How to Add Structure to Your Garden with GRDN Design

For this blog post, we’ve teamed up with landscaping experts GRDN. The outdoor design company have put together this handy guide which covers all things garden structure including function, aesthetics and recommendations for greenery.  Have a read of the blog post – it’s jam-packed with some great information about structuring your garden. Whilst you’re at it, you might also want to check out GRDN’s website to see what they’re all about. You can visit them by clicking here.

Leap into spring

Of course, we all know that in the month of March we might find ourselves venturing into the garden a bit more. Spring is approaching, the days are getting longer, plants are starting to wake up to the warmth and the lawn is screaming for its first cut. We can be forgiven for only focusing on the garden during the spring and summer months. This is when the weather presents us with opportunities to be outside! It is natural to think that spring and summer offer up the most in terms of outdoor interest, colour and structure. As designers at this time of year, we want to focus more on the garden structure. This can open up opportunities for your space all year round.

It is not entirely false that the majority of our gardens will look and feel complete in the spring and summer months due to the seasonality of the plants typically chosen. However, purposefully creating spaces with structure will enable the garden to have a year-round presence. Therefore, it is a key ingredient to any design! Without a level of structure in the garden, your space can lose its function, aesthetic qualities and important views. This means that the general practicalities of the space can sometimes be diluted in autumn and winter.

Garden structure

The structure of a garden goes far beyond the obvious hard landscape elements of walls, paving, steps, trellis and pergolas. A structure can actually be created, formed and established through various planting typologies. We should not be put off by the word structure or even intimidated by its meaning. It doesn’t always refer to something large, tall or complex. Rather, it refers to this idea of creating a backbone and a consistency within a garden, meaning it can be viewed and enjoyed throughout the year.

Below are three different layers of planting that could be considered to create structure within any garden: Trees, evergreen shrubs/topiary and groundcover. Essentially they are all very different, they are all on entirely different levels of intervention. However, at the same time, they all provide an all-important framework.


Of course, the term ‘tree’ covers a wide range of species. However, it is fairly safe to say that having a tree or multiple trees within a garden, automatically provides a level of structure. Whether there is a single-stem tree acting as a focal point, a small cluster of fruit trees, a row of trained pleached trees, or a show-stopping characterful multi-stem tree, they all do the job of providing structure. Trees provide height, screening/privacy, shade, seasonal interest through their flowers, fruit, and leaves, as well as scale the space. With a certain amount of design consideration, planting trees in any garden helps to form a top layer of intervention, which can assist in creating this structural backbone and permanent existence within the space.

GRDN favourites

  • Multi-stem (Amelanchier lamarckii)
  • Pleached tree (Carpinus betulus)
  • Single stem (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’)

Evergreen shrubs and forms

The well-known evergreen species of Taxus baccata and Buxus sempervirens along with a wide range of other species can be clipped to create forms, which are physically present all year round, ensuring their colour, texture and shape are ever present in the garden. Careful planning and positioning of evergreen topiary pieces and shrubs will strengthen the garden’s appearance. They also act as a natural framework for groundcover and other seasonal species to work around.

GRDN favourites

  • Taxus baccata
  • Ilex crenata
  • Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’


Trees, hedges, topiary and shrubs are not alone in helping to establish a strong garden structure. Low level species are also important in any garden planting scheme. Evergreen species which will display foliage all year round, planted amongst trees, large shrubs, topiary and grasses ensures that there is a continuity and balance within the planting throughout the seasons.

GRDN favourites

  • Pachysandra terminalis
  • Tiarella cordifolia
  • Liriope muscari ‘Moneymaker’

Every garden can and should flourish, change and develop with the seasons. At the same time, gardens should have a well-balanced structure throughout the planting elements. As outlined above, structural planting can be formed using individual plants or a collection of species. As designers, our aim is to achieve a balanced garden, which provides a space that can be viewed and used and enjoyed all year. For more inspiration, visit GRDN’s  website to see their work!