A successful design is one that is pleasing to the garden owner. There is room in gardening for every taste and no such thing as the ‘right’ way to do a garden. However, no matter what style is favoured, or taste is satisfied, there is such a thing as ‘good’ design – design that it is pleasing to a wide range of people, besides the owner.
Some people are instinctively good at design, any sort of design. Others have to think carefully about their efforts. It is useful to consider the elements of garden design – size, shape, colour and texture, space, light and shade, mystery and focus, unity and variety –
because they give some guidance on how to proceed.
Everything done with the garden counts as a design decision; even if we decide to do nothing at all, it is design by default!
Decisions about the features used, their position, and construction must be taken at every stage. Very often, such decisions are made instinctively, or by following a traditional formula, even if it is a bad tradition, such as planting a tree in the centre of a small lawn. It is worth giving active consideration to every decision, especially the really major ones. Every decision has consequences in terms of expense, time and maintenance.
It is not suggested that the positioning of every single plant must be agonised over; that is the other extreme. Instinct and taste must be trusted in making decisions, but they should be informed by some careful thought.
There are two questions to ask about any garden feature or plant. ‘Why am I using this feature, or plant?’ ‘Is this the best way to do the job?’ There should be good reasons why a feature or plant is being used; there should be good reasons for doing a job in a particular way.