Forum home Garden design

How to go about choosing plant combinations - advice on planting schemes needed please!

Anyone have any advice on where to start when planning which plants will look good together in a planting scheme? Any good places to look for inspiration where I can find info about the plants pictured? Any general principles? Books you'd recommend? There's so much to know - I just need a good place to start.




  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,165
    A good way to start is by putting some photos on here of your site, along with info about aspect, soil, and general weather conditions/climate. The last one is particularly important. No point wanting plants which won't thrive in your location.
    Also- do you have time to spend on pruning, seed sowing, taking cuttings etc, do you need evergreens, what style of garden do you like?
    These are all factors in deciding what you plant. 
    It's a very personal thing.  :)

    Any plants you want info about can be found on this forum too, and is mostly by people's own experience. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • David.lifedrawingDavid.lifedrawing Posts: 27
    edited September 2020
    Thanks Fairygirl, sounds like a good idea. Here is my garden. It's quite small - 6.3m x 8.2m and south facing. As you can see there's a bed at the back, and the metre or so immediately in front of the fence is in permanent shade - further from the fence it either gets morning or afternoon sun, plus both sides get the midday sun. We're in Essex so it's pretty dry on the whole but the wind does tend to whip around the garden regularly. 

    The soil is top soil I bought from a commercial supplier and goes probably 50-60cm deep. I think I probably went over the top with this at the time, but it's done now.

    I think the soil is pretty neutral. Drainage is less certain - in order to get the fence posts to stand firm at the back I had to compact the soil as much as I could. I since put a bark mulch down and i'd say the soil is moist most of the time, but I wouldn't go as far as saying it's boggy.

    The trellis around the three sides is planted with Clematis Yellow Beauty which I believe is a Macropetala. 

    The other plants I have in right now are some astrantias, phlox, anemones, geranium phaeum, geranium 'brookside', erigeron, actea (at the back, not doing at all well), agastache, hemerocalis, hellebore foetidus, erysimum, geums, euphorbia (had three of these, one one is still alive - I got a bit heavy handed with the Growmore a month or so back and it damn near killed half the garden).

    The gravel part near the house which gets all the sun has a growing collection of pots - there's a couple of clematis in the obelisk, some hydrangea runaway bride, dianthus, some mint, a camelia, and out of shot on the south facing wall of teh house I planted a lonicera haliana. 

    The thing in the middle is a steel water bowl which is taking on a rusty patina and which I'm hoping to add a couple of pond plants due eventually.

    So everything went in this June and I appreciate it's early days, but it seems to me the whole design will lack height and a sense of abundance. Also everything seems to be a bit small scale - the flowers are mostly small, there's nothing with large scale foliage or flowers to provide contrast, etc. 

    I do love flowers and love to see bees and butterflies in the garden. But I'd like more height, maybe starting at the back and getting smaller coming forward? And just a more exciting interesting combination of scale, colour, texture. Is this asking too much for a small garden like this? 

    I should say that I love pottering around tending to this and that, so not afraid of high maintenance as long as I know what to do.

    Phew! As you can tell from my lengthy post I'm a bit overwhelmed with infor,ation, things to take into consideration, ideas, ambitions, etc. 

    If anyone has any suggestions I'd be really grateful.

    : )

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,165
    A couple of things first. The Hydrangea and the Camellia won't be happy in sun all the time, especially in pots. They'll really struggle. I'd get them in the ground, in the shadier section. If you have alkaline soil, the Camellia won't thrive though. The honeysuckle won't be happy on a south facing wall either. It would be best in the shadier area too. They also need moisture, like those two shrubs.
    Acteas won't grow in dry soil either - they need soil that doesn't dry out. That would be best planted with the Hydrangea and the honeysuckle. 
    If those are Japanese anemones, they also like damper conditions and shade, although they'll take sun if the soil's damp. 
    How many of the clematis have you planted? Those Lemon Beauties will cover a good 2 metres in width each. I'm also slightly worried that you have 2 clematis in that pot with the obelisk. That won't work. Do you know what varieties they are?
    Your other plants are all fine for your conditions, although Hellebores like a bit of dampness and shade too. Some will get taller too - the Erysimums, Astrantias etc, and you could add Veronicas for height, and Alliums, Liatris and Lychnis will also do that without becoming a huge 'stand'.   
    I'm guessing nothing has been in very long, and all plants will take a while to mature fully. If you add a load of bulbs for late winter into spring, that will help with a succession of nectar for insects, but I'd avoid bark for all those perennials. They all prefer a light, free draining soil, so it's better just to use a compost mulch around them, which will improve the soil structure anyway. The hydrangea etc will enjoy that though. 
    You could add some of the daisy plants for this time of year- there are loads,and they flower through later summer into autumn. Heleniums, Rudbeckias etc. 

    Did you not concrete the posts in? 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • I really like the neat shape of the bed and the tall brick walls, but would orientate my main planting area to where most of the sunshine is during the day. In my own garden which is East facing my main bed is on the left hand side as you look out as wanted lots of sun loving plants, if I had planted facing the house it would be a different story. And I think that's the tricky aspect of designing a garden, it's useful to not be led by just a look you have in mind in your head and see symmetry but more by the conditions of your plot. You could use the shady part of the garden as a great spot to plant ferns and hostas, hydrangeas and many other shade and semi-shade loving plants.

    I would love some upright taxus against the regular backdrop of the trellis as a way to add height.

    The good thing is you're at the start of the process, so less painful to move this around and to make new beds. But how exciting to be up and running and to see it all grow and flourish.   
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,238
    It's helpful to think in terms of the form and texture of things, e.g. solid flat heads of Sedum next to vertical elements like Veronicastrum, contrasted in turn by fluffy fountain shaped grasses. Plant in groups (3, 5 or 7 depending on the plant) so that the overall form of the plants are easy to appreciate, and repeat plants throughout the area to draw the whole together. 
  • Thanks for the suggestions

    At this stage the layout of the garden is fixed, I don't think I could face changing the beds again. But love the idea of deep dark foliage at the back like ferns, hostas... think I might put a hydrangea in an elevated pot nestled in the planting, just to add some height

    thanks for suggesting Veronicastrum, I think some of that along with agastache and verbena would be good to add some height. I'm also think foxgloves at the back in front of the fence for height. They should be ok with the shade, right?

    Thanks again for the help - any other suggestions gratefully received!
  • LG_LG_ Posts: 4,117
    You've been given lots of good advice, especially in terms of thinking of texture and shape at least as much as colour and height - and of course, be driven by your conditions. All I would add is that Gap Gardens is a good site for seeing plants in combination - the good bit is that they actually name the plants so you know what you're looking at and can search for examples.
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
  • Thanks LG, I didn't know about Gap Gardens, but that looks really useful
  • The online plant supplier has an extensive range of plants. enter the name of a plant you already have and you might find if you scroll down there's a bit called "looks good with" and then there are plants that associate well with yours. The same is true for the Claire Austin perennials website and, having just revisited it, I think it's more user-friendly than the Crocus one.
  • Thanks, the 'goes well with' thing is great
Sign In or Register to comment.