A radical change in the design of your garden doesnít have to be frightening, confusing or only done by professionals. You can actually make quite an impact yourself, following some basic guidelines.

You have your garden. You like bits of it: some plants; the size of the lawn; the border down one side. But the lawnís not quite the right shape, the border seems to need a bit of a feature, the patio needs to be bigger and a different surface perhaps. And you want a tree and some water.

This is easily achievable on your own and the feeling of achievement is elating. But it helps to follow some basic ground-rules that keep you away from temptations that may sound good but in the end donít really work.

Letís start with the lawn. If you want to change the shape the temptation is to nibble away mouse-like at the edges. The end result looks increasingly spotty and indecisive. Instead, simple and positive shapes work best, both aesthetically and practically. Remember that your lawn will normally act as a kind of hub into which other features focus.

If you think your patio needs to be larger you are on the right track. The best indication is to put the maximum furniture you might want on it, plus some pots or other containers and if you canít walk comfortably around all of them without hitting something or falling off the edge it needs to expand. Changing the surface can definitely freshen up a garden, but can be expensive. An alternative is to smarten up what you have got with a good clean or even painting it a different colour.

A good tip for changing planting, especially in a small garden, is: donít be afraid to put a large plant, such as a tree or shrub, in a prominent, central position. Obviously donít put in something that will grow to 20 metres, but people are often afraid to move big, bold plants away from boundaries. It is quite right that a guideline for planning a border is Ė like the school photo Ė short at the front, tall at the back. But the tall ones can be great features when they stand alone.

You may not be an artist or draughtsman, but the simple guides to improve a garden and accompanying sketch plan is something most of us could manage on a piece of graph paper. Have a go.

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Other Ruth Chivers Articles
   Design Corner - Making Changes        Design Corner - Simply Does It
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   Greenfingers Garden: Planting Up        Greenfingers Garden: The Brief
   Greenfingers Garden: The Design        Greenfingers Garden: The Survey
   Greenfingers Garden: Wrap Up        Greenfingers' Garden: Work Begins
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