How to design your own garden

stop talking photography -1848 copy.jpgstop talking photography -1848 copy.jpg
stop talking photography -1860 copy.jpgstop talking photography -1860 copy.jpg

At our exclusive event at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show Jo Thompson gave us her top tips on designing your own garden.

Jo Thompson is recognised as one of the country’s leading garden designers and plantswomen, having won three gold and five silver gilt medals at RHS Chelsea. Earlier this month Jo designed the Brewin Dolphin Garden at the first RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. 

Here's her top tips: 

Think about your space
The best starting point when designing your own garden is to look at where it is, the style of your house and the way you live. The gardens I design all differ from one another because they are always designed with the location and client in mind.  

Designing the Brewin Dolphin garden at RHS Chatsworth meant creating a garden that did justice to the majestic setting of Chatsworth House and maximised the beautiful views and natural curves of the landscape. It offered a totally different perspective to anything I’ve ever done before but the same principles applied.  

Choose the style you want
Decide what style of garden you want. The quintessential English country garden follows the seasons and is based on a sequential canvas of herbaceous perennials such as irises, dahlias, peonies and rosa multiflora, all of which I used on the Brewin Dolphin garden at RHS Chatsworth. Bolster these with annuals like sweet peas and sunflowers and some vibrant green foliage from plants such as Alchemilla mollis, euphorbia and hostas. 

In a town setting, simple layouts work well to help create elegant, contemporary spaces. Think about how you’re going to use the garden and create a space that works with your lifestyle, whether you have a young family, entertain a lot or travel frequently. Use your interior space for inspiration but don’t repeat ideas slavishly from within. City gardens are often overlooked so structures that allow climbers such as roses and clematis are a good idea too to create some privacy. 

Remember, plants need looking after
Generally speaking the more plants you have, the more work you’ll need to do to keep your garden looking good.  If you haven’t got masses of time or you want to create a low-maintenance garden, think about your hard landscaping. You can create a beautiful space with paving, lighting, seating and just a few plants. Reduce the size of planted areas and limit yourself to a few varieties of long-flowering good performers. Get to know what care and attention they need and you’ll be able to deal with them quickly and easily.       

Ask for advice
If you’re still unsure about where to start, engage a garden designer for an initial consultation in order to get a grasp of the bigger picture. Focus on details and try to sketch out things yourself. Start small and give yourself time to see how things develop. 

Create unity
Avoid buying just one specimen of a plant you like  - if you like a plant, get three or five which can then be 'woven' through the garden, creating a more unified feel.