Sponsored By English Gardens, printed with permission from English Gardens' Inspirations Magazine

Remember, great gardens don’t get “installed.” They evolve and are fine-tuned over time.

Here’s a simple and easy checklist to assess the strengths of your garden. Read the entire list first, and take it with you as you walk around your garden, making notes and jotting down ideas or sketches as you go.

Enclosures Or Walls

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The best gardens have a sense of enclosure. They need not be completely surrounded, but there should be a sense of safety and privacy. Visual boundaries don’t necessarily need to be inside your property line (“borrowed” scenery is a classic garden element), but great gardens feel like they’re a distinct place.

Unique Personality

The very best gardens are a refection of their creators’ personalities. You can’t help but create something unique if you choose plants and garden décor that excites you, and combine them in a way that pleases you. Never be afraid to experiment. If you include things you truly love, it will all work together.

Places To Relax And Dine

Gardens aren’t meant to just look at or walk through. They’re for relaxation, conversation and outdoor dining. Think of your outside space as an outdoor room. Provide all the amenities you’d want in order to relax and entertain. Comfortable seating, a dining area and even a cooking area are what most people choose.

Shade Or A ‘Ceiling’

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You’ll want to place your seating areas where there’s protection during the hottest hours of the day. A canopy of trees or a patio umbrella fit the need.

Focal Points

Elements in a garden, just like room décor indoors, shouldn’t be of equal importance. Our eyes need a place to rest. So create primary focal points and, if your garden is large, some secondary points. The objects of these points can be sculpture, a water feature, a bench, or a striking plant. Add surrounding plants and other materials that support, but not compete with, these features.


Color is usually the first thing we think about when planning a garden. Choosing a color theme will help keep your garden unified. But remember, green is a color, too. It’s one of the most restful and luxuriant ones as well. Nothing’s wrong with a sophisticated and subtle all-green garden where texture and shape provide the pleasure.


Water (moving or not) provides a cooling sensation. But it can also change the character of a garden space—the sound of a fountain provides a bit of energy, whereas a still body of water is calming. The use of water in a garden can be subtle or grand and spectacular. Make sure your water feature fits the character you want.

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