A professional garden designer is trained to combine the fundamentals of good design: Style, Flow, Scale, Rhythm, Symmetry, Balance, etc.
They’ll effortlessly combine hardscaping with landscaping to create a beautiful form with practical functionality. They’re artists, to be quite frank, and mastery of their craft can take many years.
For that reason though, the cost of their services, certainly the big names, is often out of the reach of most homeowners.
However, we can of course take inspiration from them, and as the famous Oscar Wilde quote goes; “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”.
Personally, I have no qualms with garden design mediocrity. I don’t expect my own garden to win any awards at RHS Chelsea but I’ve created a space that my family and I love spending time in, that I’m proud of and is the perfect spot for my own Metal Garden Furniture set from Lazy Susan (yes we get a staff discount).
If you want to tackle the process of designing and creating plans for the layout and planting of your garden, then our advice would be to try a garden design app.
There are some great ones to choose from, many of them are free or have a minimal upfront cost, while others have a monthly subscription fee, so you can just pay while you design.
They give you a fab opportunity to play around with the layout virtually and visualise what it could look like before you commit to anything.
One of the apps on our list even uses intuitive Augmented Reality (AR), which you might know from the TV shows Your Home Made Perfect and Your Garden Made Perfect with Angela Scanlon on BBC2 (pictured below with her team)
AR allows you to virtually view your redesigned garden true to scale, in real-time from every angle, and it's bloomin' great fun!
Our favourite garden design and planning apps
As the modern maxim goes, there’s an app for everything, and you can’t really argue with that statement, there certainly seems to be.
These are just a few of our favourite garden design apps but it’s not just limited to landscape design…
There are apps for everything from those that help plan your activity calendar to others that are for plant identification and care. Search the app stores and you can find some great resources for phone and tablet.
However, in this post, we want to simply focus on some of the design and planning apps that we’ve tried and tested.
They’re not ranked in any order, each has pros and cons, the best app really depends on what you want to do and what you’re comfortable doing design-wise.
Our advice is to take advantage of those that are free to download or available as a free trial, have a good play around, and see which one you like best.
iScape is a great app that helps you plan and envision what your garden could look like. It features easy-to-use design tools that allow your project to come to life in no time at all.
Whether you plan to do it yourself or hire a pro, iScape will help you visualise how it should look before the work even starts.
One of the features we love on iScape is that it has a great community of active users, designers and industry partners, all working together to help make projects come to life.
The basic version is free to download and use but you definitely need to subscribe to get the best of it in terms of functionality. That said, the free trial gives you enough to see if it’ll do what you want it to do.
The big advantage iScape has over other apps is the AR (Augmented Reality) which uses the camera of your iPhone or iPad to live capture your current garden and overlay the proposed design ‘virtually’ on top.
You can see it in action in the demo video above but basically, as you move your device around, you can see what the design will look like in real-time.
It’s a great intuitive way to visualise the end result before you start digging up and committing to costs, etc.
2. Home Design 3D Outdoor & Garden
Whereas iScape is Mac only, Home Design 3D is available on iOS, PC, Android and Mac.
I guess you could say it is more of a 'classic' garden designer that allows you to create the garden of your dreams quickly and easily and view it in 3D CAD-style.
With an intuitive plot tracing function, you can set boundaries and design your garden by dragging and dropping on your device. You can then easily add in design features such as a vegetable patch or garden furniture.
With a database of over 180 special items and thousands of textures, Home Design 3D allows you to personalise your design. There’s a handy search function that enables you to preview each item in 3D and you can use the “Cancel/Restore” function to undo if need be.
Home Design 3D is available to download for free so you can have a play with it and see if it will work for what you need, however, you can not save any designs in the free trial version, for that you must purchase the app.
You can get a feel for what you can achieve with Home Design 3D in the video below:
3. Garden Planner
Garden Planner is an online, free to trial for 15 days and easy to use landscape design tool from Small Blue Printer.
It allows you to easily arrange plants, trees, buildings and objects with a simple drag-and-drop interface, and you can then edit colour and size to fit with your plans.
When your design is completed you can then print out a high-resolution copy of your design from their website, complete with a breakdown list of all plants, items, etc with sizes, quantities, and accompanying thumbnail images.
Garden Planner includes a library of over 1200 plant and garden object symbols, all of which you can customise. Plus, it includes easy to use drawing tools that let you plot out paving, decking, paths, walls, fences, pools, ponds and more.
Our favourite feature is the Vegetable Patch Builder, which allows you to easily plan the layout of your planting beds in a simple grid format.
The video above shows you how to get started with Garden Planner, while below is an overview of how to layout the aforementioned veg patch:
Plan-A-Garden from Better Homes & Gardens is a free, interactive and easy-to-use drag-and-drop style app.
All the objects you add to the garden are 3D to make it look more realistic than a simple bird's eye view, however, the big advantage it has over some of the other apps is their fantastic ‘wizard’ that helps you start your design with a simple step by step walkthrough.
Select a background scene from the pre-made templates and then drag and drop in fences, benches, arbours, etc to customise the look you want. You can then add landscape surfaces to your gardens, such as a lawn, brick path, stones, tiles, or gravel, and there are loads of trees, vines, shrubs, bulbs, and more.
Your garden designs can be saved online so you never lose your progress and, once finished, you can save the design and export a list of the plants, etc you've included in your scheme.
The Better Homes & Gardens website is also chock full of great articles and videos to help you in your design journey too, from 15 No-Fuss Garden Plans Filled with Plants That Thrive in Full Sun to 10 Essential Steps to Start Your First Garden Design Off Right to name just a few examples.
5. Garden Visualiser
And last but by no means least is the Marshalls Garden Visualiser. This is just one of many great tools that Marshalls offers to help you design your outdoor spaces.
And it does exactly what a free garden planner should do - it lets you visualise your garden in a 3D CAD style.
Not only that, you can move around the space as if you were actually there, which really helps you understand how it will look in real life.
It lets you specify the dimensions of your outdoor space, and you can even customise the shape to make it exactly how you plan on building it.
What we love about Garden Visualiser is you can choose from various themes or build one of your own from scratch. You can even add a photo of your home so the garden can sit beside it to get a better feel of things.
You can also add in products from the Marshalls range such as paving, edgings, garden surfaces, summerhouses, walls and fencing, etc.
The garden design can then be saved in your online account as you're working, and once finished, you have the option to find an approved installer or you can request info from Marshalls to order all the required products and build it yourself.
The 2D version is free to use but you have to be a registered member for 3D but you can find out more in the video below:
As we said earlier, which app is best very much depends on what it is you want to do and which you find best to use, so just give them all a try before you commit.
If there are any garden design apps you think we need to try, then please drop them in the comments below.