9 Key Elements for a Beautiful & Functional Garden

Garden planning involves combining plant material and hardscape features to create outdoor rooms that are visually appealing and functional. The best way to start this process is with a site inventory.

This will enable you to identify areas that receive full sun or shade and pinpoint where fixtures may be placed on your property.

Keyhole Garden

Keyhole gardens are raised beds designed with an irregular, circular hole at their center that resembles a keyhole from above. This shape allows gardeners to reach all the beds without bending over, making this option ideal for people who struggle with back issues or enjoy growing vegetables but dislike stooping over regularly.

At the center of a keyhole garden is a compost cage filled with layers of brown and green organic materials balanced to decompose over time, feeding nutrients directly back into the soil. Water is poured into its central basket; as it travels through these rotting substances, it distributes essential vitamins directly across all beds.

Keyhole gardens work best with leafy greens, root veggies, and flowers like nasturtiums or petunias; however, if growing larger crops such as beans or squash, consider adding a trellis on top of your compost basket to support their growth.

Outdoor Room

Your yard should provide the ideal setting for relaxing, entertaining, or gardening – make sure your landscape can support these endeavors by creating rooms within its landscape. Hendricks describes creating rooms as “a way of breaking up a large space into smaller, more manageable areas while simultaneously creating areas with specific functions.”

Step one of creating garden rooms on your property should involve drawing a grid over it and identifying where each of its shapes lies. After placing their shapes, design their floor plans—be they hardscaped or natural elements like grass, pavers, or even an old wooden deck. Level variations and different materials can help differentiate these spaces, while colors and styles can further unify outdoor rooms.

Once you’ve identified room locations, it is time to start designing their walls and ceilings. Here, native trees and shrubs act as walls for a shaded dining area, while fragrant grapevines provide the ceiling of a lounging space.

Borrowed Scenery

Japanese style, known as shakkei (borrowed scenery), unifies gardens with their surroundings by borrowing elements of nature from beyond the garden itself. A manicured foreground unifies with hills in the background in an echoing fashion; Capability Brown was famously one of Capability Brown’s 18th-century English garden designers who employed this style.

Borrowed scenery can be used in numerous ways. From using similarly shaped rocks to create the impression of distant mountains to framing an entire view from one area of your garden, borrowed scenery has endless applications.

Most borrowed views are created through openings in fences or walls that highlight specific views, creating an air of mystery while giving an expansive feel without compromising privacy – this can be done through careful use of scale, color, and texture.


No matter the size of your garden, paths are essential to its design. From connecting dining and entertainment areas to shaded seating spots or leading directly home, paths are integral to garden architecture.

Pathways can be designed for practical or playful use, adding interest with changes to direction and surface. Curved pathways are more alluring than straight ones and make a small garden seem more prominent, while those that zigzag across the landscape encourage exploration.

A gravel path makes an attractive country garden feature and is easy to install. Consider using materials found around your property or incorporating reclaimed bricks for added texture. Concrete pavers look elegant when laid in herringbone or basket weave patterns and offer classic cottage garden charm; clay pavers offer durability and color choices. A clean stepper path slicing through dense ornamental planting will boost curb appeal in front gardens and is the perfect addition.

Focal Points

    Focal points capture your attention and direct it toward them, giving a garden structure its identity and making it memorable. Think of a focal point like the main character in a story; think of something memorable as its protagonist! Focal points can range from sculpture to colorful beds of flowers, ornamental trees, or seating areas, with each adding something extra that makes a place memorable.

    Focal points can also be placed within garden beds, such as this glazed ceramic container among drifts of sedum and other plants. Focal points can also be found along pathways where corners or intersections offer ideal locations to draw the eye and guide visitors.

    As you create your focal point, choose an eye-catching structure that compliments and unifies the design of your garden. Add personalization to make this focal point truly meaningful.

    Seating Areas

    Garden seating areas provide visitors with an inviting space to rest and unwind, whether alone or with family and friends. From cozy loveseats for two to expansive patio tables, these spaces foster comfort and invite visitors to remain for extended periods.

    Seating areas must also be designed with functionality in mind. They must accommodate different numbers of guests while offering appropriate levels of privacy.

    Seating areas can be separated using boundaries created through plants or built elements like walls and fences. When planting this phase of the garden design process begins, planting borders to soften hard lines should also help soften any hard edges that might arise; borders should also be designed with function and beauty in mind and placed strategically to draw people in and create attention-getting focal points in specific parts of the garden. Seating areas should also be clustered near amenities like waste receptacles, water fountains, or bathrooms to attract attention to certain parts of the garden design project.


    Containers can easily add color and impact to a landscape, especially shade-dominated areas. If you prefer rustic aesthetics, revitalize old containers like metal troughs or barrels to add rustic charm; for a modern touch, try clustering containers together to frame a focal point in the garden.

    Make an unforgettable container by mixing flowering annuals and perennials, from annuals such as ‘Superbells Dreamsicle’ calibrachoa with fragrant sweet alyssum ‘Snow Princess’; cool-colored Pandora’s Box’ violas which tolerate temperature changes more readily than their botanically similar pansy counterparts; all nestled into three urns.

    Taller planters can act as half walls to divide an outdoor sitting area or patio into distinct sections. Here, two matching containers decorated with impatiens and foxtail asparagus fern create an inviting entryway, while smaller container plants attached to outdoor pillars create elegant vertical features.

    Water Features

      Water features create an ambient, tranquil, and relaxing ambiance in your garden and are an excellent focal point. Consider what level of noise and water flow (loud or quiet) you would like. Water features can also improve air quality by filtering bacteria, germs, pollen, dust particles, and pollutants through the formation of water vapor.

      Small waterfalls are an effective way to bring sound and movement into any garden space. They add sound and movement while also adding natural touches through large boulders or streams. Pondless waterfalls offer low maintenance requirements compared to their counterpart ponds.

      Some water features function both as art in motion and deer scarers. They feature metal sculptures that let water pass through notches and tubes or use weighted bamboo segments to trigger sounds that scare wildlife away from gardens.


      Garden layout ideas can help you design an aesthetically pleasing and productive garden space, but you must consider what types of plants will grow within it.

      Stepping stones may seem innocuous in most garden designs, but functional designers use them as connecting pieces that link different spaces together and combine hardscape with soft plantings. In this garden design, the stepping stones form catwalks connecting a hot tub and dining area, while plantings around them add visual balance and interest along the paths.

      Choose flowers, shrubs, and trees that support bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds for a functional and beautiful garden. Not only will their beauty please the eye, but you’ll also enjoy both their fruit!

      Leave a Comment