Using Scale and Drawing More Complex Gardening Plans

Essentially, a scale plan is a proportional visual representation of your garden, and you can draw one easily by converting the measurements you took of your garden to one of the scales in this project.

From: DK Books - Garden Design

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  1. Landscaping

Choosing a Scale

There are several scales to choose from, including 1:10, 1:20, 1:50, 1:100, and 1:200. Put simply, a 1:1 scale shows an object at its actual size; on a 1:10 scale plan, 1 cm on paper represents 10 cm measured in your garden; on a 1:20 scale, 1 cm on paper represents 20 cm on the ground; and on a 1:50 scale, 1 cm on paper represents 50 cm in your garden. For small domestic gardens, it is best to use scales of 1:20 or 1:50; for a larger plot, you may want to use a 1:100 scale, or even a 1:200 scale for an extensive country garden.

Designers often draw more than one plan, and use different scales to show different details. For example, a 1:50 scale can be used for planting plans, and a 1:20 or 1:10 scale is best for structural features, such as a pond.

Drawing a Plan for an Irregularly Shaped Plot

grid or graph paper, or plain paper and a measuring triangle
large pair of compasses (for triangulation)
scale rule and/or clear plastic ruler
pencil and pens, and eraser

Regardless of the method—triangulation or offsets—used to measure your irregular plot and its features, start by drawing your house and the doors and win-dows on your plan. If you used offsets, draw a line at 90 degrees to the house to represent the tape measure. Using the graph paper's grid and a ruler or a scale rule, plot the boundary measurements at 90 degrees to this line; join the dots to form the boundary. Then add features, also plotting measurements at 90 degrees to the central line. If you took measurements using triangulation, use the method on the right to draw up your scale site plan.


1. Draw the house, doors, and windows, and then set the compasses to the first scaled mea-surement you took from the house. Place the point where you measured from on the house, and draw a small arc (Image 1).

2. Reset the compasses to the second measurement you took from the house to form the triangle. Place the point where you measured from on the house, and draw a second arc to cross the first (Image 2).

3. Repeat Step 1 and Step 2 for all of your boundary triangulation measurements. With a pencil, join up the center point of each of the crosses to plot your boundary. You can then go over the line in pen (Image 3).

4. Use the same technique outlined in Steps 1 to 3 to plot the position of the garden's features — such as outbuildings, trees, plants, or water features—to create your scale site plan (Image 4).

Top Tips:

- Use Google Earth to check the shape of your plot. On larger or more open plots you may even see trees, features, and sheds.
- Don't over-complicate your sketch. If necessary, use more than one sheet to record di-mensions of the main garden, and a separate sheet for details, such as planting plans.
- If an impenetrable area of vegetation gets in the way, estimate its dimensions from the measurements around it.
- When drawing your site plan, use metric graph paper for a more accurate result.

The Finished Site Plan

You've taken all the necessary measurements, converted them to your chosen scale, and drawn up your scale site plan (or plans, if you chose to use more than one). This accurate representation of your garden's boundary, and any existing features that you intend to work around, is an important design tool. Take photocopies of your plan, scan it onto a computer, and print out copies, or make a few tracings. You can then use these copies or tracings to sketch shapes and ideas that will fit the plot.

As well as creating your own design, you can use a scale site plan to show builders the size and type of surfaces and features you want. Also some design companies offer mail-order services, particularly for planting designs, and ask for a site plan to help them produce an accurate plan.

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