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Design & Plant Selection

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Design and Plant Selection

A garden’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are no fixed rules.  Use your imagination and above all have fun and enjoy it.  Gardens change all the time, they are a living art form.

A garden will evolve.  The whole point is that you come to love gardening.  You enjoy learning about plants and what looks good in your garden.  You don’t want to complete your garden in a couple of weekends; it is a hobby that should last a lifetime wherever you are living.  Much like cooking, the more you do it, read about it and experiment, the better you will become at it.

Plants can always be removed or replaced if your tastes change.  You can’t fail!  Be sad if something dies but don’t give up.  We don’t make one rubbish supper and vow to only live on takeaways!

So why plant trees and shrubs?  When looking round a garden centre it can be easy to fall for those impulse buys.  Small pots of instant colour, with pretty colour labels and relatively cheap price tags.  But hold your horses, bedding plants will only last one season, so whilst pretty they have a very short garden life.  Herbaceous perennials are lovely and extremely diverse, but come the winter months you are left with a garden of sticks, stumps and bare earth.  By all means use these for infill and splashes of colour, shape and texture, but remember that without trees and shrubs you will have a very dull and uninviting plot for a large part of the year.  Trees and shrubs tend to cost more but they take three or four years, if not more, to reach a saleable size compared with a few weeks for a bedding plant.  But just look how much longer they last!

By using trees and shrubs you’ll create a good structure.  You can create focal points, a mixture of shapes and contours.  You can create a garden with all four seasons in mind so it is enjoyable throughout the year.

Trees and shrubs provide a haven for wildlife, they create shade as they get older for a comfortable place to sit and enjoy your garden.  They can be used as a windbreak in breezy areas, as a sound barrier in urban areas.  They define the boundaries of your plot from your neighbours.

By selecting different seasons you develop scent and colour throughout the year.  Colour is such a matter of personal taste.  I love green with white; blue with yellow; and silver with purple.  But that is just me.  Other people are much more flamboyant!

Try picking a different theme, this maybe for your whole garden or for parts of your garden, depending on the size of the plot.  How about a cottage garden, a tropical garden, a Mediterranean garden or a Japanese garden.  The list is endless.  Look at gardening books or just Google!

Evergreen plants retain their leaves all year round.  Deciduous plants drop their leaves in the autumn.  But don’t be tempted to think evergreen is best.  They both have their merits.  Whilst an evergreen will provide colour all year you don’t get the beautiful shades that are available from the autumn leaves of so many deciduous plants.  A mixture is what you really need.  An all deciduous garden would be pretty bare in the winter.

A specimen planting is an exceptionally beautiful tree or shrub planted singly, not in a mixed border, to show off for best effect.

Climbers are used to decorate walls and fences, but also look great growing through other plants.

Groundcover plants do as the name implies and are great for covering the soil, helping to keep weeds under control, as well as looking better than just brown earth.

Consider the layout of paths, walls, sitting areas and existing plants.  Take into account other external factors ~ the sun/shade available, the proximity to the coast, the soil type (invest in a cheap soil pH testing kit), the aspect (N, S, E, W) and obviously the size of the plot.

All too often on house design/makeover programmes the garden budget is slashed due to the overspending on the house.  This makes me mad!  The budget is invariably minimal to start off with, compared with say the kitchen or bathroom.  But even within the garden budget so much is spent on hard landscaping (patios, paths, etc) when what makes a truly special garden is the plants.

Our garden is basically lawn (rough!) and masses of plants and everybody loves it.  It always looks lush and healthy but above all interesting.  It is full of wildlife.  But the cost of filling a garden with shrubs is relatively modest compared with the cost of decking, patios, fencing, etc.

Create a tiny dell town garden, an open prairie planting or a peaceful cottage garden.  Draw inspiration from everywhere.  Do something completely different.  It is your space.

If you have the benefit of living in you property for several years make sure you take some photos.  It is amazing how a garden transforms over time.

Please read the other Back To Basics sections and appreciate that none of it is difficult!  Don’t be put off by unpronounceable Latin names, most you just say phonetically, or use the common name.  You’d be surprised how many professionals struggle with some of the tongue twisters!

Have Fun!!

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