Previously we had listed the functional requirements for the garden. Now we set out to visualise the garden and to come up with a garden design plan.
Starting off with the floor plan of our house, I created a basic plan showing the house with ground floor windows, doors and outer walls, the area covered by the balcony, the boundaries of the garden, the road and major features such as the rock edge to the forrest, an existing fence and the fence that I had loosely agreed with the neighbour. I created this with a simple drawing tool in a reasonably high resolution, so I was able to utilise this further and print as much as I like in reasonable quality. Using the drawing tool, I also added a grid with thick lines indicating meters and thin lines indicating 20cm, allowing for placing and sizing in relative scale. I further added key measures of wall lengths etc.
The garden has an L-shape with the long side being the north side of the house, the back garden towards the west and the front garden towards the east. In the back, 5 meters from the house, a vertical 80cm rock face rises where the rock foundation of the forrest was exploded away to make place for the building site. From there the rock rises slowly and after an opening as wide as the garden, the forrest begins.
This plan I printed ten times and I took out two pencils and colour pens. Over several evenings my wife and I drew various drafts, discussed ideas, trying various ways for meandering a path with or without an ornamental area, various shapes for decking, shapes and places for lawn and beddings, until certain features became stable and the design started to take shape.
I also took a stab at modelling the garden with available free garden design tools, but found they could not help to visualise the height differences present nor the adjacent forrest. I found that the basic plan coloured in was the best tool to create a visualisation in 2-D, allowing me to visualise the garden in my head.
The books and magazines that we browsed previously were a great source for ideas for this creative process and we kept all that we could at hand throughout, as the photographs of certain details aided in visualising.
Once the design stabilised, I checked against the requirements, and we concentrated on how to achieve most requirements. Some had to give, there was just not enough suitable space for more than one fruit tree and we decided that the sandbox on the playground 50m away would have to do. Nevertheless, most of the requirements were eased into the design without too much difficulty.
Within the space of a week, we had drawn up a design for the garden. I am still amazed when I look at this today, as we have pretty much implemented the garden following this design.
In the front we envisioned a terrace as entrance area, levelling the sloped walk up to the front door, bridging the hight with two lazy steps. A small flower bed with space for a small ornamental tree would be left in front of the front terrace. The original solution was ill-conceived as entering the house with a pram or pushchair required quite some technique, holding it with one hand, while with the other hand unlocking the door. It would also be easier to get stuff into and out of the shed.
On the side of the house, we would create a snaking path, making a mystery garden entrance with lots of beddings and some strategic trees that would, once high enough, cover the view from the road and the neighbours windows. A fence would separate our garden from the neighbour’s and provide protection from winds and views. The three trees at the fence would also create strong symmetry and create a backdrop for the view from the kitchen and living room. Some kind of water feature half-way would create a point of interest and add to the view from the dinner table. Maybe a heap of stones next to the path would create further interest. The garden at the side would divert curious views from straying into our back garden, the tree at the corner of the house would further block the view. The path would be paved with slate and all edges would be done with dark stone.
The back garden would have a large decking area creating an extension of the 5m x 5m living room of the same size outside. There would be enough space to place a round table seating four or more outside of the balcony-covered area. An ornamental tree would be incorporated into the terrace, giving interest in spring and autumn and shade in summer. The decking would be following the rock-edge towards the forrest, breaking the straightness of the decking boards and creating a transition. An oval-shaped lawn would be all there is, large enough for children to run around, but no football field. The path would be easing onto the lawn, the other corners cut by the oval would be put into use: the corner by the house and terrace would be a rose bed, the other corder towards forrest and terrace would be paved and could be a site for a small barbecue. The paving would reach up to the rose bed and also act as a lazy step, as the lawn would be lower than the terrace and the paved area. The corner towards the forrest and fence, we would squeeze in a raised bed for vegetables. The two trees in the corner were tall fir trees not removed during building work. At the level of the terrace we would plant a shrub or tree to create view protection from the forrest (there is a little-used public footpath) a bit higher up. An apple tree would be placed were path and lawn meet, the only place sunny enough for fruits to ripen. As a backdrop for the lawn, we would have climbers covering the fence. From the terrace and the lawn steps would lead up the rock.
With the vision firmly set, we started to prepare the implementation.