To plan a garden design that you will love, it is important to do some research and brainstorming before digging.
Coming up with the right garden design does take time, so it is worth doing this up front. Once you’re at the nursery, looking at all the beautiful plants, it will be too late. It is too easy to be distracted and end up with all the wrong plants for your garden. So, spend the time looking over your garden site regardless of the season and get planning.
First up, think about how you are going to use your garden.
Is it to look at and admire? Or is it for having a kitchen garden? Maybe you want both?
Regardless of how you want to use your garden, take an objective look before coming up with your design. This step alone is the most important in determining the right plants to use.
Next, you need to monitor the garden during different times of the day and year. Take a note of some of the following:
- How many hours of sunlight does the garden get?
- What times of day is the sun out?
- Consider the seasonal changes in sunlight. Are they different?
- Are there trees that alter the sunlight making it shady at certain times?
- What is the pH and texture of the soil? Will any structures or trees affect the selection and growth of plants?
- Are there any structures you would like to cover (house walls, fences, sheds etc)?
- What plants are growing already?
Now you know what you want to use your garden for and what natural elements will affect it. Time to think about what you want it to look like? Here are some different options:
- An informal or formal structure?
- Wild, rambling plantings or a more contained look?
- It is important that it complements your home?
- Will the natural landscape dictate the flow of the garden?
- Are soft pastel or bold tropicals your color preference?
It does seem like a lot to think about, but it will save you a lot of time and money down the track. As you follow the above steps, it becomes more fun and easier.
One of the last things to consider is plant selection (which most people want to put first!). It can be overwhelming if you start with the plants as there are so many to choose from. Doing this step at the end ensures that whatever you choose will suit your plan. Here are some considerations for plant selection:
Know what your zone is to ensure you pick plants that will thrive (not die) in your climate. This is particularly important if you by from a catalogue or online. Every plant and seed should indicate the planting zone it is suited for. Only choose those that will work in your zone – don’t waste your money on anything else.
Local nurseries and garden clubs can also help with choosing the right plants for your area. This is invaluable if you have moved from another area and need local advice.
Knowing what you plan on using your garden for and when is another consideration in plant selection.
If you entertain a lot, or don’t want to spend a lot of time on looking after the garden once it’s established, look for lower maintenance plants. These won’t require the constant pruning, deadheading and staking of other varieties to look good.
If you have small children, consider plants that bloom at their eye level. You will also want the plants to be non-poisonous and colorful.
List the plants you like and then group them according to texture, form and color. Also make a note of the season they bloom, seed or grow best. Consider plants that offer flowers and/or foliage to give variety. Colorful foliage plants are becoming more popular and can provide interest all year round.
Large anchor plants add height and should be included in your design to give year round appeal. Shrubs and evergreens fall into this category and can provide the fixed design element for your garden Smaller gardens can only accommodate 1 to 2 shrubs or trees. But they provide the ‘bones’ of good garden design so choose wisely.
For added seasonal beauty, consider planting bulbs. They can be grouped for a colorful accent around shrubs, or planted in wooded areas for a natural look. Good quality bulbs are readily available, including through online stores. Make sure to choose bulbs suitable for your zone.
One thing to keep in mind with bulbs is the need to plant ahead. For example, plant in fall for spring flowering. To plan a garden design you will love, follow the steps above. Think about how you will use your garden, research the site, decide the look you are after and then select the plants. It will all come together in no time.
Taking the time to plan a garden design that you will love is an important part of gardening. Follow the steps above and you will have a garden to enjoy for a long time.