Garden design ideas, inspiration & pictures

While most of us in Singapore don’t have the space for a garden in the traditional sense, we are still able to craft smart, creative and beautiful garden spaces that ensure we don’t lose all touch with nature. So, whether you’ve got a patio, a balcony or even a larger space to work with, the most important thing to consider is which style of garden you want to go for and how you ultimately want it to look. One of the easiest ways to determine this is to choose a specific style or theme and copy other designs from that discipline while adding your own personal touches.  

What types of gardens are there?

Broadly speaking, there are about five types of gardens to choose from that are realistic to most homes and apartments in Singapore. Whether you’re taking by European style, an Asian angle, an Arabic look, a traditional, colonial garden, a good old lawn or a mix of everything in between, taking a look at the space you have to work with and determining what can be implemented is the first step to take.

European Gardens 

Landscape garden 

Price of installation: $2000 - $4500 (Depending on size)

Also known as the English landscape garden or landscape park, this style of garden first appeared in the 18th century and was actually inspired by the landscape paintings of French artists Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. These gardens usually require a bit of space as they include lakes, green lawns and pieces of delicate architecture such as wooden or metal benches, tables and chairs.

Italian Renaissance garden

Price of installation: $1000 - $3000 (Depending on size and features chosen) Coming to the fore in the late 15th century, as the name of the style would suggest, the Italian Renaissance garden first emerged in the villas of Rome and Florence. The style was inspired by an adherence to classic ideas of beauty and was intended to be an art piece within itself, or something that people enjoyed gazing upon while contemplating. Sounds and smells were also considered important. Over time this style has become a bit larger and more symmetrical and if you’re hoping to achieve if, be sure to include fountains, statues, grottoes and stone features.

Asian Gardens Japanese Gardens 

Price of installation: $1500 - 5000 (Depending on number of elements and plumbing) 

A particularly popular choice in Singapore is the Japanese garden, as the overall Japanese aesthetic and philosophical way of living appeals to us culturally and stylistically. Japanese gardens tend to be low on ornaments, focussing rather on the appreciation of the natural elements themselves. Contemplation is central to this style, as each element should lead us to question ourselves about life, time and existence in general. In general, all Japanese gardens should feature water, rocks and sand, garden bridges, trees and flowers, stone lanterns and water basins and when possible fish such as carp.

Anglo-Japanese Garden 

Price: $1500 - $5000 (Depending on size and items purchased)

Anglo-Japanese style in general appeared between 1851 and 1900, when the culture, art and style of Japan became a topic of interest throughout the United Kingdom. The famous English writer Oscar Wilde stated that Europe was undergoing a “fascination of all Japanese work,” and this, of course, included the garden. Anglo-Japanese gardens basically appear as a mashup of the traditional English garden and the traditional Japanese style, so you’ll likely see sprawling green lawns combined with small wooden structures and bonsai plants.

Arabian Gardens

Persian garden 

Price: $1000 - $5000 (depending on size and items included)

Persian or Iranian gardens have a range of influences from southern Spain to India and tend to be defined by an enclosed space. The purpose is not only to be beautiful but to serve spirituality and leisure in the name of a paradise on earth. There are two approaches you can take to Persian garden construction, the formal which is based on structure or the casual which is based on nature. Whichever path you take, the balance of practicality and emotion are vital and all elements included are based around sunlight, with textures and shapes designed to harness it. Because Iran is typically a dry, hot country, shade is also important with trees, trellises, pavilions and walls ensuring ample cool-off areas.

Colonial Revival Gardens

Price $200 - $2000 (depending on size and how many items need to be purchased)

Associated with the Colonial period of the United States, this style and the concept of “revival” is about reinventing the look that defined many gardens during this time period. You’re likely to find rectilinear beds, straight pathways (unlike the winding look more typical in an English garden) and plants that produce fruit such as apple trees or lemon bushes. Although ornamental flowers and vegetable patches can also be found. The garden itself is usually enclosed by a hedge or low wall, creating an overall suburban look. The price advantage here is that there aren’t a lot of ornaments, but because of the high density and variety of plants, it can be time consuming on upkeep.

Lawn garden:

Price $200 - $1500

The classic, simple and ever-appealing lawn garden is a popular choice because it looks neat, clean and beautiful and is also a low maintenance option. Defined by a patch, large or small, of simple green grass, a lawn garden can be exactly that. Sometimes they are “pimped” up a little bit with flower patches or hedging but are usually kept pretty simple.

What kind of garden should I design if my space is small?

Very relevant to many of us in Singapore is the design and implementation of small gardens or gardens tailored to fit the spaces we have to work with. If you have a very small patio, terrace or balcony or even no outdoor space all all there are still a myriad of options.

Veranda/Balcony Garden: 

Transforming a veranda or balcony into a little green oasis is a great way to bring some nature into apartment living. To design the space nicely, try to stick to a theme (Japanese, English etc.) and make sure you choose plants that you can keep alive based on how much light the space receives Some smart options include:

Latticing with vines. Price $20 - 200

A green wall/roof. Price $200 - $2000

A herb garden in a large pot. Price $10 - 100

A small lawn for the floor. Price $50 - $500

A collection of pot plants. Price $50 - $1000

A cactus/succulent family. Price $50 - $1000

A mini Japanese garden with stones and bonsai trees. Price $100 - $1500

Indoor Garden 

For those who don’t have any outdoor space at all, there is the option of creating an indoor space or a green area inside. This might come in the form of including lots of pot plants, the installation of a green wall or even the creation of an indoor garden. Make sure you don’t go overboard and that you choose plants that can actually stay alive inside and with minimal sunlight, such as succulents, cactus’, Chinese money plants, aleo plants, ferns and some palms.

Install a green wall. Price $200 - $500

Buy lots of pot plants. Price $100 - $1000

Create a cactus/succulent feature table. Price $50 - $200

Use an old ladder as a plant shelf. Price $10 - $100

Install hanging plants from the roof or curtain rods. Price $50 - $300

Section of a part of the floor as a plant hallway. Price $100 - $500

Tips and Tricks for your garden

How can I keep my plants and flowers alive for a long time? 

To keep our plants and flowers alive we need to make sure that their environment is appropriate for them to live and thrive in the first place.

- Choose plants/flowers according to the amount of sunlight they can receive. If you opt for plants that need constant light and place them in the shade, they will die, just as if you plant breeds that need shade in the sun.

- Get the right soil - there are a range of soil types to choose from but typical “gardening soil” will likely do the trick. If you repot a plant or place it in the ground, it’s best to secure it with adequate, fresh soil to help it adapt to its new environment.

- Provide the correct size pots and repot when plants get too big. If a plant is growing too big, don’t let it continue until it breaks the pot, either move it into a new, bigger pot or cut it down to size.

- Give plants the right amount of water. Each different type of plant you have will come complete with a unique watering plan that it requires. It might seem overwhelming but if you put a few minutes into researching the individual needs, it will become habit before too long.

How do I keep my garden safe from pests? 

For deterrence of pests there are two paths you can take, the natural or the chemical. It’s always best to try natural solutions first as they are better for the environment and won’t harm your garden as much as chemical solutions. Make sure you really need to take this course of action in the first place however, as there’s no need to harm insects and “pests” if they aren’t causing any damage. Also, if your flowers are attracting bees we recommend to leave them be as these insects are incredibly important for the ecosystem and usually don’t cause any damage. Here are some solutions you can mix up yourself at home and with relative ease.

Insecticidal Soap: Mix one to two tablespoons of liquid soap (preferably plant-based) with approximately one litre of water, pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray where needed/where the insects are appearing.

Pesticide Spray: Collect a bunch of roots and spices that have a strong scent, such as cayenne, ginger, garlic, onion, mint or bay leaves, boil them and leave them overnight to soak. Strain out any solid parts the next morning so that you’re left with only liquid and mix it with the insecticidal soap. Again, pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray where needed. You can also use a garlic variation, in which you forget all other herbs/spices and use 1-2 heads of garlic instead.

Caffeine Spray: You might personally find the smell of coffee pleasant and energising, but insects have quite an aversion to it. To create this concoction, take a mix of herbs such as thyme, lavender and catnip and mix them with two tablespoons of ground coffee and two cups of water. Mix it up and allow it to sit for at least 24 hours before straining it into a liquid and using it in the spray bottle.