Theme Garden Design Basics

Tips to get you started

August 12, 2009
John Stuart Leslie

You may have been thinking, “Gee, this spiritual garden idea is great, but how do I go about creating one? I think I would like to do a Japanese Garden theme, so now how do I start the process? Should I just go out into the yard and start digging a hole for the pond?”


Designing a garden in any space can be challenging, but the approach to the design depends on what you are starting with, the canvas of your area in which the garden will be built. You may have a completely un-landscaped, brand new home type setting. You may have an existing landscape that needs remodeling. You could also have an acceptable garden but would like to embellish it with the spiritual themes we are discussing.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to embellish an existing yard, so that is what we will focus on for this discussion.

First, you need to do some simple planning:

First, select a “theme" or "style" (see related articles below)

So here is a secret way to fast track the process of bypassing the site analysis stage and get right to designing an area based upon your theme:

Tip #1: Based on your theme, make a list of the elements that will reflect the theme whether they are simply colors, materials, objects or symbols. Make a list of various plants that reflect your theme and how they can be incorporated into your yard, and perhaps replace existing ones that don’t belong or support the theme.

Tip #2: What objects can accentuate the space? Perhaps a Buddha for a meditation theme, or a fountain for a feng shui theme, or a Star of David mosaic designed into the flooring pattern of the main sitting area.

Tip #3: In keeping with your theme, select one detail of the overall idea you are thinking about and focus on that one detail. Then create the rest of the space around it. It would ideally be the focal point of your space, but could also be say, the symbolic meaning of a stepping stone path in which the path defines the spaces composing the entire yard, or the “detail” could be the cardinal directions so that the positioning of objects or entrances and exits, etc. could be in alignment with the Winter solstice or other directions.

See how that exercise works for you and often you will find that the rest of the design falls into place. If it doesn’t, perhaps select another detail and start again. In this way, your theme will come through rather than appearing as though you are merely “decorating” your space with your theme elements.

Related Articles:

What's Your Garden Style?

Creating a Garden Sanctuary


John Stuart Leslie, Spiritual Garden Designer, Creator of My Sacred Garden websiteJohn Stuart Leslie is creator and founder of My Sacred Garden. A website that blends the mind, body & spiritual lifestyle of the conscious consumer with the pursuit of gardens, gardening, design and art. He holds a Master's degree in Landscape Architecture and has been a landscape designer and contractor since 1982.

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