The warm April weather brings with it the budding promise of long awaited life in the garden. It is no wonder that so many of us turn our attention to our own "outdoor room". Armed with ambition, these longer days tempt us to dream of revitalising the garden. I recently read that 80% of UK house moves happen between April and June. It is therefore possible that you are reading this while surrounded by boxes as you begin to settle into your new home.

Either way - where do you start? How should you go about planning, perfecting, tweaking or completely overhauling your garden? Many of us have grand visions of beautiful outdoor spaces but we need help to ground our ideas (literally!); making sense of the conflicting demands we have on our wish list.

At Carey Garden Design Studio, we live and breathe these questions. It’s at the core of what we do; spending time with clients and making sense of outdoor spaces. Our own background in design and the arts has shaped the way we approach this. We always advocate for the experience of a garden (its atmosphere and feeling) to work together with its function and purpose.

Great British Life: Joe and Laura CareyJoe and Laura Carey (Image: Alister Thorpe)

When feeling inspired to make changes, some of us grab tape measures and start plotting positions for new outdoor furniture. Others will fill a trolley with beautiful plants in the hope of "finding a space for them" when they get home. To combat this common mistake, we have come up with a simple "slow you down" approach when thinking about making changes to your garden. If applied correctly, this process will kickstart an exciting and creative journey.

Firstly, observing your garden as it grows throughout a season can be such a useful tool before thinking about changes. This is particularly important if the garden is new to you. We often see new home owners attacking their gardens with the same gusto as you would with the interior of a house. However, unlike wallpaper and dated kitchens, gardens are living things and it’s often helpful to see what they do in a year before deciding what to change. You don’t need to know a lot about plants to do this. Simply taking note of what something does and for how long, could dramatically improve your understanding of your garden. Before deciding on the fate of tree, see what it does. It might surprise you with majestic blossom, or you might appreciate the shelter of its canopy in the summer, and the sculptural quality of its bare branches in the winter. Gaining an understanding of your garden’s existing structure will help you to evaluate the purpose of each element.

Great British Life: Planting by Carey Garden Design Studio. Planting by Carey Garden Design Studio. (Image: Alister Thorpe)

Secondly, still putting your wish list to one side, and resisting the temptation to jump straight in, spend time in your garden exactly as it is right now. Experience the space as the light changes throughout the day. If possible, try not to be limited by the existing layout of your garden. It’s highly likely that you have inherited the vision of a previous owner. The objective here is to find the sweet spots; where the light or atmosphere feels right. This will be different for everyone and there could be more than one spot depending on variables such as the time of day. For some it will be about peacefulness, seclusion or protection from being overlooked. For others it may be about a particular view or a feeling of centrality to the house. Some will want shade, others will crave the warmth of the sun. The feel of a particular spot in the garden will draw you to want to spend time there. It might be that you can’t put your finger on why, and it’s very possible that this place is not where you already have a patio (it could be in the middle of a flower bed!).

With both of these processes underway, start to define your spaces in your mind or on paper. Build your thoughts around the sweet spots. For example, if you have discovered a quiet and contemplative space - you can think about enhancing this with some simple seating, perhaps imagining some taller planting that creates a sense of shelter. Grasses might help to bring some gentle noise in the breeze, or a small multistem tree might bring dappled shade just where you need it. Consider the existing elements that might need to change in order to improve this space.

By doing this, you will soon find that zones begin to create themselves. Allow the practical things such as seating or access to have some influence, but start with the atmosphere of these sweet spots and enhance them by introducing complementary features.

Great British Life: Planting by Carey Garden Design Studio. Planting by Carey Garden Design Studio. (Image: Alister Thorpe)