“Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are”.
Alfred Austin’s very apt quote is a wonderful starting point to consider when thinking about your garden and how you imagine it in the future. Gardens you see, are intensely personal places. These spaces are, much like our homes, where our lives unfold on a day to day basis. Realistically, more often than not however, how our garden looks now has little to do with the dream we have of our perfect garden.
The disconnect between how our gardens actually are and how we would like them to be is what got me thinking a year ago about trying to find a way of identifying what your dream garden space is. Not only that, I wanted to try and find a way to help people achieve this in a realistic and do-able way. This was the basis behind my thought process when I developed a talk and course based on creating your own dream garden. The past year of exploring these ideas has been a fascinating and eye opening one for me and has really opened up my ideas on personal and emotionally led design.
As a designer I am lucky to be invited into people’s spaces and I get to know a little about who they are and how they live their everyday lives. The idea of exploring your dreams and desires for the garden is something I consider all the time for many different clients.
Many clients ask me if a dream garden actually achievable in a real space? What about function and form and the practicalities of a garden? What of compost bins and clothes lines, maintenance and good circulation? My answer is that of course these are all vital starting points to a successful garden and core to making your space work for, not against you. They are the most basic functional elements to get right or the garden will be wrong for you.
There is however a step before the practicals that often gets forgotten about, or sometimes treated as a sideline in garden design. This is you. The question of who you are. Think about this: what are your passions, your everyday pleasures, your style, your likes? What do you see yourself doing in your garden space? And then most of all, what are your garden dreams? At this stage I would ask you to imagine the most beautiful garden space you have ever been in and try and consider what made it so special to you? Perhaps it was a garden on holidays which made you feel free and easy and lovely? Or maybe it was your granny’s wild garden, overflowing with playful colour? The again maybe it was a public garden space, for example the Alhambra gardens in Andalusia in Spain with all its perfection and symmetries that stayed with you until now. Whatever the space, this can become your dream garden inspiration and form the backbone of your design choices for the garden.
This is what I call the dream gardens exercise in my new book Dream Gardens and I find it is a wonderful way of identifying what your dreams for a space are going forward. These visuals are based on your personal memories and emotions you associate with those memories so they will be intensely personal. Before you start looking at the admittedly vital functional needs of a space, and even the forms for the space, I feel it is very important to study these emotional associations with our favourite space or spaces. The idea is that no matter how important reality and practicality is, we don’t want to ever lose the feel of your dream garden.
When it comes to planning designs for our lives, our initial efforts are often put into creating the best and most beautiful homes for us to live in. We tend to think from the inside out and there is a good reason for this as our homes are the places where we spend most of our time. Gardens on the other hand, are more often than not secondary spaces that are dealt with after the home design is complete. This makes sense in one way in that it is good to live with your garden for a while and get to know it before we make design decisions. On the other hand, there is plenty to be said for considering our garden an integral part of the design process with the home. Vital connections between the inside and the outside can be considered at the home build stage and many architects now like to work collaboratively with garden designers to make sure the inside is reflected in the outside and vice versa.
This is the perfect time to start looking at the functions of the garden and what you want it to do for you. Your garden should be a reflection of how you live on an every day basis. So, when considering your garden from a functional point of view, the best way to start is thinking about you. Think about your and your family’s likes, your hobbies, and how you use the garden. Think about how your day in the garden looks at present. You also need to consider how you would ideally like your day in the garden to be. For example, you may use the garden one or twice a week to read a book or eat outdoors with the family-and only when it does not rain. That’s what you have right now. You may however like the idea of using the garden more than that, and even when it does rain. These considerations will have an impact on what you want in your garden. A roofed pergola for shelter from the rain for example or a summerhouse for eating and reading.
Designing a garden at this early stage means you can make informed and well considered choices early on. Every design feature from colour to plant choices is based on your likes, your passions and your everyday needs.
Creating dream gardens is not about being perfect, it’s more about being perfect for you.
So, in answer to the question ‘is a dream garden actually achievable in a real space?’- Absolutely.
by Leonie Cornelius-Mercier Press
A clear and easy-to-follow guide on how to create the garden of your dreams.
In the bestselling book Dream Gardens one of Ireland’s leading garden designers, Leonie Cornelius, provides an outline of the skills and inspiration necessary to design a garden space that matches your style, your everyday needs and your gardening desires. Focusing on how a garden makes you feel, Leonie guides you through every step of the design process in expert but clear detail, from discovering the principles of good design, to finding the right style and helping you with the practicalities of building your new garden. More than a straightforward how-to guide, Dream Gardens will inspire readers to dream big and create a stunning and truly personalised outdoor space.