by David Salman
When it comes to planning a flower garden or preparing for a new landscaped area of your yard, many folks don't know where to start. What I don't recommend is heading out to the local garden center and randomly buying what is in flower and looks pretty. Instead, I like to do a bit of advance planning before I pull out my wallet.
The planning process should be simple and doable and leave the gardener with a much better idea of what they want to accomplish without the necessity of having a complete plant list in hand to go shopping. It's better to understand the growing conditions of where you want to plant. This is a big help when coming up with some sensible plant choices. (Our High Country Gardens customer service reps are happy to assist.) Here's the short list of factors one needs to understand before any plants go into the ground.
- How big is the area to be planted? Even if it's only approximate, this tells you how many plants will fit comfortably without becoming an overgrown jungle.
- Determine the growing conditions. What direction does the area face? Is it a hot dry south or west facing spot? Or is it a cool and shady north or northeast facing area? Is there root competition from a nearby large trees or shrub?
- Where is it in relation to the house? How close is it to the house? Do you look out on the area? Can you see it from the street?
- Know your soil type. Not sure? Bring in a sample to the nursery or have it tested.
- Note if moisture levels in the area are different than elsewhere in the yard. Is it a low spot that collects water after a rain? Or is it on a slope that dries out quickly? Is it near a downspout from the roof that provides extra moisture for plants that like moist soil.
Once the above steps are done, you can start the fun part; putting together a "want list" of plants that will be well matched with their companions and the planting site. Get online at highcountrygardens.com and use our robust website search features to assist your efforts to come up with plants that match your growing conditions. Then whittle the choices down to a manageable "want list."
Getting That Designer Look For Your Garden and Landscape
I need to confess that I'm not a landscape designer by education, only by experience. I approach a new planting from the growers' side of the equation; I'm very plant focused as opposed to architecturally focused. Here are the design tricks I use to put together a cohesive and horticulturally sensible planting.
When using perennials:
- Always use each plant in odd-numbered groups (threes, fives or sevens).
- Use a variety of flower types. Avoid only planting daisies. Use daisy-type flowers with flowering spikes (Beardtongue, Hummingbird Mints), flower sprays (Heuchera, Columbine, Diascia), mounding flowers (Lavender, Catmint, Coreopsis) and flat-topped flowers (Yarrow, Milkweed, Stonecrop).
- Always mix in some ornamental grasses.
- Perennials usually bloom for a month or so in one of four general times in the growing season; early spring, late spring, summer and early fall. Choose perennials that bloom in all four of these segments to keep the planting in color for a much longer time.
- Use more of fewer types of plants to keep the look more restful to the eye. This is better than one or two of a large number of different plants which make the planting look chaotic and unfocused. In large plantings, repeat groupings of plants more than once to create a more cohesive design.
- Choose plants with a variety of heights; short, medium and tall to avoid monotony.
- Space plants in their locations according to mature size, not the size they are in the pot. This may seem like a "no-brainer" but it's an all too common mistake.
- Use lots of ground covers. I'd much rather look at a lovely creeping thyme than big swatches of mulch. Groundcovers knit a planting together.
- Use some evergreens, ornamental grasses and other plants with interesting seed heads to keep the garden interesting in the dormant seasons.
Or Take the Easy Way Out
If you're a casual gardener or someone who is just too busy to undertake the planning processes I've outlined above, choose one of our High Country Garden pre-planned gardens. They are like a painting-by-numbers kit. Each garden comes with a complete planting diagram that shows plant placement and plant spacing. Prepare the soil, place, and plant. Your living art piece will grow in and give you that professional look without a lot of effort.
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