Garden Design Problems

Designing around bits of the garden you can’t change

Garden design problems.

Designing anything would be a whole lot easier if there weren’t the immovable obstacles to contend with and every garden has them. These range from the manhole covers in the wrong place to awkward shaped spaces, over-sized ugly sheds to the neighbours overlooking the garden. There are always garden design problems you have to work around because these can’t get changed.

Ugly sheds and how to hide them

So to make the design work, when the space you have lobs a large sized spanner in the works preventing you from doing what you want? There are three ways of tackling these problems;  

  • Hide the offending object
  • Beautify the object
  • Create a distraction

Hiding the Eyesore

This works if two criteria are met, what you are hiding it with is not in itself going to turn into an eyesore AND the act of hiding it does not create an anomaly in the garden.

garden design problems - manhole cover

It does not create a  ‘why have you put that there’ question. The above example of a pot on the manhole cover does just this, you notice the pot and ask why it is there, which is to hide the manhole cover. The result is the eyesore is moved front and centre; it is not hidden in any way. Similarly cloaking an ugly shed in a plant that will grow into a large unruly plant does not hide the shed it simply creates another problem.


Making it look more attractive

Before the eyesore is beautified in any way, why it is unattractive needs to be understood because this affects how it needs changing. Ugly boundary fences are a common problem, a climber could be grown along it, but big climbers tend to grow fast. Which means more work for you!

The fence is an eyesore , because there is just a lot of it to look at. So, it is not necessarily the look of the panels that is the problem. There are just so many panels to see. Painting only converts the panels to a different colour, it may look nicer, but it won’t solve the size problem. The solution is to break up the fence or wall into smaller visual chunks, then the overall visual impact of it is reduced.

garden design problem - ugly features

Similarly, with ugly sheds (a common garden problem), the trick is to transform the shed rather than hide it.


Create a distraction

If the problem can’t be made more attractive or cannot be hidden, then a distraction is needed. The idea is to create something more interesting, which demands attention, rather than the eyesore. The best distractions don’t just look visually attractive they have to work harder than that. As far as possible all the senses need engaging; that way the brain concentrates processing all those sensory signals it receives at once, which means the solitary eyesore doesn’t get noticed as much.

Topiary leopard
This is Ingwe, my pet leopard!

There are always solutions to every problem, the trick is to think creatively. Only look to hide an object if hiding it does not itself create an anomaly in the garden. Ugly objects can be made less of an eyesore by tackling the cause of the problem; large objects need visually breaking up, dark corners need lightening and ugly objects can be made more beautiful. If all that doesn’t solve the problem, then create a ‘look at me instead’ part of the garden. Plants should move and be highly scented, have colours and flowers that stand out. Also, use sculptures, mirrors and lights to create a display that demands to be noticed, all the time.

Read also: The Plotting Shed or why not get in touch. Email me for some advice rachel@plantplots.com Or you could take a look at our amazing new book ‘I want to Like my Garden’

Visit our shop for loads of great ideas for your garden borders. We really do make gardening easier! 🙂