Google ‘how to design a garden’ and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all about plants and gardening.

Many people believe this to be true…as well

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s the thing…

Garden design, planting design, and gardening are not the same thing.  

They are in fact interconnected aspects of creating and maintaining a beautiful outdoor space. And while they share common goals, each of these areas has its own distinct focus and role in the overall process of garden design. 

Let’s look a little closer at each one to get a better understanding of what makes them tick and of their differences:

Garden Design

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Garden design involves the comprehensive planning and layout of an entire outdoor space. It looks at the big picture and highlights and responds to the exciting possibilities it presents. It incorporates key principles such as scale, proportion, and balance.

It involves spatial planning to optimise the layout for functionality, useability and of course

It considers the physical hardscape elements, like pathways, seating areas, structures, water features, lighting, and the overall layout of the garden.

Garden design involves analysis and a deep understanding of the needs, wishes, and lifestyle of the garden users to create a cohesive and functional environment.

The primary goal of garden design is to gather all the elements and create an inviting, aesthetically pleasing, and functional outdoor space.

It can be beneficial to engage a design professional such as a garden designer or landscape architect to bring your vision to life.

Garden design looks at the big picture of your garden.

Planting Design

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Planting design is a specialised aspect of garden design that focuses specifically on the selection, and layout of plants within the garden. A garden designer doesn’t usually consider the specifics of the plants until the end of the design phase…

Planting Design considers factors such as plant species, their growth habits, colors, textures, and seasonal interest. It aims to create a visually appealing and harmonious composition of plants that complements the overall garden design. It also takes into account considerations like sun exposure, soil conditions, maintenance requirements, and the desired style or theme of the garden. 

It is usually the final phase of the design process, where the specific plants are chosen and arranged to enhance the overall aesthetic and functionality of the garden.

Planting is undoubtedly a important factor in the design of your garden but without the structure provided by an overall garden design often leads to an ad hoc outcome to your garden.

This leaves us with Gardening:


Gardening refers to the ongoing care, maintenance, and cultivation of plants within the garden. It involves tasks such as planting, watering, pruning, fertilising, and controlling pests and diseases. 

Gardening is a hands-on activity that requires knowledge of plant care, seasonal maintenance, and horticultural practices. It is an ongoing process to ensure the health, growth, and vitality of the plants in the garden. 

Gardening also includes things like soil preparation, mulching, and composting to maintain the overall health and fertility of the garden. 

Gardening is an integral part of maintaining a garden, it is just one aspect of the broader garden design and planting design process.

So garden design looks at the big picture of your outdoor space to create a cohesive and functional environment. Planting design is a specialised aspect of garden design and  Gardening involves the creation and maintenance of the planting aspect of your yard.  

All play an important but different role.

Understanding the difference between these three things will help you approach your outdoor space from a more holistic perspective… and this understanding will ensure you end up with a well-designed, beautifully planted, and thriving garden.