Garden ideas – 17 beautiful designs you'll love for your yard

Garden ideas – beautiful designs you'll love for your yard

This round-up of garden ideas will help inspire you to create a wonderful retreat in your backyard. Garden ideas can cover everything from quick improvements, such as new containers packed with blooms to larger-scale projects, such as redesigning an area of your garden for vegetables.

In good weather, our gardens are our go-to spaces. They have the power to create the peace, purpose and pleasure we all need in our lives. Plus, they can provide us with cut flowers, vegetables and herbs.

So, if you're looking for garden inspiration and design ideas for your outdoor spaces, look no further than our pick of the best garden ideas for any size or shape of space.

We have covered garden ideas of every manner in this guide, from coastal to English to vegetable gardens. Take inspiration to create a space that's personal, and special, to you, whether a relaxed and informal family space, or a more formal garden design.

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Grow a garden you can bring indoors

If you love flowers, why not plan a cut flower garden? All this really involves is planning your planting around the blooms you love. It might be that you indulge in typical English garden ideas, such as rose gardens, for example, or perhaps Mediterranean gardens are more suited to your local climate?

'Plant roses among grasses and perennials, with the plan to let them intermingle,' says award-winning garden designer Colm Joseph. 'When choosing roses, go for those with simpler, open flowers that are closer to the wild or hedgerow roses, rather than anything too ornamental or blousy. Although wild roses only usually flower once in early summer, they produce beautiful hips for fall and winter interest.'

And if you're looking to keep your roses – and all other plants – healthy, then you may need to learn how to add calcium to soil. This act will ensure the soil is at the best pH for growth as they encourage strong cell walls that ensure the plant grows upright.

(Getty Images)
Grow a kitchen or herb garden

You needn't have a large space to grow fruit, vegetables or herb. You can be creative with kitchen gardens and grow it all in one huge pot, or in a series of container gardening. 

'If you are a beginner to gardening or have little time for maintaining a garden, herb garden ideas are simple and satisfying,' says Homes & Gardens' garden editor Rachel Crow. 'You can grow enough in a container like the one above, in a window planter or even indoors.'

(Future/Leigh Clapp)
Pack a punch in a narrow space

If you are looking for plenty of planting but have a thin plot, look to clever narrow garden ideas. One of the best is to put in neat raised beds and layer planting, from tall to mid-height to low to make your flower beds pack a punch.

'Planting trees to espalier is a good way to create screening and plenty of greenery without allowing trees' branches to protrude into a narrow garden,' says Rachel Crow. 

(Future / Annaick Guitteny)
Consider plants for a north-facing plot

If your garden gets little natural light, you'll need to look specifically for north-facing gardens. For your borders, this includes the best shade plants, including shrubs that can keep your garden green throughout summer and winter.

But it will also include tricks to keep the garden light and bright, from choosing white-flowering plants to laying pale-colored, light-reflecting stone or wood for your patio. There are many different white gardens you could try.

(Tom Massey)
Plan vertical planting into a small space

Vertical gardens include everything from living walls through to planting on terraces in sloping gardens.

'Don't be afraid to use tall or upright plants to emphasize the verticality of your plot,' says gardening writer Natasha Goodfellow. 'Sloping gardens can be difficult to work with but they are also often far more interesting and appear larger than a flatter site.'

(Future / Mark Bolton)
Create a view

Designing a vista that you can enjoy just a step from your property is top of the garden ideas wish list. Think about how entertaining spaces can flow out from the house with seating areas and smart patios.

In this total overhaul of an overgrown five acre site, central to the design is the large terrace area that sweeps around the house allowing views straight out from the kitchen and living room across colourful borders to the lake and wildflower meadow beyond. 

‘To maintain those views, patio planting across the terrace is predominantly low with swathes of colour from Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’, Rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’ and Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’,' says Claire Merriman of Claire Merriman Design. 

'Repeated spheres of Elaeagnus ebbingei, Hebe topiaria and Pittosporum tobira Nanum pull the areas of the terrace together while stunning multi-stem Koelreuteria paniculata trees allow views out into the wider landscape.’

Pots on the terrace allow seasonal planting to be added throughout the year.

(Claire Merriman Design)
Design with water in mind

Water is a wonderful element to incorporate into outdoor spaces. Not only will it attract wildlife but the sight and sound can be incredibly soothing especially in town scenarios.

‘The magnificent scale of an antique limestone trough adds immediate importance to this city garden,’ says garden designer Butter Wakefield. ‘It effortlessly creates a sense of drama whilst providing a focal point to the immense side elevation of the house.’

For a unique water feature, frame a trough like this with a combination of white and pale pink climbing roses and the evergreen jasmine.

(Butter Wakefield)
Divide a large lawn with hedges

‘Over-large lawns can feel purpose-less,’ says designer Charlotte Rowe. Dividing the space into garden rooms will ensure that green spaces have different purposes, such as a terrace area for eating or a patch for growing vegetables.

In this project, a rethink of a garden resulted in two lawns separated by layers of box and hornbeam as well as pleached hornbeam trees, which is among the ideas for landscaping with evergreens.

‘The pleached central hedge cleverly divides the garden, but also allows views down into the shadier part of the garden where the owners have raised garden beds with vegetables and salads as well as a garden shed,’ adds Charlotte Rowe.

Subtle lighting makes this garden atmospheric at night – key trees and pleached hornbeams are uplit while Cor-Ten steel posts, with a rusty finish, create low level lighting along the gravel paths.

(Charlotte Rowe)
Create presence and proportion

In big open spaces, this is one of those garden ideas where it is possible to create interest and intrigue with large-scale topiary and symmetry. The classical Georgian style house in this project, designed by Jo Alderson Phillips and Rob Jones, needed a garden of equal presence and proportion and was built on the site of a neglected tennis court. 

‘The anchors here are a succession of yew topiary domes leading through each colour coordinated garden with the owner’s sculptures creating beautiful sight lines,’ say the designers. ‘We bought the topiary, which each weighed two tonnes, at Solitair in Belgium, a nursery that specialises in these fantastic mature specimens.’

Hedges and intriguing doorways around the garden are planted with Ilex crenata ‘Dark Green’ (Japanese box) and more structural evergreens are provided by umbrella pruned Pinus sylvestris with Osmanthus fragrans providing scent later in the year.

(Joanne Alderson)
Define a path

Whatever the shape or size of your garden, it will almost certainly have a path that travels from the back door to the end of your garden. Think about the function as well as aesthetic when looking at garden paths and deciding on the line or curve of your path.

In this garden by Charlotte Rowe, in the far end of the garden a swathe of Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ fragrances the air alongside the path, providing summer nectar for the bees. Understated chunky wooden benches are placed on the other side and under the shade of the garden’s mature trees to create a place to sit and admire the garden.

(Charlotte Rowe)
Install a fireplace

Whatever the season or climate, a permanent outdoor fireplace is a design focal point as well as a source of heat in the cooler times of the day.

Bear in mind that these kinds of fireplaces need to have specialist installation and look for high quality, compact outdoor fires that can withstand year-round weather conditions and use.

(Little Greene)
Be bold with color

Color is the new eye catcher for garden ideas. It's often the norm in classic gardens to paint outdoor details in harmonious colors to blend in with surroundings, but outdoor worthy paint formulas are meaning that we can paint architectural features, such as pillars, garden walls and screens in all manner of uplifting hues.

‘We love the idea of adding unique combinations to create a Mediterranean feel amongst dark green foliage,' says Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director of Little Greene.  

Pair a piercing blue paint like 'Marine Blue' on architectural details and pillars with a hit of bright sunshine yellow using plant pots painted in 'Mister David'.

(Little Greene)
Create a night garden

Good outdoor lighting are key to creating a perfect ambience outdoors and adds a certain je ne sais quoi to social events. Chosen carefully, it submerges everything in a warm glow while adding a magical touch to your evening. 

‘Garland lights are a classic way to create a celebratory atmosphere as night falls – a little roof of light which literally brings people closer together,’ says Coralie Claeys, Managing Director of Vincent Sheppard. 

These ‘Light My Table’ string lights can be clipped onto the sides of a table and don’t need to be fixed to anything nearby.

(Vincent Sheppard)
Be playful with sculpture

When embellishing the garden with additional decoration like a sculpture, consider its surrounding environment and the impact your garden decor may have on your chosen design and overall space. 

‘Decorative items can both harmonize with their immediate surroundings in tone, texture and form or, indeed, create a striking contrast,’ says sculptor David Harber. 

‘For example, a bright, bold reflective metal piece will both mirror its immediate environment and effectively borrow character and charm from the planting and landscaping surrounding it.’

(David Harber)
Take tiles from inside to outside

Incorporating decorative tiles into an outdoor scheme can create a transition from the house to the garden. This can be particularly effective if the same tiles are used inside and out creating a fluid line from interior to exterior.  

'Decorative tiles also work particularly well in small gardens,' says Lee Thornley, founder of Bert and May, 'and can help to define zones.'

Lay them on the floor and up walls to create an inviting feature or outdoor room – this works particularly well if you are looking for outdoor kitchens which demands a natural transition between indoors and out.

(Little Greene)
Use screens to define areas

Garden screens are one of those garden ideas that are an excellent way to create little sanctuaries. Great for providing both garden screening from neighbors and some faraway escapism with pretty Moroccan inspired fretwork. 

‘Be creative with the screens you use, using them to section off areas of your outside space to create specific relaxation zones,’ says Sophie Birkert, founder of Screen with Envy. ‘This year has seen the home become multifunctional and this can be extended into the garden, with different sectioned off areas designated for different activities.’

How about a kids-only area and a cozy snug just for the adults?

(Screen with Envy)
Choose furniture to last

When buying garden furniture, it’s important to think about maximising its use. Look at arrangements that focus on comfort which will set the scene for a lazy brunch, or smart armchairs which add a little glamour for cocktail hour. 

‘Sun-soaked spaces are ideal for al fresco entertaining, so choose lightweight furniture that you are able to move your seating to follow the best light,’ says Barlow Tyrie.

A pedestal table with taller legs will create elegant long shadows as time passes, and a high vantage point dramatically enhances your view of the garden and beyond.

(Little Greene)

The design tips, garden ideas and planting tricks you need for the perfect backyard