DESIGNING WITH PLANTS
You don’t need to be a professional landscape architect to learn some of the methods they rely on
when planning masterful garden designs. Understanding the micro-climate of your garden is
necessary so you can select plants that will not only survive but thrive in your site’s conditions.
Here are three simple guidelines that will help you select plants and enjoy the challenge of creating
your own personalized garden design.
HAVE A VARIETY OF SIZES, SHAPES, & TEXTURES
Too many similar, little leaves, creating an overly busy look.
Vary leaf size and shape: Large leaves break up the view, read well from a distance, and provide a place for your eyes to rest.
Take black and white photos of your garden to see where leaves blend together and more variety is needed.
Too many small plants and/or perennials, creating an overly fluffy, mushy garden lacking structure.
Vary plant size: Aim for a mix of different sized plants and clumps. Vary plant shape: include upright, vertical, conical, spreading, mounding, creeping, trailing, etc.
Look at plant shapes in your garden to see where more variety is needed. Look in winter to see where you need to add evergreen foliage and structure.
Too many plants with similar textures.
Vary textures: Include fine, medium, bold, coarse, billowy, stiff, spiky, contained, loose and wild, etc.
Add plants with textures your garden is missing. Don’t forget grasses and ferns!
LIMIT THE COLOR PALETTE & USE REPETITION
Many colors in similar amounts, looking busy and unplanned.
Limit your palette. Pick a color theme. Use repetition to create rhythm, unity, and cohesion.
Identify where color themes are absent and make changes to create a theme.
GENERAL RULES TO CONSIDER
Aim for 1/3 to 2/3 evergreen plants and 1/3 to 2/3 trees and shrubs. In areas viewed year-round, use more evergreens.
Use the same principles for leaves—limit colors and use repetition. To create depth, drama, and interest, use different colors, and variation between light and dark
To Create a Combination
- Pick one tree, shrub, or focal plant to be the basis of a combination. Look for supporting plants that add a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures, while keeping your color palette limited. Add and adjust until you have three to five plants.
- When planting the combo in the garden, clump smaller items in multiples and repeat.
- Pick one plant on the edge of the grouping to be the starting plant for your next combo.
- Repeat some plants or clumps of plants in other combinations throughout the garden.