When considering planting for your garden, first think about what you want to achieve, what colors you would like to use, what shapes and how much time you want to spend in the garden, both actively gardening and passively enjoying of the garden. All of these considerations can be made from the warmth of your couch, but thinking about them will help you make a garden plan. It is extremely important to think about location, exposure, i.e. is it facing north, south, etc., is it in full sun all day, shade deep or a mixture of both? This will result in the “right plant, in the right place”.
I recommend that you sit in the garden and watch how the sun moves through, taking note of where it is in full sun and deep shade or partial shade. I would also suggest that you go to the garden center and buy a soil test kit.
This one is very simple to use and will tell you if you have acidic, neutral or alkaline soils. It is essential to carry out several soil tests around your garden, as you are likely to find discrepancies from area to area. This will help determine which plants to grow.
With all this information, draw on a sheet of paper the shape of your garden/outdoor space with a black marker. Take measurements and transpose them onto your drawing. Then, using another sheet, lay it on top, draw the boundary and start playing with the shapes and creating your borders. The size of your borders will determine the number of plants you will need.
The color wheel is a great place to start, where colors next to or near a single color will blend effortlessly, while colors on opposite sides of the wheel will be in complete contrast with each other or clash. terribly. Color is personal, it can bring back memories of loved ones, places visited or just change your mood. Bright colors like red, orange and yellow will brighten you up while pastels like pinks, blues and whites will soothe you.
If you want to make a garden appear longer, use brighter colors closer to the house and cooler hues farther away. This will give the illusion of extra depth. Think of a landscape you have seen – the colors close to you will be bright and perhaps vibrant, but in the distance the colors begin to blend into each other and are paler in comparison.
Whenever I design a new garden, I always look at the nearby countryside, urban environment, or wider setting, as design clues can be seen quite easily, i.e. what plants are growing nearby, what materials are used for paving, etc.
Each time you do this, you are building a picture or visual mood board for your garden. Once you’ve considered all of the above, it’s time to start thinking about the plants themselves.
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When I set up a planting program, I think of these seven main principles. By following these seven principles, you can start combining plants.
Seven Principles of Planning Your Garden
- plant color – flower, leaf, stem
- plant shape – flower, leaf and general shape
- plant size – flower, leaf and overall size
- Habit of the plant – tuft formation, ground cover, columnar, bushy
- Plant Texture – flower, leaf, stem
- Season(s) of interest
- Scent – you have to be careful not to overdo it on the perfume and not to overwhelm your senses
This can be done quite easily by copying and pasting royalty free plant images into a document and seeing what works well together. It’s great to have different shapes and textures running across the border and don’t be afraid to use taller plants near the front.
Plants such as Verbena bonariensis, Anethum graveolens, Ridolfia segetum, Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’, Isatis tinctorial are great tall plants to have near the front as they have a fairly open habit so you look through them up to the rest of the plantation. The same goes for ornamental grasses, such as Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Calamagrostis brachytricha.
Look carefully at the color of the plants and mix accordingly, for example purple/red branches of Stachyurus praecox, pick purple from Cardamine pratensis or Erysimum ‘Plant World Lemon’. Additionally, the deep hues of Loropetalum chinense var rubrum ‘Fire Dance’ work beautifully with Anemone coronaria ‘Bordeaux’ and Fritillaria persica.
For texture, ferns are a great plant choice of varying shapes, sizes, and “fronds” (a coined word I know, but it seems to reflect the different frond shapes). Plant some next to the ‘woolly’ leaves of Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’, or the soft leaves of Senecio candicans ‘Angel Wings’ and the filigree leaves of Selinum wallichianum and you’ll want to get out and rub your palms over the different textures and feel them between your fingers.
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Each plant has an optimal height and spread, so take this into account when planting. If the tag on the plant says “40cm apart”, space them 30-35cm apart. This way they will blend beautifully into each other, creating a taller looking plant.
It also means that weeds will be kept to a minimum as there will be no room for them and the merged plants will block out any light like common daisy, dandelion and white clover. However, sometimes it is good to leave room for certain weeds because they are ideal for pollinators.
When it comes to plant height, you can of course cut back some perennials in the third week of May around the time of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, known as the ‘Chelsea chop’ to prolong flowering. Good examples are phlox, aster, achillea and echinacea. The flowers won’t be as tall as the uncut ones, but the variation in height gives a much more natural feel to the garden. Shrubs can be pruned to the correct size, but if it is a flowering shrub, be sure not to cut the flowering branches by mistake.
For me, a border and a garden must evoke an emotion. Whenever I plan to plant I think in layers, both horizontally and vertically.
Horizontal layers are easier to imagine in our mind, i.e. bulbs as the first layer, ground cover next, perennials and low shrubby perennials as the third layer, followed by shrubs and shrubs. ‘trees as the next two layers. When it comes to thinking about vertical layers, it all depends on how the border will look from any direction.
Most borders have a back and a front, but if you have a border in the middle of the garden or a large pot and you can work your way around it, you need to think about vertical planes.
Most of the time people will place shrubs and trees in the center, with a cascading effect over the lower plants in the front, but this can block the view through a border, making it static and heavy.
Play with the plants and think about what the border will look like when sitting, standing, lying down, and if viewed from an upstairs window – an overhead perspective. A shrub might look in the right place from the ground, but when you see it from above, you might want to move it closer or further away.
This all may sound rather complicated, but the wonderful thing about gardening is that it is constantly changing. If a plant doesn’t look good in a particular position, dig it up, move it to another position, and plant something else in its place. Additionally, all of the tips above can be translated into a pot, planter, allotment, or community space. Just because a pot is smaller than a border doesn’t mean you can’t show off your creative flair.
Wildflowers can be used in a pot to represent a wild meadow, ornamental grasses mixed with annuals such as cosmos, ammi and scabious can give a naturalistic look, while a formal pot can be put together at home. using a flowering shrub and bedding plants.
It doesn’t matter what size border or pot you have. Think about the layers, texture, color and overall feel and have fun.