Gardens never go out of fashion – they’re a hardy perennial trend! – and they also constitute a valuable asset. According to recent reports, around 70% of home buyers would pay more for a property with private outdoor space. In fact, a well-presented garden can add up to 20% to the value of your house. Among new-build buyers, a garden is the second most sought-after feature, topped only by private parking.

Unfortunately, not every garden is a lush oasis; many have been long-term neglected while others (especially those that come with new-build properties) never even got started. If your garden is an uninspiring space with nothing in it to tempt you to spend time outdoors, we’re here to give you some tips and ideas on how to make the most of it.

But before we get started, a word of caution. Garden design is a specialist job. The larger your outdoor space is and the more complex your requirements are, the more you will benefit from professional expertise. That said, just as you don’t always need an interior designer to help you make over a room, there’s plenty you can do in your garden without expert help.


1. Create a seating area

Every garden needs somewhere nice where you can sit and socialise al fresco. You can use timber decking or patio paving, low-maintenance composite or even simple gravel, to create a hard surface for your outdoor furniture. Don’t be afraid to mix different materials for a more interesting look.

The size of your seating area should take into account the overall size of the garden, where the sun will shine at the times you want to sit on the patio, and the number of people you wish to entertain. A patio or terrace sited next to the house is the perfect way to connect the inside and outside, especially if there are French doors, sliding doors or bifold doors in place.

If the budget stretches, think about installing a modern pergola for year-round use. “Adding extra space at a fraction of the cost of an extension (and no planning permission needed) aluminium pergolas offer shade and shelter in all seasons helping you make the most of your garden,” explains one supplier.


2. Discover ‘garden rooms’

A garden that consists of one flat expanse can be too exposed and lacking in visual interest. This is often the case with new-build or neglected gardens. There’s just nothing there to draw the eye. Partitioning the space into different areas and giving each a distinct character is a tried and tested method to get around this problem.

Think about how you want to use your garden and take your cue from there. Do you have children who would love a play area? Could you section off an area for raised beds to grow your own vegetables? What about a herb garden? Would you like a lawn and, if so, could it have an interesting shape? Do you love to entertain or prefer quietly relaxing in your garden? How about a water feature, hot tub or even a pool?

Hedges, fences, walls and large plants can all be used to define the different areas. Make sure you connect the individual zones, perhaps with a meandering path that allows each part of the garden to be discovered in succession.

The best gardens are those that delight all the senses. In fact, why not include a dedicated sensory garden in one corner of the plot? “Spending time in a sensory garden can help enhance your sense of wellbeing, reduce stress and calm your mind,” says a spokesperson from Kew Gardens.


3. Introduce a water element

The sight and sound of water add a sense of tranquillity and a magical element to any garden. Not only can a water feature provide a striking focal point for your garden design, the presence of a bubbling pebble pool, a trickling artificial stream or even just a sunken bowl creates a calming, relaxing ambiance that’s beneficial to mental health.

What’s more, water attracts wildlife including birds and minibeasts such as frogs and toads, newts, insects, dragonflies and more.

There are so many different ways that you can incorporate water into your garden design, ranging from simple wall-mounted water features to wildlife ponds, fountains and large fish ponds. “Even a small birdbath can look beautiful and will create a focal point in the garden. Situate it where you can see it from the windows, and watching the birds coming and going will provide endless pleasure,” says one garden designer.

If you are planning a proper pond, you’ll need to dig out an area for it and insert a pond liner. You’ll also need an electricity source for a pump and lighting. It’s a good idea to plan in a pond or water feature early on in the design process.


4. Add instant impact

If you’re looking for a quick fix to take your garden from drab to fab, exterior paint is your friend. Transform boring garden fences and sheds by painting them in a dark neutral colour such as charcoal grey, olive green or even black. Darker colours help define the boundaries of your garden, and they also make the green of the foliage pop against them.

As for plants, start with the biggest you can afford – architectural plants make an instant impact. Choose a cordyline or Dicksonian tree fern for a tropical planting scheme. Alternatively, opt for fast-growing flowering plants such as buddleia (butterfly bush) and lavatera (mallows). Not only do they thrive in any soil conditions, they’re also great for attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

For smaller gardens and patios, you can also achieve quick results with tubs and containers. Invest in some nice planters, pots or hanging baskets and fill with your favourite flowers, shrubs or even trees.

Finally, take the eye up by adding height to your garden with arches, arbours and gazebos. “These upright structures will add a strong formal backbone, direct foot traffic and work as punctuation points to disrupt a boringly even landscape,” explains one gardening expert.