How to create a functional landscape design

functional landscape design with pool and entertainment area
WORDS Mina Phillips

Knowing the central focus of your landscaping project can make a significant difference when it comes to creating a well-designed garden, within your budget. Whether you are hoping to create a family garden or an entertainers paradise, the following might prove helpful in creating your own functional garden.  

A family garden

Open spaces, play areas, safety and durability are all central to creating a garden suitable for a young family. Kids and pets need space and fresh air to run around in, while you might want a few features that are better suited to social gatherings. Whether you are an entertainer or a green thumb, mix the following ideas with your favourite sections to create your ideal family haven.

Play areas: this might include lawn areas for sports/games, fairy gardens, a playground, a sandpit or a covered outdoor play area for rainy days.

Fully fenced: especially if you have young children or pets, a fully fenced property is at the top of many parent’s landscaping lists.

Veggie garden: a sweet way to introduce children to nature (and encourage them to eat their greens!) is to teach them how to grow their own fruits and veggies. 

Worm farm/compost bin: they are a great way to introduce children to sustainability and provide a conscious solution for any meals that go untouched.

Swimming pool/spa: most children don’t need to be asked twice to get off their gadgets and out into the fresh air when there’s a swimming pool involved!

Outdoor theatre: who needs drive-ins when you have your own backyard theatre? All you’ll need is a laptop, projector, projector screen and some cosy outdoor seating.

Outdoor shower: for those days when the kids or pets come home covered in mud or sand, an outdoor shower is essential.

Fruit trees: fruit trees will ensure your family always has access to a healthy snack, and can contribute to the privacy and serenity of your home.

Low-maintenance: durable plants, automated irrigation systems and synthetic lawns are simple ways to tick things off your list while keeping your home looking presentable.

Garden lighting: for safety and atmosphere, a lighting plan is integral to any good garden design.  

Storage: if you have room, it’s worth investing in a garden shed or garage to store bikes, gardening tools and miscellaneous outdoor items. 

family landscape design
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An entertainer's paradise

If you consider yourself a bit of a social butterfly and want your landscape to create an inviting space, there are endless ways to achieve this within your style and budget. Check out the ideas below and see what ones are right for you.

Outdoor furniture: choose furniture that is both comfortable and suits the style of your home. Sofas and daybeds are great for lounging while hanging chairs create a more spacious and airy feel. 

Indoor/outdoor flow: ideally, a social zone should be designed to allow easy communication from the kitchen through to the outdoor area. This makes it easy to socialise while you are preparing food and drinks for your guests.

Outdoor kitchen/BBQ: cook your guests a meal from the comfort of your outdoor area, making it easy to socialise and be an all-round great host!

Swimming pool/spa: no summer party is complete without a swimming pool. Options include composite/fibreglass, vinyl or concrete.

Outdoor lighting: layered lighting is best for social settings. Highlight any easy to trip areas using floor lighting, highlight garden features with spotlights and include different levels of lighting for functionality and ambience. 

Irrigation: keep your garden looking healthy with an irrigation system. Automated systems make it easy to maintain your garden even when you're on holiday. 

Water features: mini-waterfalls, fountains, ponds and birdbaths can contribute a sense of peacefulness and luxury to your backyard.  

Decorative paving: aggregate, brick, sandstone, cobblestones and bluestones are popular paving choices, keeping your garden accessible and tidy.   

Privacy: If you’re going to be hosting gatherings often, your probably going to want a bit of privacy from the street and your neighbours. Privacy screens, fencing, trees and bushes are all potential solutions.  

Decking: in the summer, a deck is a great place to soak in the sun. A pergola or patio cover, combined with a screen, will ensure your deck can be used year-round.  

Outdoor fireplace: give your friends and family plenty of reasons to come around in any season. Options include braziers, fire pits and built-in styles. Marshmallow anyone?  

Glasshouse: glasshouses are increasingly being used for innovate design purposes, from dining areas and conservatories to pool covers.

Outdoor entertaining landscape design
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A green-thumb’s dream

If your gardening goals include a sustainable backyard, an orchard or themed garden sections, take a look at the following ideas to get some inspiration on creating and maintaining a flourishing home garden. 

Planting plan: think about what plants will work well in your climate and what areas of your arden will be suited to various plant types. For the best results, work with a landscape designer. 

Themed garden: create different sections in your garden for natives, veggies, tropical plants, a water garden, a sustainable garden or perhaps a Japanese garden.

Retaining wall: retain soil and keep your backyard looking tidy. Common material choices include timber, stone-cladding, gabion stone and concrete.

Edging: create a barrier between your garden and lawn/patio through edging. Options range from concrete, mosaic, bricks, stones and metal or even recycled railway sleepers.  

Greenhouse: greenhouses provide higher light transmission and warmth to plants during the cooler months as well as year-round protection from pests and the elements.  

Outdoor furniture: find a few places throughout your garden that provide the best view and make these your seated areas. Outdoor furniture options are endless, just make sure the materials you choose can withstand the elements. 

Worm farm/compost bin: keep your garden healthy with plant food created by a worm farm or compost bin. They’re easy to start and are a simple sustainable gardening solution.

Lighting: are there steps in your garden that require safety lighting, or certain features that you would like to highlight? Create a lighting plan to keep your garden looking stunning and feeling safe in the evenings. 

Garden art: especially if you have created a themed garden, adding in sculptures, statues, birdhouses and patterned screens are subtle ways to uplift your garden’s appearance. 

Irrigation: for the best garden irrigation, opt for soaker hoses and an automated system that will keep your garden healthy when you can’t be there to manage it.

Storage: depending on your garden storage needs, opt for either an outdoor storage box or garden shed. 

Maintenance: don’t put in all that hard work for nothing! To keep your garden looking its best, create a schedule for you, or your local gardener, to weed, refresh and maintain your garden. 

planting around a pool
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If you’re recently retired and are spending more time at home, creating a functional and attractive garden can be an enjoyable activity to focus your attention on. Not only is gardening a healthy hobby, but a change in your landscape might also contribute to your lifestyle satisfaction. 

Hobby or easy-maintenance: when creating a landscape design, it’s important to know how much time you are willing to invest in maintaining your garden. Is gardening one of your main hobbies, or do you want a low-maintenance design?

Fruits and veggies: growing your own food is a rewarding process (and it can save a few trips to the supermarket!). Make sure you choose fruits vegetables that will work well in your climate.

Swimming pool/spa: now that you have more time on your hands, make the most of your home. A swimming pool is a great way to stay fit from home and a spa is a lovely way to spend the evenings. 

Lighting: when creating a lighting plan, ensure the main priority is safety lighting in any hazardous areas, such as stairs. From there, get creative, highlighting your favourite garden areas.

Storage: whether it’s garage shelving, an outdoor storage box or a garden shed, have an allocated spot for all of your gardening tools. 

Outdoor furniture: select a spot in your garden that provides a fantastic view as well as an adequate amount of shade. This is the spot for any comfy outdoor furniture.  

Play areas for grandchildren: if you have grandchildren who regularly visit, consider having a play area installed for them. This may be a swing, playhouse, sandpit or perhaps even their own small, low-maintenance garden.

Shade: a shade sail, pergola or patio cover will provide you with an enjoyable outdoor area, whatever the weather is doing.

Irrigation: to make life easy on you and your plants think about having an irrigation system installed. Soaker hoses are best, as they target the roots of the plant. 

Home automation: control your home security, gates, lights and irrigation with the touch of a button, either through a remote or smartphone. 

garden design for retirement

Adding value

Your landscape design should not be overlooked when it comes to improving the value of your property for the purpose of renting or selling. Changes don’t need to be expensive, they simply need to present your home as a well-maintained, enjoyable place to live.

Street appeal: The first thing that passersby will likely notice is the sale/for rent sign outside your property. The second is the landscape and house behind it. Ensuring these look tidy and attractive will increase the likelihood of people taking an interest from their first glance. 

Colourful plants: opting for colourful plants can make your garden stand out against the however-many others your viewers have seen. For added neatnesses, line your garden with edging.

Privacy & security: home viewers will be looking for locations where they can feel safe and enjoy some privacy. Planting hedges, trees, screens or installing fencing will increase interest in your home. 

Deck/social area: this is something that most people seek in a home now - an elevated outdoor area where they can socialise and relax. 

Low-maintenance: while attractive gardens might draw people in initially, difficult-to-maintain gardens will be sure to reduce their interest. Opt for plants that require minimal maintenance as well as landscaping materials which will be sturdy and long-lasting.  

Plenty of space: families will be especially interested in your property if it offers a generous amount of outdoor space. Keep planting boxes along the boundary of your property, and try to provide spaces for adults to socialise and children to play.

Healthy lawns: a brown, dried up lawn doesn’t make for an attractive property. Ensure lawns are kept healthy through regular watering and feeding.

A thought-out design: at the end of the day, it all comes down to creating an attractive and practical space through good design. Choose materials that work well on your property and allow for smooth indoor/outdoor transition.

outdoor room with pergola and planting
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Get in touch

If you would like some help designing, creating or maintaining your landscape, get in touch to arrange a FREE consultation with your local landscaping specialist.

 This article by Mina Phillips featured in Issue 30 of Renovate Magazine, a practical guide to renovating your home and garden.

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