Fiveways Gardens...April 2015

Continuing to muse on good garden design, I'm going to share some planting design tips this month.  Having done your survey and plan, the next stage is to get down to the nitty-gritty of the hard and soft landscaping.  Hard landscaping refers to the paving, fences and walls in and around your garden - the built framework of your design upon and around which you will arrange the soft landscaping - the plants, including lawn, trees, shrubs, climbers etc.  Given how much some plants can grow over the years, it may be that the structure of your garden is fine, but the planting needs refreshing.  

With so many plants to choose from it can be difficult to know where to start in attempting to create plant combinations that will delight you all year round.  You need to consider each plant - its height, spread, form, texture, colour, leaf shape and habit - and consider how all your plants will go together.  It may help to select your plants in groups such as trees and shrubs, and divide these into evergreen and deciduous.  Trees and shrubs are great for defining the garden space, and provide structure to the planting.  Try and include a few evergreens to provide year round interest.  They are larger and not as easily replaced as smaller plants, so start your planting plan with these.  The ‘flower power' is mostly provided by herbaceous perennials and annuals, although, of course, there are plenty of good flowering shrubs out there.  Having already decided on a style it's easier to limit your plant palette to fit that style.  For example, if you have chosen a Mediterranean style go for plants that reflect that style. Typically these will be plants which have adapted to hot and dry conditions and will be characterised by fine needle-like leaves or silver grey foliage such as lavender, rosemary, salvia, phlomis and stachys.  It doesn't matter whether your plants are native to the Med, they just have to fit the style and be able to grow here.  Consider myrtle as a small tree, various Cistus or rock rose as key shrubs, and perovskias as part of your flower power.  Myrtus communis subspecies tarentina is a great myrtle for our small gardens, as it has a compact form. 

Careful editing will pay dividends. I was reading an article by one of my favourite garden designers, Andy Sturgeon, recently and he recommends limiting your plant list to just a handful of key players and then halving it.  If you can employ a bit of restraint, the overall result is usually easier on the eye from the ‘bigger picture' perspective.   In essence, the more time you spend on the planning stages the more likely you are to turn your dream garden into reality. 

Best wishes


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