Picasso once said: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after he grows up." He could've said "he or she" but you get the point. We get increasingly boxed-in in what we are supposed to be good at that it's hard to pick up the baton again. If you've just moved in to somewhere with a garden and would like to give designing it a go - try the following:
1. Make an accurate survey - either mark things out yourself on paper using triangulation to confirm distances, or employ someone to survey your space.
2. Scribble all over it. Big gestural marks like a young child.
3. See if you can reduce those intersecting lines into more cohesive shapes using another colour - join them up. Reduce them right down so that there are only three or four shapes left.
4. Think of a material or two (no more!) that complements the architecture of your house, and fill in a couple of your shapes with them. These are your paths and patios. Look at how much sun the remaining shapes would get, and choose plants accordingly. Don't be tempted to plant one of everything, use clumps and drifts.
5. You've got yourself a garden design! Ok there are a couple of extra things one could learn along the way, but I find that if a client presents me with a sketch as above, I get a great head start on how they envisage the space. Get the crayons out!