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Planting Symmetrically and How to Avoid it?

I have a an issue where when deciding on planting. My first instinct is to plant symmetrically or at the very least, balanced with repeated patterns and I would really rather that it just looks more natural. I'm trying to pick what annuals to put where and I just can't help myself which is proving frustrating as I want it to look more natural, rather than so calculated. Does anyone else have this problem?


  • UffUff Posts: 3,199
    Yes I used to when I first started gardening a long time ago but then planting a flower garden was all about being symmetrical. When I became a florist I was taught asymmetrical floristry and to start with I really couldn't get my brain around it but after it had dropped into place it became easier.

    I'm in the process of making 2 raised, stone flower beds and it's natural now to just think opposites in colour, texture, and height. I much prefer the informality of flower borders now but we don't have to stick to just flowers, chard, beetroot, the odd cabbage etc looks equally as good. 
    SW SCOTLAND but born in Derbyshire
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,324
    If you plant in uneven ‘swooshes’ or irregular interlocking curves, in threes, fives, sevens etc., according to plant size/space available, it will look more natural and less regimented. A good tip from (Carol Klein I think!) was also to take one outlier of the same as those in a swoosh and plant it a few feet away amongst another type, so it looks as if it’s just randomly self-seeded there. Also don’t be afraid to plant some taller plants at the front, plants in the wild don’t neatly arrange themselves with the shortest at the front rising to taller at the back. I know all this in theory, but it’s much harder to achieve that look in reality. My inclination is to have things tidy, but nature just isn’t!
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 5,025
    Something else you could try is a 'ribbon' or river of the same plant  front to back of a border works with things like Imperata cylindrica and Ophiopogon 
    Building a garden is very personal. It's not quite the same as installing a boiler.
    James Alexander Sinclair 
  • Thanks for the tips, I'll see if I can try to work them in. Try being the operative word 😆

    @GardenerSuze Ironically, I've just dug up some Panicum Virgatum Shenandoah which is very similar in colouring to Imperata Cylindrica. I think I shall use Aramanthus Hot Biscuits and see if I can work it in that way 🙂
  • FireFire Posts: 17,346
    edited March 2022
    With bulbs they always suggest throwing them down where they are to go, rather than placing them, to give the most natural look. With seeds, they say to mix with sand and flooff them about to give a natural pattern (a technical term). Self seeders in beds will add to a natural patterned look, if you just take out the ones you don't want. Annuals that splay out and merge will look more natural than ones that keep their shape. Let them slodge.

    As per Nollie, "drifts" look more natural than "blocks". I think the 'block and drift' design tool is useful.

    May be putting in more plants that you currently have, might be helpful. A more natural swathe might be easier to construct with nine repeats than three; or 25 than 11, depending on the planting area and type of flora.
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 5,025
    @februarysgirl Imperata Cylindrica only gets to about 18 inches. You mention P Shenandoah, I love this plant no sign of life yet here in the Midlands. It took a long time to find the best place for it. Now it is in a warm south facing border and still looks stunning in November. Flowers well now which was a problem, needs a number of weeks of warmth. 
    Building a garden is very personal. It's not quite the same as installing a boiler.
    James Alexander Sinclair 
  • @Fire Although I am doing annuals this year (or at least trying, I've never done them before), I need to plant them in pots first so no floofing involved. The block and drift tool sounds interesting, where can I find it?

    @GardenerSuze I have three Shenandoah but due to a shift around, they need to go. I'm trying to find a new home for at least one but I'm not sure how much luck I'm going to have. No one I know is really into grasses.
  • ErgatesErgates Posts: 2,408
    Flooff and Slodge! At last, technical gardening jargon that makes sense! Love it, @Fire
  • FireFire Posts: 17,346
    This article might be helpful about getting naturalistic planting patterns - more cottage garden softness. It's not specifically about annuals, but I think much of it can be applied if you are worrying about to plant out.

    Have you got varying heights - going for climbers like cobea, tithonia and sweet peas? Sunflowers?
  • februarysgirlfebruarysgirl Posts: 815
    edited March 2022
    @Fire I have got some sunflower seeds and for climbers I have Thunbergias (Sunset Shades and African Sunset) and Cardiospermum halicacabum. To be honest though, I don't really know where to put the climbers. I might get them to share the obelisk with the honeysuckle as it's not very big as yet.
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