Are you searching for new garden design ideas to transform your space in time for summer? If the last year has taught us anything, it's just how valuable our plots are to our everyday lives, not to mention our health and wellbeing. So now's as good a time as any to get yours looking fabulous, ready for lots of use.
Using our gardens as an extension of our living spaces has become more important than ever. Whether it's a space to relax with family at the weekends, somewhere quiet and peaceful to escape the stresses of everyday life, a play zone for the kids, or an outdoor kitchen area, our gardens have to work hard to meet all of our needs. And of course, as well as being practical, they need to look gorgeous too.
We've rounded up our favourite garden design ideas to give you all the inspiration you need to turn your dream garden space into a reality. No matter how big or small your garden is, with just a few simple touches you can turn your space into a tranquil oasis that you'll want to spend all your time in.
Whether you're after ideas for a complete garden makeover or just a simple update, we've got it covered. Read on for your ultimate garden inspiration, then check out our guide on how to plan your garden design for more advice for your project.
1. Use the vertical space to create boundaries
This sturdy overhead structure provides a subtle divide between the seating space and lawn, whilst allowing views to be enjoyed uninterrupted. What's more, the pared-back design is perfect for hanging a hammock and festoon lights to up the cosy factor.
A climbing plant can be seen making its way up one of the columns, too – adding an extra dose of greenery. And if you opt for fragranced kinds such as honeysuckle or roses, then you can enjoy gorgeous clouds of scent in summer.
A neutral palette keeps the structure cohesive with the rustic decking. And, we love the bordering paving detailed with stones, which seamlessly flows into a nearby path.
Looking for stylish patio cover ideas that provide a little more shelter? Our feature has tons of inspiration.
2. Make it family-friendly
Good garden design needs to factor in all the family, to be a space that can be enjoyed by everyone. But making a space fun for kids as well as grown-ups needn't mean you have to sacrifice on style.
This pretty playhouse fits in with the scheme beautifully, and is tucked away in a corner full of greenery – adding to the sense of magic for little ones (and the sense of peace for adults!).
In terms of harder landscaping, notice how the nearby, mid-height wall doubles up as a casual bench, as well as bringing a sense of structure to the space. Meanwhile, steps lead down from the verdant lawn to a more formal seating spot for alfresco lunches. By lining them with soft geraniums and architectural Agapanthus and Astrantias, a gentle woodland feel is evoked and a soft divide is created between zones.
It's a relatively simple design, but it works perfectly for all involved. Head over to our family garden ideas for more tips.
3. Zone up a tropical plot
When considering small garden ideas, you might think that breaking up a plot into separate areas would make it look even smaller. But zoning a garden like this can actually increase the feeling of space.
This small garden has been divided into zones that are separated by low maintenance tropical-style planting. The decked dining area is positioned nearest the house, which can be practical for easy access to the kitchen. The snug seating area at the bottom of the garden feels cosy and secluded and is perfect for relaxing.
Adding a fire pit means it can be enjoyed later in the year too, when the evenings are cooler.
Love the idea of decking in your garden? Head to our decking ideas feature for more inspiration.
4. Create a living room feel
If the bottom area of your garden is the place that gets the most sun, it's the ideal spot for a seating area where you can enjoy it. As it's further away from the house, it also gives a feeling of seclusion and privacy.
The decking gives the space a more permanent feel, as though it's an extension of the home, which is enhanced by the shelves on the rear wall. Add some bright bunting and colour pop cushions for some fun and flair.
Find more inspiration with our outdoor living space ideas.
5. Turn heads with trees
Looking to add something a little different to your garden? A display like this is bound to turn heads.
The 'Nana' variety of Indian bean trees (Catalpa bignonioides nana) is a more compact version than its larger counterparts, and looks stunning arranged in a paved space. Surrounded by neatly clipped evergreens, the scene has a sculptural vibe – a great way to liven up a quiet corner.
You could swap out the trees depending on your style – how about some blossoming fruit trees, or vibrant Acers? Our best trees for small gardens guide has plenty more options you could try.
6. Bring in some foliage
Foliage-covered fences and walls can act as a handy barrier to exterior noise, which is particularly useful in city gardens. Plant climbers such as fragrant jasmine in raised beds next to your fence and encourage them to spread out, creating a living wall effect.
Enhance your secluded oasis with foliage and a large parasol for shade and lose yourself in the greenery. Our guide has plenty of tips on how to create a similar living wall look in your space.
7. Balance hard materials with soft planting
If you're looking to strike that perfect balance between natural yet modern, then give this idea a try. By breaking up your paving with areas of soft planting, the look will feel unexpected, fresh, and organic.
Weave in wilder flowers such as field buttercups, or try ornamental grasses for their soothing textural appeal. And why not integrate water in this way too?
Then, add a few statement pieces of garden furniture, so you can relax and take in the view. The space will be adored by you – and visiting pollinators – in no time.
8. Add intrigue with traditional gates
If you're a fan of our cottage garden ideas, then a rustic wooden gate can be a stunning solution to divide different 'rooms' of your plot.
This pretty design is nestled into an evergreen hedge, and helps to frame the open lawn in front. As the experts at Bowles & Wyer say, it's good to design a space with a vista in mind.
9. Take in the view from a chill-out spot
'It's always important to plan the perfect spot to enjoy a view or a G&T,' says the team at Bowles & Wyer. And we think this would do the job just fine.
So, if you're lucky enough to be surrounded by vistas that inspire, then make the most of them. These sun loungers looking out onto a wild meadow will offer instant feelings of zen. If your surroundings are more on the urban side, then you can still create gorgeous views, even if it's just with a few of our garden planter ideas.
Curved features add to the flow of a plot, so are a great choice if you're opting for a blissed-out vibe. This wall is a feature in itself due to its luxurious width, and with the help of a few outdoor cushions, could also be used as a serene spot for lounging.
10. Create a tranquil water feature
Water features, ponds, and fountains will instantly add a tranquil feel to a plot due to their beautiful appearance and calming sounds.
If you've got the space, then recreating a waterfall display such as this is a breathtaking way to elevate a garden. Designed by award-winning expert Kazuyuki Ishihara, it uses plenty of moss and Iris for an organic effect with a nod towards Japanese-style gardens.
Of course, such a feature isn't achievable for smaller spaces, but even a simple water bowl can add a dose of serenity. Head over to our water feature ideas for inspiration, or if you love the Japanese look, our small Japanese garden ideas has got you covered.
11. Add plants to your paving
When we think of garden design ideas we often concentrate on the larger, more structural stuff. But it's important to factor in the smaller details too, as they can make all the difference to the look of a space.
As Alexa Ryan-Mills of Alexa Ryan-Mills Garden Design says, one way to do so is to 'experiment with greening up paths with a mix of drought-tolerant Sedums, thyme and other low growing plants between pavers.' This adds tons of visual interest and, if you're using thyme, will offer a pleasant scent too.
Get creative with it – you could try growing them around each slab, or add a simple strip across your patio ideas for a more contemporary look.
12. Sink your seating space
'If being exposed to wind or neighbouring windows, why not dig down and make a sunken area?' says garden designer Barry Chambers of Garden Design Guru.
This welcoming spot blends a rustic, wooden corner bench with sandy-toned paving, whilst ornamental grasses help to screen the view of the house. It's a fabulous way to make an area feel more exclusive and sheltered from the elements – just add one of the best garden parasols for the perfect finishing touch.
13. Introduce a stylish pergola
Modern pergola ideas are a great option for any sized garden. Pre-sized panels can be fitted together in different layouts so you can customise your design. Alternatively, off-the-shelf modular products can quickly transform a space and help create a unified look for boundaries.
The strong lines of a contemporary slatted design provide a stylish backdrop for plants, creating an extra planting opportunity and adding an architectural element that looks good all year round. Another plus is that if your garden is overlooked, a small pergola can be incorporated into your plans to add a feeling of privacy.
14. Choose exotics for small spaces
Densely planted lush exotics create an exuberant planting style that detracts from small dimensions. Plants chosen for their interesting leaves dominate and add a gorgeously textured look, making them perfect for tropical garden ideas.
Fill in borders with lustrous banana palms, spiky Phormium and low growing hardy ferns. A supersized tree fern always catches the eye. Dicksonia antartica is one of the hardier varieties with arching filigree fronds.
Add drama with a touch of bold colour too. With their vibrant hot red or orange blooms and luxe foliage, Cannas make a stunning centrepiece for a border.
15. Plan your planting
If you're struggling with ideas for how to fit your planting around your seating area, try sketching out some ideas first. Mark out your area and see where you could place your foliage.
This seating area has beds that have been preplanned and built-in when the bricked patio was being laid. Large statement pots with colourful planting, such as these hydrangeas, are an easy way to change up the look and feel of the space from one year to the next.
Want to build you own patio? Head over to our step-by-step guide on how to lay a patio for all the expert tips you'll need.
16. Use raised beds to line a small space
Here, raised beds define the seating area in this modestly spaced garden. Though they narrow the area, it actually lengthens the look of the space and it's still the perfect fit for an outdoor dining table.
These raised beds are also painted white, which reflects sunlight and offers a bright and airy feel to what could otherwise be a small and perhaps oppressive garden.
17. Create built-in seating
Want to maximise space in your garden? Having permanent seating up against a wall gives a seamless look, especially when combined with raised beds. The wall behind the bench seating also offers added protection from the wind or sun. Simply add some colourful bench or scatter cushions to ramp up the comfort factor.
All those cushions will need storing away when it's raining and during the winter months, however, so if you don't have a shed or garden storage it's a good idea to incorporate storage underneath your bench seating instead. Opt for a design where the top of the bench seat can be lifted up to reveal a large storage compartment, perfect for keeping all your cushions and throws in.
After more outdoor seating ideas? Head over to our feature.
18. Create a cosy seating area
If your garden lacks shelter then adding a structure like a pergola could be a good option for creating a cosy and welcoming seating area. Painting it a dark colour can help it tie in with your furniture and creates a more fresh and contemporary feel.
String festoon lights up for when the sun goes down and frame the area with an outdoor rug and matching cushions to add to the homely feel.
19. Choose statement furniture
Sometimes one standalone piece of furniture is all that's needed to give an instant lift to an outdoor space. Next to a group of container plants at varying heights this tranquil and stylish spot is perfect for whiling away the hours with a good book.
Find your perfect outdoor seating in our guide to the best garden furniture.
20. Go for laid-back entertaining
Love using your garden as a space for entertaining friends and family? Why not try incorporating one of our favourite outdoor bar ideas to give your garden a focal point for parties?
A garden bar will also encourage people to spread out from the seating area, ensuring your garden gatherings have a more open and friendly vibe. If you're good at DIY, creating a simple outdoor bar structure is an inexpensive way to recreate this look, or take a look at ready-made designs.
21. Plant grasses for a textural look
Choosing one variety of plant and grouping them en masse gives an effortlessly stylish look. Remember that less is often more.
Here, uniform planting of airy grasses adds a cool style to a garden that’s right on trend. They add drama and understated elegance with their sculptural shapes in stunning shades of burnt gold, luminous silver and vibrant stripes.
The trick to add wow factor is planting different types of grass as the stars of the show rather than mixing them in with other plants as a filler. Plant them in pots that you can move around to suit the mood. Need some help getting started? Head over to our guide on how to grow ornamental grasses.
22. Set the right tone
Deciding on a colour scheme that ties in your plants and your furniture can be tricky, but opting for a monochrome palette means that you needn't worry about things matching.
This all-white scheme is fresh and modern, and really soaks up the sunlight. Picking plants becomes easier too as there are plenty of white blooms available to choose from. What's more, a monochromatic look is totally on-trend this year – head over to our garden trends feature to see for yourself.
23. Add interest at eye level
Having multiple levels in a garden can add variety to the space, such as a raised patio dining area which can also give you a better view of the rest of the garden.
Raised beds are also a great way of bringing plants up from ground level – having them at eye height in a seating area means you feel more of a connection to the planting. Taller plants like Alliums offer another extra level, too.
24. Keep it low maintenance
You may not have the resources at the moment to spend time and money on landscaping ideas, but that doesn't mean you can't still have a beautiful garden.
On fair-weather days you can bring indoor furniture outside and appreciate the existing charms of your plot. Just remember to bring things inside overnight because it's not worth the risk of furniture getting soaked in an unexpected downpour.
25. Consider an awning for shelter
If you have a seating area that's next to your house, investing in an awning or veranda will provide protection from both the rain and sun.
Choosing a clear material like glass or perspex for the roof means that light still gets through and you can enjoy views of the sky. If the structural beams are strong enough, you could even consider hanging a chair from one of them for the ultimate outdoor relaxation spot – a great look for modern garden ideas.
26. Reinvent a classic
Hard landscaping should last for years so it makes sense to go with a timeless look. With so much choice available when it comes to materials this is where things can get expensive so it’s important to bear in mind your budget so things don’t ravel out of control.
Textured limestone pavers add the luxe look to your garden design but are one of the more expensive options. Now you can get the look at a fraction of the cost and without the hassle of maintaining the real thing. Limestone-effect tiles give the same wow factor and slot seamlessly into a cool and contemporary look.
Head over to our modern paving ideas feature for more inspiration.
27. Design an indoor-outdoor space
A lovely outdoor space can be an extension of your home. Select materials that match, or at least complement, your indoor flooring to create a seamless flow. Floor-to-ceiling doors that open fully really create a feeling of endless space. This is an ideal scenario for a small garden, to stop the space feeling cramped.
28. Include tropical planting
Design a jungle-style canopy by layering trees and taller plants, such as ferns, with smaller-sized plants underneath to get that lush, overgrown vibe. Tree ferns are slow-growing and hardy, so are perfect for bringing an exotic feel to a tropical garden.
Include some structural elements made from materials that feel as if they’ve always been there – large rocks, distressed woods, old brickwork, bamboo poles and brushwood screening all work well. And why not add to the look with a printed parasol? We love the fringing detail on this one above.
29. Style up your space with modular furniture
The modular furniture in this lounge style set-up is accessorised with small tables, cushions and vases to create a cohesive look that’s co-ordinated right through to the stylish planter.
Choose all-weather powder coated aluminium and synthetic rattan in a cool stone grey contemporary weave. Then, add a bright accent colour for cushions and planting to switch up the look. And to keep it in tip-top condition, take a look at our guide on how to clean garden furniture.
30. Transform a terrace
Small roof terraces or balcony garden ideas can also benefit from good garden design ideas.
Use the colours of your surroundings to help you create your colour scheme. For example, here, grey stone has informed the shade of the decking and the furniture, creating a cool and muted palette. The patterned cushions add a flair of fun.
You may not have lots of space on your terrace for an array of plants, but one statement pot will really lift the space.
31. Accessorise a blank canvas
If you're someone whose tastes change depending on trends, then you might want to opt for a furniture set that can act as a blank canvas.
Something fairly plain and unobtrusive can be styled up with new accessories depending on what look you're trying to create. Adding a new colour pop planter or bold cushion here and there can give it a whole new energy.
32. Use every nook
Have a look around your garden and see if there is any dead space that could be put to better use. Is there a patch of wall that's currently bare, and could fit one of the best garden benches? If so, you've got yourself a new cosy nook!
Different seating areas are always handy. Whether it's for entertaining or just for your own use, it's nice to take in a different view, or separate dining areas from relaxation spaces.
33. Lead the way with paths
Having garden paths that link different areas of your garden design ideas is not only visually appealing, it's also practical. Without a pathway you'll soon find that you tread an unsightly channel in your lawn.
Opt for salvaged paving slabs as a cheap option and smarten them up with one of the best pressure washers before laying, to make them look brand new.
34. Material matters
Patterned floor tiles are a growing trend for paving ideas, and there's plenty of choice available. From cool graphics to ornate Mediterranean patterns, they certainly pack a punch.
If you aren't all that green-fingered then their patterns can make up for a lack of interest elsewhere and give a much-needed boost to more simplistic planting schemes.
It's important to make sure your choice of paving is suitable for outdoor use to prevent it cracking due to frost, or becoming too slippery when wet. Man-made materials such as porcelain or concrete are hard-wearing choices, or opt for natural stones like sandstone, granite, limestone or slate.
35. Try your hand at upcycling
If you want to ensure your space is truly unique, then simple DIY and upcycling projects are the way to go.
Sewing skills can be put to good use for seat cushions in pretty prints and of course a lick of outdoor paint in a well chosen shade is something we can all manage to do!
These recycled oil drums have been painted and turned into unique outdoor seating. We've got lots more tips on how to use salvage for garden upcycling ideas in our feature.
36. Put in some steps
Having a garden on different levels can be more visually appealing than having everything at one height. Steps can add another dimension to your layout, so think about putting in a raised section at one end of the garden.
This is particularly good for sloped gardens, as you can create a series of levels rather than one continuous slope, which can be impractical for seating areas or as play spaces for kids.
Need more ways to make the most of your plot? Check out our sloping garden ideas.
37. Open up the space with mirrors
Every outdoor space would benefit from our garden mirror ideas. You'd be amazed how much it can open up even the smallest of spaces.
Positioning is key; you want it to reflect light from the sun to brighten the area but you don't want it shining in your face while you're trying to enjoy an alfresco lunch. Be wary too of too much light hitting your plants in case this damages the leaves.
38. Design an area for cooking
Let's face it, one of the best things about having a garden is being able to fire up one of the best BBQs. If this is the case for you, then putting in a designated area for cooking makes good practical sense.
It can be as simple as installing some storage to keep everything in one accessible place, from charcoal to condiments. Extra surface space is also handy for outdoor cooking and will save you walking back and forth to the kitchen to fetch what you need. Head to our guide to creating an outdoor kitchen for more advice, whilst our outdoor kitchen ideas has lots more inspiration.
39. Keep it sleek
If your home's exterior is quite modern, it's a good idea to continue the contemporary look in your outside space too for a sense of cohesion.
Pristine clipped hedges are a useful way to zone a seating space from a lawn. Plus, they'll soften the look of hard landscaping or the rendered finish of an extension. Our lawn edging ideas has plenty more designs.
40. Introduce a country cottage feel
Robust, traditional materials like timber, stone and brick lend themselves to a more rustic style garden. A pretty pastel outdoor sofa and chairs can set the scene and a climbing rose is classic cottage garden essential. Choose a fragrant climber and train it up a wall for quintessential country garden look.
Head to our feature on cottage garden patio ideas for more inspiration on how to recreate the vibe.
41. Enjoy vacation vibes
Not being able to jet off to other countries as easily has meant that there's been a growing appreciation for our outdoor spaces.
Have a relaxation area where you can recline with a book or simply lie there and soak up the sun (remember your SPF in summer). Outdoor heating, such as the best patio heaters or best fire pits, means that you can enjoy your garden well into the evening and in the cooler months too.
42. Choose smart paving
If you're thinking of laying a paved area, you might want to consider choosing a light shade to open up the space. Paler colours reflect light, making an area seem more spacious without seeming empty.
A good tip is to check what colour it turns to in the rain, as you may not like the look of it. If you live somewhere where weather can be unpredictable, this is definitely a factor to consider.
43. Design a secluded spot that's perfect for you
How you approach your garden space should be similar to how you would approach designing the layout of a living room inside. Think what the best layout would be, what furniture you'd like and how to accessorise the space.
If you're someone who likes to relax outside with a glass of wine then choose a low-maintenance set up with easy-to-grow container plants. If you find yourself forgetting to water plants, then find out what watering technology is available to keep your plants lush and healthy. Remember, it's your space, so make sure it's designed with you in mind!
44. Make use of every corner
Re-assess your garden and see if there’s any potential in a neglected corner in terms of using the space differently. For instance, maybe you can add an extra area for outdoor living, relaxation, a yoga workout or your mindfulness moment – whatever it is that takes your fancy.
Then, style it up to suit the mood. So, if you’re after the feel of a garden retreat add plenty of comfortable cushions, festoon lighting and a fire pit or barbecue to turn the space into something special.
45. Add lighting for a magical effect
As the sun sets, garden lighting ideas can totally transform your outdoor space, changing the atmosphere at the flick of a switch. Not only will it allow you to enjoy being in your garden for longer, but you'll also benefit from views of your outdoor space from inside the house at night.
Combine a range of lighting options, such as festoon and fairy lights, for maximum impact. Portable options, such as LED candles are also a great way to boost your garden lighting, creating a softer, more intimate ambience.
What do you need to consider when designing a garden?
First and foremost, you need to consider how you want to use your space when designing a garden. Think about the activities you want to do outdoors – do you need space for eating, socialising, or playing with the kids? Or, maybe you've been checking out our guides on how to grow sweet peas or how to grow lavender and want to create your own flower-filled haven.
Whatever the activities are, list them down as a starting point, then think about how each zone can be arranged across your plot. Take practical factors such as sunlight, shelter, and your all-important budget into account.
You'll also need to think of the style you want to create. Channel your personality by picking colours and textures that suit you, and think about focal points such as water features, sculptures, or small trees.
When it comes to planting, check the conditions of your plot first. If it doesn't get much sun, then our shade garden ideas will help you transform it into a welcoming oasis. If it's sunny and dry, then perhaps our small rock garden ideas are more fitting. And if you're not entirely sure, then our guide to soil types will give you a helping hand.
Another top tip is to consider the timings of your garden design project, especially if you're planning other building works. For instance, if you're starting a house extension project, this can be the perfect time to think about your garden design. This is especially the case if you're going to be removing side access to the rear garden. The last thing you want to do is build a sleek new extension and then have to cart machinery and landscaping materials through your house to complete the garden at a later date. Plan for the work to be completed at the same time, to minimise the inevitable upheaval.
Need more advice? Our guide on how to plan your garden design has all the tips you need to know.
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