Use free software to design a garden

By Andrew Stucken, Friday 5 April 2013

A free computer programme allows you to redesign your own garden on screen, Andrew Stucken walks you through Showoff Virtual Designer.
Virtual gardenerVirtual gardener

Gardeners unable to afford expensive designers used to rely on their own imaginations.

Not any more. Numerous garden design programmes are now available - some of them free.

One free app that enables you to upload a digital photo of your garden is by showoff.com, allowing you to visualise how new plants and features would look.

Before using the software, if no picture of your garden is stored on your computer it is preferable to upload one – a basic snap taken on your mobile phone will suffice. Alternatively you could scan a print and upload that.

See our selection of small garden ideas for inspiration.

How to use Showoff’s visualiser to design your garden

1. Point your browser to www.showoff.com/apps  and, when loaded, click the “Design Now” button.

2. You will see a page containing a gallery of thumbnails with the heading “Choose your Space” at the top. Assuming you do want to visualise your own garden, click the thumbnail marked “Use My Own Photo”.

3. At this point you will find yourself at a registrations screen. You will need to sign up to proceed further.

4. Once successfully registered, under the heading “Upload your favourite photo” click the button in the bottom right of the screen marked “Select File”. Browse to the desired picture of your garden and allow it to upload.

5. You should now see your photo in the window adjacent to the “Select File” button. Click the “Upload Now” button to its right.

6. On the next screen, beneath “Select products you would like to work with” click “Next”. The “Choose Your Project Type” screen will show nine thumbnails of different projects. Click the right hand thumbnail on the middle row, “Landscaping”.

7. This step is not the easiest to spot. On the next screen you will again see your photo, with a row of thumbnails beneath it.  A small horizontal blue bar with a little triangle on it brings up a menu. Assuming it is landscape plants you wish to view, select that option.  The thumbnails will change to plants. Simply click on the plants and they will appear on the photo of your garden. You can resize plants, move them around and delete them at will, allowing you to visualise how they would look in your garden.

8. If you would like to see how planters, pots, fountains or a retaining wall would look, go back to the menu in Step 8. 

Remember to save your project regularly. You can e-mail, print and share it on Facebook if you wish.

Other free garden design software is available - BHG Plan A Garden, for example.

If you are prepared to pay, numerous more sophisticated landscape design programmes are on the market. Realtime Landscaping, Landscape Vision and Home Designer are some examples. Many landscaping programmes, especially the more expensive ones, will also allow you to design the interior of your home.

They will have more functionality than free apps such as Showoff’s and range in price from around £25 to £50, and upwards. As you would expect, the more expensive products tend to receive better reviews. Some programmes have demos or free trial versions – always advisable to try before you spend money.

If you're starting a landscaping project, read our guide to laying out a new garden.

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter for more useful gardening tips.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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  • debrastorr

    Posted: Thursday 28 August 2014

    No use at all as only thing possible to add are fountains. No plants available at all.

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