Firstly, I would ask what is a garden? A "garden" is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as an "enclosed piece of ground devoted to the cultivation of flowers, fruit or vegetables". It has also been described as the "relationship between the owner and the land and the history and character of the land and space”. I prefer that one as it is so much more intimate. The land could be a field or an existing cultivated garden. The land/garden includes the living soil, the plants growing in it and the living creatures supported by it.
A garden is a living, cyclical entity, constantly expanding with its many layers of life. Spring, summer, autumn and winter and then spring again bring constant change and surprise. People are not always happy with their existing land if they are considering change. You could say they want to improve their relationship with their land. A good garden designer needs to understand this and give guidance about the improvements necessary to make all parties happy.
A good garden design results in a garden that delights its owner. Realistically a successful garden is usually the result of careful planning. Thorough planning is important to achieve a cohesive design and includes a site survey, an interview with the clients about their likes and dislikes and a detailed scale drawing of hard surfaces such as patios and paths. It also includes a planting plan, coloured to show how foliage will influence the design. The design concept is written for easier interpretation of the drawing by the clients and to describe how the plan came about. Determining even the basic layout on paper helps prevent costly mistakes. Permanent structures such as patios, paths, walls, ponds and trees will often be the most costly part of an overall design and therefore it is worth the effort to pay for a working scale drawing by a professional.
Remember the design can be easily altered on paper. Planting a garden can be fun and a game of trial and error for most people but if you would prefer to leave out the trial and error a professional planting plan can be very beneficial. We all know the big tree in the small garden story. Remember an inappropriate tree doesn’t just have to be cut down the roots also have to be removed. Most clients want a low maintenance garden these days, what I would say is that a properly planted garden with a selection of colourful shrubs that do not require pruning is the lowest maintenance garden there is. Lawns require more maintenance than any other part of a garden and although are an important part of most gardens are better kept to a minimum. Perennial borders give fabulous colour from spring to autumn and are dormant during winter and are so are better if they include some evergreen shrubs.
A garden is all the obvious things such as a place to work, entertain, play, create, relax etc. Every garden is unique and as a result, every plan has to be different. There are many fashions and different styles of garden design, formal and informal in layout, such as Robinsonian, Italianate, Japanese, Mediterranean, etc. The design or plan is controlled by many factors: Aspect, topography, location, Exposure or Privacy issues, Size, Budget, Soil type, Function and Period or Style of house, but good imagination and inspiration can overcome any obstacle. Garden design is an ancient craft practised for over 3000 years and will no doubt continue to be practised well into the future.