The Garden Setting


When designing a garden, you must consider it in the context of its immediate surroundings rather than as a simple stand-alone element. For example, it may be in an elevated position that has fine prospects but needs shelter from strong winds, or in a suburban setting with both good and bad outlooks. You will need to add some further information onto your site plan such as the type of view and the direction of prevailing winds, so that you will have an indication of where additional shelter or screening may be required.


The orientation of the garden - which way it faces in relation to the sun - is fundamental to its design. The direction of the sun will have a bearing on your choice of plants and will also establish the best places to sit in the garden.

Use a compass and mark magnetic north clearly on your plan. You will also need to remember that the sun travels lower in the sky during the winter, so a tree or wall will cast relatively longer shadows than in the summer. If you can indicate the arc of the sun across the garden throughout the day, and mark the extent of the shadow patterns at different times of year, this will provide invaluable information when it comes to planting and designing your garden.


You will need to record the details of the views beyond your garden, on all sides. A good view, such as a pleasing tree or perhaps a church spire, can dramatically affect the finished design. Unfortunately, bad views are often more common, ranging from overlooking windows to the obtrusive bulk of a neighbour's garage, or the unattractive sight of motorways or electricity pylons in the larger landscape.

Inside the garden itself, an oil tank can create a real eyesore, as can a poorly sited dustbin store or shed. Analyse the views you have, both inside and outside your garden, and mark your observations on your plan. If necessary, take a look at our tips on disguising any of the eyesores you might have.


Another factor that may be a concern is noise; if it is minor, solid banks of soil or dense, evergreen planting may help. An easier and often equally effective approach is to create a competing noise distraction with, for example, a splashing waterfall or tinkling fountain.


Shelter, or a lack of it, is another factor to record on your plan. Note down the places in the garden that are most affected by the prevailing wind or by draughts, as both could have a detrimental effect on both plants and people.

Rain Shadows

Another element that you should note is the lack of rainfall near walls and buildings due to a rain shadow. The prevailing wind drives rain along with it, and if a structure stands in its path, ground in the lee will receive little or no moisture. A similar situation occurs with overhanging eaves, wall plants or trees.