With a wealth of experience behind him, Christopher Lloyd suggests there are a few basic guiders for all gardeners.
Gardening should, primarily, be about growing plants. This is the greatest excitement of owning your first garden; the opportunity of handling these living beauties, of giving them the conditions that suit them and then, not without a touch of pride, revelling in your results.
Wading straight into planting may be messy and, especially if you have a new garden, you might want to consult an expert designer. With plenty of cowboys out there, you need to find the right person for you, by asking around and by seeing examples of their work that you like. Make it clear to the designer (who needs to be keen to listen and not just talk) that you want the design to be simple. After all, it’s your garden.
I have always found that the more features you include, the fussier the result. Furthermore, while the design before planting may look gapingly empty, once the plants grow, that space will be gobbled up.
Make a spacious sitting-out area for a start, so that chairs can be pushed back without reaching the patio edge. Make paths as wide as the size of your garden will allow, so that plants from borders on either side can spill comfortably over them and still allow two people to walk side by side. Two metres will not be too wide in many cases, even though the space looks vast to begin with.
Make your pond as large as you can, so that you need never lose sight of the water (and its reflections), even when a waterlily and some emerging aquatic plants are included. A cramped pergola, neither high nor wide enough once it is covered in climbing plants, is pointless. Forget it.
Then, think about the lawn. Consider carefully whether you really need one - it makes for a lot of work. If pleasant paving or gravel will do instead, your plantings can spill forwards without your getting into a twitch about them possibly killing lawn turf.
If the garden is on a slope, will you want it to be terraced? Terracing looks very nice, and retaining walls offer vertical space for plants that enjoy good drainage, but it is expensive. Alternatively the slope can be filled and taken up by plants.