Garden with a Personality

Not everyone is given the gift of vision, where a simple thought can be translated into an idea, which can then be transformed into reality in our living environment. More often than not, we need to refer to visual aids and actual scenarios to see what works and what doesn’t. Once we have identified the feel and concept we have fallen in love with, the next step is to actually build it and this is where the confidence in making decisions comes in.

From selection of materials, layouts, movement flow to even the smallest details, we as designers have to make these daunting decisions. But take some comfort from the fact that there is never a right or wrong decision, but rather right or wrong paths. When we move down a road that your gut instinct knows is the wrong path, take a pause and see what doesn’t fit in the whole scenario, then either redo the whole thing or try a different technique.

Take for example the garden. Not the easiest of areas to dwell your designer fingers into, especially if you lack the green thumb, but this should not stop you from taking a plunge into the aesthetic world.

STEP 1 – Creating the Vision

So how do we create a vision? The easiest way is to tap your inner instincts or gut feel. Run through those design books and magazines, and feel from your heart what draws your eye or inspires you, rather than thinking of how to get around building it or what the costs would be. The construction and elements we put inside are the minor details, which should not be the cause to hamper your creative juices.


In this example, the idea of water and landscape comes to mind and the thrill of creating a stream in your backyard would be a luxury beyond any other. Look at the balance of soft flowing water with lush green grass textured with large stone boulders. Here, the key is the creation of a water path that offers a sense of tranquillity and peace.

However, a simple designed hammock can also add interest to your garden. Remember it is not how much we spend on our garden but what we place in it that creates the vision. In this case, the hammock reminds us of rest and sleep, and through this single item, it creates an aura of revitalization.

Not everyone has a garden fit for a king, but there are some key values to pick up from grandiose mansions that we may incorporate into our own homes. Look at this scene and identify the key design tips we can pick up here. First, look at the symmetry of the garden and at how each boulevard is focused towards a central element, which in this case is a water feature. The next is the balance of the garden and trees, which in an orderly fashion brings about a sense of calm and clarity in the thought process. And finally, the key theme to pick up from here is that no matter how big or small your garden, functionality always precedes form.

How so? The garden is set in an East-West axis, based on the sun shadows, thereby creating a North Sought Axis boulevard, which leads to the building behind. In doing so, it allows the building to sit facing the garden in the axis that requires the least possible heat gain from the morning and evening sun. Shadows are thrown in an orderly fashion up and down the boulevard to give directional focus to the garden, as the last thing we want are diagonal shadows throwing a disorderly blanket onto the garden experience.


STEP 2 – Adopting Design Techniques

Once we have figured out what kind of look we like, the next step is to identify different techniques that can be used to design the garden. In this pathway design, disregard the body of water, but rather focus on the path itself. By creating a break in material or design, it creates a visual stop-zone; so whether it is a stream or bed of flowers or sculpture, consider creating a break in the pathway to control our flow of travel.

How do we do this? Either you can incorporate a different pattern in the flooring as shown here, or play with materials such as a combination of gravel and grass, or even a change in colour of the pathway, to create a pause to designate a stop-zone. Remember that it is usually the simplest elements that can create the biggest effects.

Always design your garden with the idea of night and day. Every so often, we are led to believe that the garden is only appreciated during the day in the most pristine conditions, but dusk is usually the time the beauty of your landscape starts to come alive. As the warm colours of the setting sun starts to radiate through the skies, the use of lighting bollards throws a different kind of life energy into the garden space to create a mystical ambience in the home that we can view and experience.

Finally, think of the landscape as your palette where each scene is its own canvas. Here, look at ways to play with the perspectives of the space. Identify the key elements and think of how they can fit into your garden space. Break down each scene into its most basic values, which in this case would be the central water feature, set dead center within the space thereby signifying the goal or feature piece.

Organize timber pergolas to create a perspective focus on the space, first used as a roofing member, which is then reflected as a vertical member in the background, which acts as a backdrop to the water feature. This simple technique helps us link spaces on different planes together by introducing an element in the foreground that is also reflected in the background. By creating this visual link, it allows our experience of the space to be drawn to two different areas, which we can then appreciate as a whole rather than in segments.

When we start to look at how to design either our home or the surrounding landscape, first look at what intrigues our soul and what sparks excitement inside of us. Each of us has a different perception and appreciation for different scenarios, so it is important to know and describe what you like and why you like it. The next stage is to look at the tools of the trade and how these tools and techniques are used to heighten our experience further.

For Interior Design services and consultancy, contact Chris Yeo at