Design for Beginners, Part 3

Anyone can design a basic garden if you consider 3 basic components!  With some recent renovations to our home, we realized that we also needed to change some of our garden layouts.

As I started the planning stages for the garden renovations, I got to thinking about the fundamentals of Garden Design.  I have the good fortune to travel extensively for Tesselaar Plants, and with that, I’ve had a chance to see incredible gardens throughout the world – from simple cottage gardens to expansive estate gardens. That experience has been very helpful for my planning.

If you follow the 3 easy and basic components of Location, Maintenance and Aesthetics, you too can be on your way to a great garden planning or revitalization project.   My previous posts focused on “Location” and “Maintenance,” and this final post considers “Aesthetics” – how things will actually look and work in the garden.

Aesthetics . . .

This can be a little contentious when it comes to Garden Design as we all have our preferences.  However, in general the rules of thumb are:

  • Planting in repetition for swaths of color
  • Planting in groups of odd numbers e.g. 3, 5 or 7 (same plants)
  • Planting based on flowering/color timing  (keeping in mind the flowering time of each plant to insure season-long color)
Wisley Gardens

Using large plantings of same-color plants (including Volcano phlox) adds impact to the Wisley trial gardens

Of course there is a strong tradition of mixed perennial borders and plantings in gardening but personally I feel the most dramatic (or impressive) garden designs I’ve seen are all about simple replication of either plants or a design motive on whatever scale the garden permits.   For example, planting 5-7 Flower Carpet roses together in one place provides a wide swath of color for months on end.

Flower Carpet rose 'Amber'

Flower Carpet Amber planted in a group of 5 for maximum impact in this small entrance garden


Wisley gardens

Swaths of purple, green and reddish-orange blossoms make a stunning display

To create a garden that maintains interest year round, during the planning phase it is also key to consider what plants are going to look throughout each of the seasons. It would be a drab garden that only has interest with color and form during the summer.  Using plants such as the Fairy Magnolia which add perfume and color to the garden during the late winter /early spring period ensures that you enjoy your garden year round.  Ornamental grasses can add interest and texture to late fall and even winter gardens, as can evergreen shrubs.


Fairy Magnolia adds color and interest to the early spring garden

During the planning phase you’ll also want to consider things like the fit of the plant from a location or maintenance perspective.  For example, you wouldn’t to plant a tree that grows to 40 feet adjacent to your house because it would not get the room it needs to grow and also would most likely contribute to increased need for gutter cleaning.  Likewise, shrubs that get too large and have deep roots should not be planted to close to your house because of possible root damage to your foundation.

So, those are my 3 key considerations  (Location, Maintenance and Aesthetics) when it comes to garden planning.  I look forward to hearing from you with other tips / ideas that keep us all thinking about our garden as the ever changing, living, breathing thing with constant change that we all love.




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One Response to Design for Beginners, Part 3

  1. Graciebelle August 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Thanks for this reminder to plant in swaths of color. After seeing these pictures, I know I need to be more diligent in doing that instead of having a real hodge-podge garden. Very inspiring – thanks!

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