One of the most overlooked phases of garden and landscape design is research.  There is a whole world of information out there is all kinds of shapes and forms.  There are countless books which will provide you with many starting points for your design project.  There are many DVDs and TV programmes available almost everywhere and the Internet is jammed full of information. 

You can do your research in any number of ways: visiting open gardens or exhibition gardens, on the Internet, or using gardening books and magazines. By far the best way is to visit existing gardens in person, whether they are private and residential or public, historic and open to the public.  You will almost always learn something by visiting all kinds of gardens in person. 

During your garden visits it is a good idea to take photographs of things that you like and put them together on an ideas board. This can help focus your design and help you chose garden furniture and other décor for your garden. It can help you to choose the colour scheme, ground materials (paving, gravel and decking), and planting.

It is a good idea to look at gardens in your community and immediate neighbourhood to see what has and hasn’t been done successfully. This will also give you a good understanding of the plants that grow well in your area.

The key to a good design however is not to simply copy somebody else’s garden. You need to look at the elements you like from all of these designs and then incorporate them into your plan, making any appropriate changes as you go along.

Tip: Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by research to the point where you no longer know what you want. Begin by choosing a style and theme for your garden and when you feel that you have done enough research to allow you to start, then do just that, get started. Soon you’ll be making progress and you’ll only look back in order to measure how much you have achieved.