Garden design clinic: a garden with easy access

A design that gives you a garden that’s easy to access will make a big difference to how you use it; here’s an example in Co Galway of how it can be done.

In this article we cover:

  • How to plan for easy access
  • Details of the house design and how it determines garden design
  • Parking requirements
  • Patio design
  • Planting scheme
  • Water features
  • Images of plants and features
  • Garden plans

A garden should of course look beautiful and complement the home it graces, but a good designer will always make sure that the space meets the homeowners’ needs from a functionality point of view.

One of the most important elements is easy access – from the home to the garden and vice versa, and where there are parking spaces, making sure they are in the right place. The distance from the parking space to the main house entrance should be easily manageable, especially on wet or windy days or in the dark. Then there’s where you want the guests to park; it may not be in the same place.

easy access garden

The challenge

Multistemmed Amelanchier

This Co Galway home is airy and modern, with a large open living space and kitchen combined. The homeowners wanted the glass doors in the living area to connect directly with the patio outside, so that in summer the doors could be left open, and the patio could act as an extension of the indoors.

As the main front door is in the corner of this area, this means that visitors can’t park outside the front door and will need to cross the patio to reach it.

As the patio is right outside the indoor living room and very visible, with a full length window as well as glass doors, it needs to look attractive all year round, as well as allowing access to the property’s front door.

The garden design also needs to reflect the home’s contemporary interior, while including plenty of features and plants to support wildlife such as birds, bees and other pollinating insects.

Red crab applie

The solution

Crocus blue

In order to make these elements work, I designed a paved patio running along this entire section of the house, with room for visitors to park and make their way to the front door comfortably. Steps connect the patio to the existing flagstone paved area outside the door.

A raised bed with ground level planting at each side offers two levels of interest, as well as enclosing the patio. A multistem Amelanchier lamarckii tree provides spring blossom, autumn berries for birds and yearlong structure, even without its copper toned leaves.

Multistemmed Amelanchier

Perennial planting is planned for a succession of foliage and flower as the seasons unfold, with clipped evergreen shapes and grasses providing a restrained contrast. Flowering perennials are pollinator friendly, (as well as being colourful and attractive to humans) and soften the hard landscaping, which has room for garden furniture and a barbecue.

A stone globe water feature – polished silver granite – on a base of beach cobbles allows water to bubble through a central opening and splash safely onto the stones, so that the sound of water can be enjoyed without presenting a hazard to the youngest family members.

Elsewhere in the garden, a Malus ‘Red Sentinel’ provides apple blossom in spring and red cherry-sized crab apples in winter – particularly loved by blackbirds. A hedge of native Irish plant species provides shelter and sustenance for nesting birds.

Snowdrops and crocuses are planted under native silver birch trees, themselves a haven for wildlife, providing food sources for early bees and other beneficial insects.

Easy Access Garden Design Tips

Parking. Many homeowners use a back door for frequent comings and goings but prefer visitors to use the main entrance, so make sure there is suitable parking near the front door.

Making an entrance. A multistemmed tree makes an interesting focal point close to the house – choose a suitably sized tree species.

Extend the flowering season. To support wildlife and encourage biodiversity, consider including plants that flower in late winter/early spring and late summer into autumn, to extend the season.

easy access garden

Stone globe water feature with beach cobbles – Photo courtesy of

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Anne Byrne

Written by Anne Byrne

Anne is a garden designer and columnist, and her mission is to help you make the most of your outside space – while making the process easy and enjoyable. Anne believe very strongly that you can benefit hugely from having a garden in your life, and – many people don’t realise this – you don’t have to be a ‘gardener’ to enjoy everything a garden has to offer.

As the proud holder of qualifications in garden design and horticulture from the world-renowned Royal Horticultural Society, Anne has been privileged to work on garden designs for all sorts of clients, from private home owners to corporate clients and from hotels to nursing homes.

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