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Garden zoning: 4 easy ways to break up your garden space

Are you looking to re-designed or upgrade your garden space? It can sometimes be hard to know where to start. If you’re trying to figure out what sort of garden you want to create for you and your family that can be enjoyed for years to come, we’re here to bring you a few ideas that might just kick start your landscaping design project.

In this blog article, we’re discussing garden zoning – a highly effective way to optimise and get the very best out of your garden. Because zoning works so well for gardens of all shapes and sizes, it’s one of the most popular approaches to traditional garden landscaping.

If you’re a gardener, homeowner or DIYer who loves to grow your own food and flowers, then you may have heard about “garden zoning” before. In fact, most of us end up creating garden zones, without even realising we’re doing it. But there are lots of different ways to break up a space, with some methods being more subtle than others.

Here’s the low-down on this gardening technique that will help you to create a garden space that you truly love.

What exactly is garden zoning and how does it work?

garden zoning landscape design

Garden zoning is a way of dividing your garden into sections that have various different looks and functions. Just like our homes are broken up into separate rooms, the garden can work in a similar way.

It’s a technique that allows you to reduce wasted or redundant spaces whilst creating a show-stopping garden design that is completely tailored to your needs and tastes.

A garden can take up a lot of room and it may seem like you don’t have a big enough area for everything (even if you do). By zoning the garden, you can get rid of the clutter you don’t need, use the space more efficiently, create visually appealing focal points and incorporate a natural and well-connected flow through your garden.

It’s an approach that gets even the most novice gardeners and landscapers thinking more holistically about their outdoor living area and the great potential that it has. There’s no rule book to follow and it’s achievable in gardens of all sizes. Plus, it can be done on a limited budget, meaning that you really don’t have to spend a fortune on redesigning your garden.

Zone in

gardener in garden

So where exactly do you start? Well, the very first thing to establish is exactly what you want from your garden space. This will help you to decipher the different zones that you’ll incorporate.

Think about your lifestyle, family and interests and how you want your garden to fit in around you so that you can create a space that offers both aesthetic appeal whilst serving a purpose.

For example, if you have children, you may want to consider how you can break the garden up into different areas that appeal and entertain all members of the family. Or, maybe you’re an avid gardener and want to use your garden to grow a variety of different plant species. Think about what sort of plants and vegetables you want to grow and how this will work the space and accessibility you have to work with.

When it comes to how you use each zone, the possibilities really are endless. Some of the most popular zones include:

  • Outdoor dining areas
  • Chill out zones
  • Hot tub areas
  • Children’s outdoor play area
  • Open space
  • Multifunctional space
  • An outdoor kitchen or BBQ area
  • Flower patches and wild gardens
  • Grow-your-own fruit and vegetable patches
  • A garden room
  • Pond or water feature area
  • Decorative space

Get a rough idea of how many sections, or zones you want to create and how this will work with the size and shape of your garden. This could be any number, but generally, depending on garden size, most opt for anywhere between 2 and 4 different zones. Even just two distinct sections, that take a less-is-more approach, works well, particularly in smaller gardens.

Next, consider the overall feel that you want your garden to give off. Are you looking for a modern garden, something a little more rustic or shabby-chic or simply something that looks very natural and traditional?

4 different ways to break up your garden space

Zoning can be as subtle or as distinct as you want. But the idea is to create a well-connected space with a natural flow through your garden whilst giving each section its own look and feel. But how do you do that?

If you’re struggling to create zones in your garden and are unsure of how to use different colours, textures and shapes to carve out separate areas for family time, relaxation and work, we’ve put together 4 different ways that you can use break up your garden, using a selection of materials to achieve a stunning landscape design.

1. Floor zoning

When you think about it, there really are a vast range of materials that can be used underfoot outdoors. From real and artificial grassed areas and lawns, patio tiles and block paving to pebbles, wood chips and decking, there are so many outdoor flooring options to choose from.

Once you’ve chosen which zones you want to incorporate within your garden space, mixing and matching between different floor styles underfoot can be one of the most effective and visually appealing approaches to breaking up a garden space.

Choosing the right materials for the space

grass patio and stones in garden

Outdoor flooring is an important component to consider when designing any garden space. But which types of outdoor flooring do you choose?

Think about the overall style you’re going for, how you want your garden to feel and which colours can be used to create your design ambition. For example, if you’re opting for a modern garden hardwood or Trex decking are ideal for achieving a more contemporary look.

Of course, you need to find materials that meet the purpose of each zone. For example, grass or wood chips areas are ideal flooring options for creating outdoor play areas suitable for little ones, whilst decking works well to create outdoor dining areas or chill-out zones.

pebbles in allotment area in garden

Choose how each material can be used to complement your garden’s overall look. You can use natural materials in a variety of ways to enhance your garden, whilst mixing and matching with other flooring materials to create contrast and balance.

For example, stones or pebbles across the entire ground area may give a seaside vibe but work well when integrated across different sections. A great idea might be using shingle flooring as pathways linking different zones together or perhaps decoratively around garden features such as benches or plants. Shingle is also a great material to use in garden allotments as it helps to reduce mud underfoot.

2. Colour zoning

Incorporating a colour theme throughout your garden is a fabulous way to break up your garden and create subtle zones, without physical barriers.

Now, we’re not talking about having one purple section, one orange section and one green section. Colour zoning in the garden can be very subtle but highly effective. Incorporating subtle but effective colours throughout the space can create different zones and help you avoid monotony in one area of the garden while still maintaining its overall look with cleaner lines from more intentional plant placement, patterns and textures across borders between different areas.

Choosing a colour scheme

garden with sofa

Just as you would a room in your house, one way to approach colour zoning is to choose a colour scheme. Consider which colours you want to bring out in your space, and how you can use colour to keep your garden looking bright, charming and fun throughout the seasons.

Start by deciding your base colour pallet. This generally consists of one colour or a few tones that will consistently appear throughout your zones. The idea is to keep each section or zone visually connected whilst creating subtle differences by using colour.

You may choose natural, warm tones such as those found in timber. Or, perhaps fresh and clean tones such as greys and whites. And if you’re someone who just loves colour, you may choose something a little bolder – maybe bright blue tones, green or even red or orange. It’s completely up to you!

Next, build out your colour scheme. Opt for colours that will complement your chosen base tones. For example, your base tones may be grey and white. Colours such as fuchsia pink, sunny yellow and sky blue may be split across each section to create a subtle zoning effect, whilst the base tones remain constant throughout. Diversity in colours creates a much more visually appealing space for humans and animals alike.

Different ways to add colour to a garden

Once you’ve chosen your colours and pallet, you can then start to think about how you can build out the layers of colours. This is the fun part, where you can experiment with a broad range of textures, features and materials.

For natural tones and textures, timber materials such as sleepers, decking and even fencing work well to offer rustic and warm colours into a garden. What’s more, these timber products are also available in a variety of tones and finishes, so you can really find something that works for you.

If you are opting for a modern look, grey is the current and trending colour choice. You can paint fencing, walls and even decking to integrate your chosen grey colour. Or alternatively, Trex decking, which is available in a selection of colours including grey, is also a fantastic choice and man-made alternative. You can also incorporate natural elements such as rocks, mosses and fallen logs into the design if possible.

And for a splash of colour here and there? Well again, this can be as subtle or as bold as you want it to be. Of course, the most natural way to add colour to a garden is by planting a variety of flowers, shrubs, bushes and climbing plants.

Pick some plants that will work well with the chosen colour scheme. For example, if you’re opting for a splash of purple, Lavender, Sweet Rocket, Alliums, Wisteria and Geraniums would be the sorts of flowers you’d be looking for. Work with your space and add contrasting colours of flowers and foliage to each section so they can be easily identified from one another.

purple wisteria

What’s more, you don’t have to just stick solely with flowers and decorative plants. Why not incorporate some grow-your-own veggies throughout the garden? Green beans, for example, produce a bright and vibrant orange flower that works brilliantly to brighten up any outdoor space.

And of course, whilst natural elements are great for bringing the wildlife into your garden, you may wish to consider how garden furniture, decorative ornaments and textiles can be used throughout the space to distribute dabbles of colour.

3. Height zoning

Back gardens vary in size, shape and of course terrain. But if you have a particularly flat garden, why stop at one level?

Incorporating different levels into your garden is not only fun and creative, but also adds depth to the space. Platforms can also serve as extensions of your home and, if you live in the city and lack outdoor space, it’s a great way to make your space work harder, and do more with what’s available to you.

The design options for incorporating different levels in your garden are endless. You can use platforms as sitting areas, dining areas or as an area for plants that need more sunlight than others.

How to create multiple levels in a garden

decking in garden

Whilst raised decking might seem like one of the most obvious approaches to doing this, it’s actually one of the most cost and time-effective ways of levelling up your garden.

Decking has become an increasingly popular feature that is popping up in gardens across the UK. They offer a fresh new look, add a new dynamic to a garden space and are easy to maintain and look after.

What’s more, decking gives you the flexibility to create a surface to your desired height. You may opt for a simple ground-level deck, a raised deck or even a sunken deck. Most instantly presume that creating multiple levels means levelling up, but actually, levelling down is an equally effective way to create multiple levels and platforms within your outside space.

slightly raised deck

By creating these different levels, you can distinguish between different zones and take a mix and match approach, working with different colour combinations and floor design, too.

Climbing plants, hanging baskets, trees and as well as different lighting fixtures lighting can also be used to emphasise different levels throughout the garden.

4. Partitioning

You can create more clear-cut zones but using a range of materials to physically partition your garden.

Clear partitioning

section of garden

One of the most natural ways to break up a garden space is by using hedges and shrubs. Plant different shrubs, such as evergreens, between each of your sections. This will help to create privacy and a physical divider between sections. And, incorporating plants that are green all year round, you’ll be able to keep some constancy in colour.

Shrubs, bushes and hedges work well as more natural-looking partitions, whilst fencing such as hazel hurdles and picket fencing can be used to create more of a distinction between each zone. Of course, compared to natural barriers, these partitions generally demand less time and maintenance.

For something, somewhere in-between, trellis is a fantastic material. It can be used in a variety of ways throughout a garden and supports climbing plants such as roses, clematis and wisteria. It’s ideal if you’re trying to create a more intimate, cosy feel within sections of your garden.

Subtle garden partitioning

You can create even more subtlety, whilst still achieving the partitioned look by using sleepers. Sleeper walls work really well to break up a garden space and whilst introducing some clear-cut divisions between each section of your garden. They are really easy and inexpensive to build and can be incorporated into your space to a height of your choosing.

vertical sleeper wall

And, if you’re looking for something even more subdued yet again, sunken ground-level sleepers do just the trick. Whilst they are sunken into the ground and can be walked over, the top surface can show the distinctions between one zone and another, in the most subtle and stylish of ways.

Looking for more garden inspiration?

Check out our blog for more ideas, hints and tips on how to create the perfect outdoor space.

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