Plants bring the garden alive, linking the house with the garden and the garden with nature. But to get the right combination of plants that evoke an emotional response to get that wow factor - there is much to consider.
The key thoughts when you start to design your planting are:
- Growing conditions - is it sunny or shady and what is the soil type?
- Purpose - does it need to provide a screen or particular focal point?
- Maintenance - does it need to be low maintenance?
Plant for seasonal interest - make sure there will always be something of interest – this could be bulbs to give early season colour, spring and summer are much easier as the majority of plants flower during this season, but many go through until autumn like Sedums, Asters and the Grasses. For winter – the interest can be the early bulbs and either a winter flowering tree or shrub such as Hammamelis (Witchhazel), think also about scent and berries for examples the unique purple berries of Callicarpa.
Plant for colour combinations - some colours work perfectly together such as Purple and Pink while others clash horribly like Yellow and Pink. With so many plant varieties, there are so many different shades of each colour, it's easy to get wrong especially by looking in books or on the web.
Plant for shape
Try to choose a mix of different shapes. Shapes are normally categorised as the following (example plants in brackets):
- Spires (Digitalis-Foxglove, Delphinium)
- Flat Daisy - (Echinacea, Aster)
- Umbels (Achillea)
- Globes (Echinops, Allium)
- Buttons (Knautia macedonica, Crambe)
A planting plan is the best way to organise your thoughts. The plan is a scaled drawing of your planting area with the plants drawn on using symbols and colours. It also helps you to quantify the plants needed and serves as a map for the person laying out on site ready to plant.
Consider the five different elements: Trees, Shrubs, Hedges, Herbaceous, Bulbs and Annuals, then make a list of the plant varieties you wish to include starting with the largest first, working down in order to the smallest - then draw out your design.
Some of my favourite combinations are:
- Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ & Delphinium ‘Cristella’ & Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’
- Dicentra spectablis & Euphorbia polychroma
- Echinops bannaticus ‘Taplow Blue’ & Miscanthus sinesis ‘Morning Light’