Theme contemporaryOur garden design expert Jilayne Rickards, offers a bespoke & professional garden design service from inception through to installation and maintenance.

"Inspired by the changing light, rugged coastline, crashing sea and billowing landscapes that are so typical of Cornwall, I am now based in London where I enjoy blending the geometry of urban landscapes with the aesthetics of light and form to create dynamic gardens that reflect the client's personality."

For our Grand Gardens Week Jilayne has put together her top tips to considered for any garden design.

Select a theme that you love (such as purple & white, contemporary, Japanese style, tropical etc) and try to relate every decision back to it. This will help to link the entire garden together.


Use a prominent dimension from your house (eg door width) and use this to determine the dimensions used for layout (eg if the door width is 1m, patio space could be 4m but not 4.35m as this does not relate to 1m). Relate all dimensions such as lawn, beds, seating areas back to this dimension. This will relate the layout of the garden back to the house so the two sit well together and compliment each other.

Rectilinear versus Curves
Consider your surroundings – if you are in an urban setting then rectilinear layouts work well and equally curves work well when set in a rolling landscape. It is of course possible to use both together such as a highly contemporary rectilinear layout being softened by a curved line running though it, which could be planting or a wall for example.


Use restraint and limit your hard landscaping materials to three, then repeat them throughout the garden to unite the space. Ensure the materials you are using are suitable for outdoor use (eg check bricks are frost resistant, tiles are not interior tiles). If possible use a material used in the house construction somewhere within the garden to further relate the garden to the house (eg brick used in the house walls as a lawn edging detail).

Mass and Void
Generally speaking, splitting the garden into thirds works well using one dominant third (usually the lawn) and two lesser thirds (usually patio and seating areas). Voids (open spaces such as patios and lawns) need to be balanced with masses (planting, structures or features) so that the garden is not completely open and uninviting.

Level changes

Level Changes
Level changes automatically add vertical interest to a garden but they do necessitate the use of steps and retaining walls. Suitable construction materials need to be used to ensure functional stability and aesthetic quality.


Ascertain your garden aspect (sunny, shady, semi-shade), soil type (clay, sandy, loam) and ph level (acid, neutral or alkaline) and select only plants that will thrive in your location.

JR HeadshotSelect structure first (such as trees and shrubs) – this will be the backbone of the planting design and see you through the winter nicely whilst fading into the background during summer. Next select herbaceous perennials, ferns, climbers, grasses and bulbs and ensure you select something for all seasons.

Repetition of groups of planting will ensure continuity throughout the garden and give it sense of unity and rhythm.

Jilayne will be taking part in Ask an Expert and offering FREE 30 minute consultations. Click here to book an appointment.

Logo small

Sponsors - NEC