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Garden design solutions: 3 ‘golden rules’ for successful planting design

Every garden designer knows the value of great planting. Plants bring life and soul to a garden, providing colour, texture and fragrance, as well as attracting the friendly wildlife and pollinators that we all enjoy and rely upon. All too often, however, we see planting that feels like an afterthought; a random assortment of unfortunate specimens cobbled together in a haphazard ‘that will do’ manner.


To avoid this, a garden designer will deploy a few simple ‘tricks of the trade’ when designing planting schemes. Here are our top three golden rules for successful planting design:



1. Less variation, more cohesion

Perhaps the most common mistake people make is trying to have too much variety. Yes, we can all be seduced by the range of different plants at the garden centres or online, but too much variation we will almost inevitably end up with a cluttered and confusing display.


To avoid this, let’s focus on achieving cohesion by using quantities of fewer different plants. If, for example, we need 30 plants to fill a new border, let’s aim for just five or six carefully selected varieties planted in groups or drifts. This will ensure that our eyes are calmly led through a planting composition rather than being ‘bombarded’ with too many different elements shouting for our attention.



​2. Seasonal interest

Many gardens are their most resplendent in late spring and early summer. This is hardly surprising given how many of our favourite perennials are looking their finest in the warmer months. But it is important that we don’t dismiss the rest of the year.


This means specifically choosing plants which will perform outside of summer. In spring, for example, we can enjoy bulbs, the fresh shoots and stems of perennials, and trees with new buds and catkins. In autumn, we’ve got ornamental grasses, late flowering shrubs and the breath-taking foliage colour of a host of deciduous trees and shrubs. During winter, we can look to colourful stems and interesting bark, as well as enjoying a few carefully selected evergreen shrubs.



​3. Not just flowers…

Our eyes are often drawn to bright colours and standout features, so flowers are obviously important. But a good planting scheme will also celebrate textural contrast alongside colour. Imagine a black and white photograph of our garden…would it still interest us? If it wouldn't then we are probably relying too heavily on flowers.


Successful planting needs to provide structure and texture, so let’s use carefully selected combinations of plants to achieve this. For example, a feathery ornamental grass will look fantastic alongside something more sturdy. A shrub with large broad leaves can partner well with more finely-cut foliage. Mound forming perennials look more interesting alongside plants with some height. Let’s be brave and try things in different combinations to see what works.



Successful planting design needn’t be scary or complicated. Follow these three golden rules and see how easy and enjoyable it can be.

Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.

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