Notice - the rule of thumb is that you should spend a year in your garden before making any major changes. That doesn’t mean that you can’t add beautiful touches right away. Pots are perfect for creating instant style, giving you time to sit back and observe. Walk around your garden at different times of day, first thing in the morning and as dusk descends. Sit in different spots: a stone step in the sunshine, maybe in the branches of a tree. Take a notebook with you to jot down any thoughts you have.
Consider - what is your garden for? Is it a place to relax after a day’s work, or somewhere for the kids to play? Is it somewhere you want to grow vegetables so you can enhance your diet with homegrown food? Is it a sanctuary or a place to entertain? It may perform several roles at once and that’s fine, although you might want to consider zoning: a terrace for drinks with friends, a children’s play area, a bench that catches the morning sun to enjoy a cup of coffee and listen to the birdsong.
Sketch - you don’t need to get the dimensions perfect. If you want hard landscaping or major changes to layout that’s something you or your garden designer or architect can do further down the line. Simply take a pencil - a nice HB will do - and drawing pad and set your imagination free.
Look - at other gardens for inspiration. This might be in real life by visiting gardens that are open to the public - from grand National Trust gardens to Yellow Book gardens opened through the National Garden Scheme (ngs.org.uk), in glossy magazines such as Gardens Illustrated, The English Garden or Modern Gardens, or in the many garden books published every year, both those with sumptuous pictures but also not to be forgotten are those with evocative words.
Choose - this is the garden of your dreams, not anyone else’s. That means you get to exercise your own choice. You’ve absorbed inspiration from other people’s gardens, now be honest and ruthless about what you want in your own. This doesn’t have to be pared down minimalism, variety is what maintains interest in a garden, but make sure that each plant, each piece of furniture, every pot is something that makes your heart sing.
Plant - now comes the hard work. Spring is the perfect time to get planting. The soil is moist and friable (and if it isn’t add bucketloads of organic matter). It’s warm enough to be outside but not so hot you will fry. Autumn is the next best season for getting stuff in the ground if you miss the Spring boat. Better still do both!
Dream - now you have your dream garden you can lie back, listen to the bumblebees, feel pride in the fruits of your labours, and then start planning what you want to do next. After all, a garden is never finished…