These are the top garden design mistakes that will date your backyard, according to garden design experts. Full disclaimer: if any (or all) of these garden design ideas are your favorite and they work for you, keep doing what you're doing. After all, garden design is subjective.
However, if you want your outdoor space to look contemporary and up-to-date, it may be best to avoid these common backyard design choices.
1. Going miniature in a small garden
Renowned horticulturalist Carol Klein pointed out this common mistake when we interviewed her ahead of her new Great British Gardens with Carol Klein (opens in new tab) show. 'People believe that you’ve got to have everything in miniature,' Carol said, which risks making a small garden look 'twee' – and, yes, dated.
She explained that 'it’s much, much better to have a bit of drama in there. I think you’ve really got to go for it.'
So, think oversized statement planters and a few big, showy plants – rather than a vast collection of tiny pots and ornaments crammed into a small space. We have many container gardening ideas that are fresh and contemporary in our gallery.
2. Using cheap-looking waterproof materials
Remember when pressure-treated wood and resin were used for just about everything, from decking ideas to planters? Yes, these materials are durable and low-maintenance – but they just don't look very contemporary anymore, unless you can find a more expensive version that successfully imitates the real thing.
HTGT presenter and licensed remodeler Matt Blashaw (opens in new tab) recently told us in an interview: 'stay away from the pressure-treated stuff'. Particularly when talking about cladding for raised planters, 'I like to do natural cedar or redwood,' adds Matt.
Marc Husband, product design lead at Leader Doors (opens in new tab), adds: 'People can become obsessed with putting in features that are abundant with dated waterproof materials – regardless of whether they suit the rest of your garden! Be brave and use natural materials! If you're worried about longevity for materials like wood, you can easily apply a waterproof sealer after using linseed/tung oil and varnish.'
3. A flat, open-concept backyard with a lawn in the middle
It is the most basic and still most widely used garden layout ideas out there – and also the most dated one. We're talking about the classic, rectangular or square lawn with perimeter borders. If you want a garden that looks fresh and contemporary, it's time to leave this old-fashioned design behind.
Garden designer and Your Garden Made Perfect (opens in new tab) presenter Tom Massey says: 'Think beyond the basic layout where you have a lawn in the middle of the garden and a thin strip of planting pushed out to edge. Be bold and think about creating intimate spaces rather than just keeping it all open and flat. Why not scrap the lawn altogether and plant a wildflower meadow?'
Anna writes about real estate, interior design, and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications in the US and the UK. Before embarking on her writing career, Anna taught English at university level and is the author of a book called London Writing of the 1930s. She currently splits her time between London and the Midwest US. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.
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