Tag Archives: planning

PLANTING DESIGN

Early in the planning of your garden you should determine how plants will fit in to the overall design. They can be used in a number of ways, for example for giving structure, adding height or even as a focal point in the garden to name but a few. Plants can also be used as barriers to define areas and create ‘rooms’ and you can highlight important points in the garden by using unique plants. Different sizes, textures, colours and contrasting shapes will help to capture your attention and direct it in a specific direction. All year round colour, structure and interest should be your aim and it will take thought, consideration and research to pull your plan together.

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So where do I start?

The place to start is with the ‘ backbone’ of the garden and by that I mean the structure. You need to get that in place before you get carried away with adding in the pretty flowers! It can be hard to be firm with yourself on this but it really will pay dividends in the end. I’d recommend starting with some evergreen shrubs and also any trees you may want. In my blog next week I’ll look at a selection of ornamental trees for your garden as ideally you should try to pick ones that will give you three seasons of interest.

Shrubs

Look for winter flowering evergreen shrubs or one that have leaves with interesting textures. If you’re wanting fairly quick coverage then check online the growth rates of various evergreens and choose the ones that say moderate to fast growth. Shrubs like Fatsia japonica, one of my personal favourites, is a quick growing shrub with tropical looking leaves and white flowers in September and October.

I usually add in some deciduous shrubs next and one I particularly like is Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’. Although it has leaves in the summer, its particular season of interest is the winter when beautiful pink/white flowers appear on its stems. Other great winter flowering evergreens are Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ with pink winter flowers, Mahonia japonica with bold foliage and scented early spring flowers and Choisya ternata with glossy foliage.

Frosted Hydrangea Leaves

Ornamental grasses

After that, I tend to look at any ornamental grasses I might want to use. Not all my clients like grasses and quite often they are banished from my planting plans, however personally I think they are a fantastic addition to most gardens for a number of reasons. They allow movement in a garden and are perfect to harness the wind we get in Edinburgh and many other areas of Scotland. We can’t change the windy conditions we have so let’s utilise it!

There are ornamental grasses available in many sizes and colours. The great thing about grasses are the sounds they create from rustling to swishing and they give structure for about 11 months of the year. Many grasses only need to be cut back in February with the exception of grasses like Phormiums which have much stiffer leaves. Some of my personal favourites are Stipa tenuissima, a fantastic and versatile grass that can be planted in amongst herbaceous perennials to great effect. When the wind catches them they swirl around and look fantastic. Some of my favourite coloured grasses are Festuca glauca which is blue, Imperata rubra ‘Red Baron’ and Panicum ‘Squaw’ which changes colour from green to pink to wine red from spring through to autumn.

There are lots to choose from often changing colour through the seasons which gives a lot of variety and interest throughout the year. Phormiums also come in a variety of colours and look great as a focal point in the garden with their stiff leaves adding great texture to the border.

Do check the height and spread of all the plants you are thinking of using and make sure that they are planted in a way that one is not obscuring another. People often forget to check the final height and spread of plants which often means that they buy far too many. The plants then just try to out compete each other with the end result being an overcrowded messy border! It is such a waste of money too so it really pays to do your research.

Bees

 

‘The Pretties’

Last but not least are the herbaceous perennials, the fun bit that we all want to start with first but mustn’t! Unless you have a very large garden I’d recommend you go for perennials with long periods of interest. Choosing too many short flowering perennials will result in lots of green leaves and not much colour in large swathes of your garden. Try your best to pick perennials that say they last for 3-4 months, there are many that do.

Some perennials are deciduous and others are evergreen. Some good evergreens to include in your plan are the winter flowering Hellebores. They give year round evergreen structure and the prettiest flowers from February to April when we all need to see some colour in the garden. Other useful evergreens are Liriope muscari which flowers a pretty blue from August to October and Bergenia which flowers In March and April in lovely pinks and whites. Some of the Bergenia have leaves that turn coppery in winter which adds a lovely touch of colour to the borders at that time of year.

When you are choosing your perennials look for deciduous ones that will give lovely seed heads in the winter if left to dry out and not cut down and cleared away. Achillea, Monarda, Sedum and Echinops are to name but a few. You’ll find ideas of what to plant to give this effect in many books and on the internet. Using a carefully chosen selection of evergreen perennials, ornamental grasses, winter flowering shrubs, and perennials that fade to lovely seed heads you will have the palette to create year round colour, structure and interest in your garden.

Tulips

 

Last but not least….

Remember that spring bulbs can fill in areas of the garden where you may be short of colour at the start of the year, until things get going in March/April time. I have previously blogged on bulbs so have a look at that and those spring bulbs that need to be planted between October and December will be all you need to finish off your planting design!

DESIGNING YOURSELF

Once you have measured up your garden and you know what and where your different levels are, then you are almost ready to begin. The other crucial piece of the jigsaw is having thought carefully about the following:

– Who will be using the garden, when and what for?
– Entertaining, family meals, children’s play area, area for growing vegetables? Be sure of what you  want before you begin.
– Do you know where the sun falls in the garden and when?
– Do you know where you have any drainage problems that may need to be taken into account?
– Would you like atmospheric lighting or a water feature put in the garden?
– How much time and money do you have for maintenance?
– What is your budget for the project?

Make sure you have a comprehensive list of these things and refer to it while you are working on the design.

Remember, a sloping garden, drainage problems or the taking down and removal of such things as walls or old outbuildings will cost more to redesign, as the initial outlay for the preparatory works will be higher that if your garden was an empty flat site.

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Be aware that demolition and site clearance is pretty expensive. Try and reuse existing materials in the garden wherever you can, it’s better for the environment and better for your pocket.

THE DESIGN

All designers will draw a design to scale, something most people with no design experience will not be able to do themselves. I suggest that for example when you have decided where to put a seating area for 6 people, that you go out to the space and either put 6 chairs and a table in that space to see if it fits or find out the measurements and mark  out the area required. It is crucial when designing, that you have enough space to fit in the things you want!

Chelsea

HARD LANDSCAPING – V- SOFT LANDSCAPING

Remember the more patios, walls, and structures you put in to the design the more expensive it will be. The more lawn and borders you have the more you’ll see the price coming down. Less is more with hard landscaping and it should be elegant, simple and functional. If you’d like things such as a shed or water feature in your garden, find out the costs of these before you add them in so you can keep tabs on your budget. If you’d like some structures in the garden but your budget is tight, look to more traditional materials like woven hazel or willow to help keep costs down.

MATERIALS

When it comes to materials such as pavers and gravel, speak to your local builders merchants to find out the costs of different materials so that you can pick the ones that suit your budget as well as the garden. You will be able to get bulk bags of various materials, so that may be a more economical way to buy them. Using environmentally friendly materials, non-toxic preservatives, stains, paints and cleaners helps protect the environment too.

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Remember that once you have the design done you don’t need to have all the work done in one go. You can split the cost by doing it in stages and over two or three years if you’d like. As long as you have a cohesive design then that’s your blueprint to work from as and when, time and money allows.

THOUGHTS ON DESIGN

Take a good look at the style of your house and the materials used to build it. If your garden is to be a seamless extension of your house then you need to make sure that it looks the part. The style or theme you choose for your garden, along with the materials used to construct it need to blend.

Do you want a soft organic flowing garden or do you prefer more orderly geometric shapes? In order to get the most out of your garden you should look at it as another room in your house and plan accordingly. Within this garden room you can create different, smaller ‘rooms’ in your landscape, for example, perhaps one for entertaining, one for children to play and so on.

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Many people decide they want their garden to reflect a particular theme, for example, a Japanese garden or a contemporary, modern garden or a wildlife friendly garden. This can give you a focus for both your design and also planting ideas.

Remember you will need to ‘link’ these rooms whatever style you choose, so think about how people will move from one space to another. Create openings to encourage exploration of the garden space so that people can move around it. Using materials wisely allows you to create different ‘ rooms’ in your landscape.

USE THOSE PLANTS!

Using plants is a great way to define areas in the garden too, so don’t underestimate the importance of these. Early in your planning you should think about how plants will function in your landscape. For example, low growing plants can be used to create implied barriers, blocking access but without blocking the views.

Shady ColourWhen it comes to planting, repeating similar shapes and structures in your garden to give you a unified view throughout your space. I will look at planting and planting plans in my next blog to help you with this important area of design.

Looking at good examples of design is a create way to get ideas. Note what works well and incorporate that into your design. Don’t be frightened to pinch ideas from different places. Looking at what others have done is a natural way to find inspiration.

Remember that most garden design deals with finding aesthetically pleasing and functional solutions to problems within a garden. Creativity is dealing with these problems and trying to find the best solution faced with a lot of possible options.

Feeling unsure which one to choose is normal. Just do your best and remember if you get stuck you can always call upon a garden designer to give you some advice and get you over that hurdle and back on course!