to its curious orange globe-like flowers. Perfect for creating shade, it has an architectural stem structure in winter.
15. Have some fun with a folly
Indulge your romantic side and add a historic feature to your garden that will get everyone talking. Popularised in the 18th century at the height of English Landscape design, follies were architectural buildings – usually built in a semi ruinous state – added for decoration and intrigue.
Positioned at the end of a vista, next to a lake to create a stunning reflection or perched high on a hill, these constructions were unique but often inspired by Gothic, Greek or Roman architecture. Local materials and salvaged architectural finds were often incorporated, alongside personalized details such as carved initials over doorways and arches or family crests.
While also eclectic in style, many of today’s follies are built in cast or reconstituted stone, meticulously finished to create a weathered look, and reclaimed bricks. Choose from freestanding walls featuring arched doorways and mullioned windows or historically inspired facades for summer house ideas and hot tub enclosures. Stone-pillared pergola ideas and temple-style porticos are a great choice, if you fancy making a grander impression.
How do you make a large garden cozy?
Creating a series of garden ‘rooms’ or smaller zones is a great way to add interest and make tackling large garden ideas seem less intimidating. Stone walls, hedges, and fretwork screens all work well as stylish garden divider ideas.
Dense areas of tall planting work well and will help you to focus your garden design ideas and available budget into manageable phases. Try ornamental grasses such as Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster', Molinia Breeze and Miscanthus sinensis 'Flamingo'.
Think about the different ways you want to use the garden too. An adventure play area, room for growing fruit and vegetables, a sunken lounge area with fire pit for entertaining or a sheltered spot for chilling out with a book or podcast can all be accommodated and can have a dedicated spot too.
The secret to successful large garden ideas though is to have a masterplan to ensure the space fits together as a whole. Final details don’t have to be set from the outset and, of course, plans can and will evolve, but this approach really helps to unify the overall design.
How can I make a large garden more interesting?
'In a large garden, the spatial arrangements should be set out to enrich the experience of interconnecting gardens with smooth transitions between areas,' says landscape designer Adrienne Hendy-Curzon. 'A multi-seasonal design approach will allow the merits of each season to be championed too.
'A large garden also provides an opportunity to design for future proofing with fundamental improvements of rain harvesting and water storage for the long term, and scope for rich biodiversity and sustainability within the site.'
Jill puts her love of plants and all things garden related down to the hours spent pottering around with her Nan and Grandad when she was little. There was never a moment at their house when they weren’t weeding, pruning, planting or harvesting cucumbers or dahlias from the lean-to greenhouse. Her Grandad’s shed was a place of wonder, and she can still recall the musky smell. Today she is lucky enough to have a garden of her own in Surrey and spends much of her time writing about them too. A typical long-thin town garden it features favourite flowers along with the odd veg plant and the usual assortment of toys, bikes and… oh a couple of guinea pigs too.
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