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Creating a landscaped space outside your home can not only provide you with a charming area in which to relax outside but can also add value to your property so it is worth doing well. But you don't need to be Alan Titchmarsh to get the basics right.
Firstly, consider the area as a whole before you begin formulating a plan - though you may only start with a smaller area (particularly if finances are tight) landscaping is all about balance and flow and therefore consideration should be given to the entirety of the garden.
Then decide what kind of garden you would like to create - formal or natural. Formal landscaping requires geometric patterns and straight lines with the emphasis on symmetry and fixed features, while a natural landscape can encompass curved or ragged lines and less structured groups of plants.
Just as important is how much work you may or may not want to do in the garden once the landscaping is complete - if you are unlikely to have enough time for weeding and mowing but are keen to entertain outdoors, a patio, decking, paving, pebbles or gravel are low maintenance but can be just as attractive.
Similarly, who uses the garden and what for will affect your design. For instance, those with young children may prefer to stay away from steps and water features in case of accidents.
And always set a budget - plants can be expensive so establish how much you are willing or can afford to spend.
A successfully landscaped garden needs transitions - whether you have a large garden and have created 'rooms' with the help of hedges, walls or shrubs, or have a smaller area to work with, a gradual transition in form and line will balance your garden. Plants growing in height towards a focal feature or grouping similar colours and textures together can help to add flow to your outside space.
A variety of plants is also essential - while perennials will bloom year after year, their flowering period can be quite short so some annually flowering plants can keep your garden colourful throughout the spring and summer. Shrubs and trees on which the leaves change colour during the autumn or have berries during the winter months will also add colour.
Evergreen plants are, of course, extremely good for covering gaps in flower beds, hiding unsightly but necessary features as well as ensuring there is greenery all year round.
With these basic principles, some careful design and a little hard work, you'll be able to enjoy your garden in all its glory.