The garden planning process starts with an analysis of the existing situation. You have to be aware, what are the values and what are the disadvantages of your garden. At first estimate the good views in the garden – to a natural territory, to a hill or a lake – mark on a plan all views, that you consider valuable. Mark also important views – from the garden terrace, from the living room in the house or any other place, which is used often. Estimate also bad views, which should be screened in the garden rearrangement process. After the analysis is completed, the planning stage starts, during which it is important to take into consideration the seven most important planning aspects.
1. The first and most important garden planning aspect is functionality. The garden plan should be created according to the functional zones of the territory. So the first task is to divide the garden into functional zones.
Each garden has a representative zone. Usually it embraces the front yard and it is situated by the main entrance, where are the first views towards the property, when approaching it. The representative zone has a decorative meaning – it should be appealing during the whole year. Therefore often evergreen plants are used in the representative area, plants, which have a beautiful silhouette, decorative leaves as well as annual flowers in the summer. Special decorative objects of art are also suggested to be placed in the representative zone of the garden.
The recreational zone is a garden area, which is used most often in the warm season. There can be a garden terrace or a gazebo as well as a bigger lawn area for outdoor activities and recreational equipment. If there is a swimming pool intended, it will also be placed in the recreational area. The recreational area can be dividend into a quiet and active zone. The quiet zone is designed for relaxation, dining and resting, but the active zone can be designed for different sports activities – it can also include some sports fields. In the recreational area such plants are planned, which have a long flowering period and which are specially decorative in the warm season. Near the terrace or gazebo some scented plants can be projected.
If the garden is used by children, a children’s playground will be one of the functional zones of the garden. The playground should be placed in such a part of a garden, which can be supervised by adults from a place, where they spend most of their time. It should be a sunny place, but shade also should be available in the hot season. The children’s playground is often dividend for children up to 6 years and for children 7 – 14 years of age. There are different activities and different types of play equipment intended for these age groups. The playground can have a special theme or it can be intended for some specific activities – imagination games, adventure, gymnastics, water therapy etc. Choose the plants by the playground carefully – be sure to avoid poisonous plants and plants with thorns.
Another important functional zone is the household area. It is a place, where you will put a compost heap, a barn or a greenhouse, where a dog can be kept and some construction materials can be stored. There was a tradition to screen the household area from the rest of the garden before, but nowadays it is often left open and designed so, that it looks appealing.
All elements, which are planned later in the garden should be arranged according to the layout of the functional zones. Do not put elements from one zone into another zone – that is the basic tip to form a logical garden layout.
2. The second important aspect in a garden project is the ecological aspect. The ecological aspect suggests to appreciate the natural values of the garden, to choose plants according to the ecological conditions of each specific place and to arrange the garden in an environmentally friendly way. Evaluate carefully the natural values of your site – do not rush to cut trees, shrubs and eliminate natural biotopes. A natural meadow, a wetland, a river coast or a forest ground cover can be much more valuable than artificially created plantings.
And moreover, when planning new plants, they should be chosen according to the ecological conditions of the place – sun or shade, humidity, nutrients in the soil, alkaline or acid soil etc. Plants with opposite ecological demands can not be planted close together.
3. The third important planning aspect is the visual aspect, which means the artistic composition of the garden – how will it actually look like? The garden composition like any kind of art has to be harmonic, based on a good choice of proportions. There can be different design concepts, but it is important to connect the concept with the existing situation – the landscape embracing the territory and the style of the buildings in the territory – all these elements should compose a united composition with the garden. The garden style can be more natural – appropriate for countryside, bigger gardens and more natural environments. Or on the other hand it can be more artificial, composed of different pavements, architectural elements and regular forms – appropriate for city gardens, historical gardens and small sites. In countryside gardens the territory is often dividend in different zones of naturalness – closer to the house the garden is designed more regular and further away it becomes more natural.
4. For sites with a great historical value it is important to take into consideration the historical aspect and the garden has to be planned according to the historical style of the buildings.
5. Symbolic aspect of planning can be important in gardens with a symbolic meaning.
6. Psychological aspect is very important in all gardens. It is important, that people in the garden feel comfortable, relaxed and are not restricted or stressed by anything in the garden. There are different environmental factors, which have impact on our perception of the garden (e.g. vastness, complexity, mystery, flexibility, uniqueness, light, colors, contrast, materials etc.) and they should be adjusted to the optimal level of the garden users, when creating a garden design. The optimal level is not the same for everybody – each person has a different optimal level for each environmental factor.
7. Economical aspect is also important to plan a garden, which fits the planned expenses for it’s establishment.
Vivian V. Green, author and landscaper, http://www.boxdesignstudio.wordpress.com.