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Designing planting schemes

We are approaching our first summer in our new house and want to start making it a garden again. Over the autumn and winter we cleared it all out (it was an old overgrown well established garden), covered the bare soil with manure and planted a new hedge. All that remains is a lawn and spring bulbs that we missed when digging up the borders. Our big plans (which will take many years) is to have a cottage style, grow fruit and veg, have a big rose arch to provide privacy on our patio and have big full borders with all season interest for us and wildlife. I've subscribed to gardeners world magazine, member of the RHS, bought many books on plants, garden design, cottage gardening and growing our own fruit and veg. I've started a list of what plants I like but am still feeling very overwhelmed. The borders will stay pretty much as they are but need shaping again but I have no idea what plants to put where. People tell me I can just move them again but I need some sort of structure to follow otherwise I'll just be lobbing in plants here there and everywhere?! 

Please help. 


  • Hi rose don't be too hasty , we moved into a new cottage 10 years ago and we are regretting being too keen.we spoke to the guy at a reputable garden centre and he said the same"you can always move plants if they are not right"we're redoing most of our garden this year, it's never been quite right,we seem to have lots of plants in the wrong places. We will be sticking to a new plan for now we understand our garden and our limitations. Hope you are successful and look forward to hearing that you have got the beginnings of the cottage garden you want. We wish we had used annuals in the first years instead of shrubs we are preparing to dig up and move. Good luck????

  • PerkiPerki Posts: 2,452

    Hi roseradish I am not sure what your question is but if you put a picture of your garden now you will get a lot more suggestions. Also if you name some of your plant you want people can give you advise where best to plant.

    most people plant taller plants at the back of the border getting smaller towards the front of the border. scented plant near path way etc. 

    As people have already told you, most if not all gardeners do a bit of trail and error often changing their mind,  I do often. 

  • YviestevieYviestevie Posts: 7,063

    Hi Rose,  I've been gardening quite a while and I can honestly say that most of my plants have been moved at one time or another.  I'm suprised some of them haven'g grown legs.

    What I would say is to get the layout right first ie patio area, paths etc. as these things can't easily be moved and are expensive mistakes to make, bear in mind where the sun is etc. 

    The next step is to get any large trees or shrubs in the right place first time as these can be troublesome to move if you change your mind. 

    Everything else is really a moveable feast.  There are some plants that aren't keen on being move but 90% are OK if you do it right and move at the right time.  So I would say don't panic. 

    Most of us on here became gardener's by trial and error, we have all made mistakes, to be honest that's half the fun of gardening.  Sometimes we move things just because we want to try something different.

    Enjoy you garden and experiment.

    Hi from Kingswinford in the West Midlands
  • WintersongWintersong Posts: 2,436

    Hi rosierradish

    All good advice on here, what I would add is this:

    You want a cottage garden and one thing in particular about cottage style is higgledy-piggledy. Cottage gardening is never about order and always about necessity, so every plant "should" earn its place.

    Of course you can accomplish the look exactly how you want it, but don't stress too muchimage plants try very hard to survive in the wrong places, or at least tell you that they are feeling sick.

    Best times to re-arrange mistakes is spring or autumn and we all make them, even the most professional ideas can flopimage but I always look at the positives, if I change my mind and move something, well I'm making space for something else or at least adding goodness to the soil.

    Always think of the soil not just in terms of planting (which is necessary) but in feeding it. The more love we put in, the more joy comes out of it image

    And if it feels like its taking too long, just try to remind yourself to enjoy the journey, if it ended too soon we'd have nothing to do now would weimage


  • Hi rosieradish..I've just signed up here tonight after years of getting gardeners world mag and owning a load of gardening books....but I'm like you! I am going to shortly be redesigning a bed now that we have had a row of conifers removed...I know what plants I like....but having made mistakes in the past...I'm really nervous about what I put where!!!!

    i have searched online for border design ideas but don't seem to be getting very far! I want a mixed border that looks good all year round which I can perk up with annuals etc....but I'm struggling to find examples!

    im hoping someone on here might have a recommendation of where to look....I'll let you know if I find anything out! image

    Good luck!


  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    Get some books out of the library with planting designs. I am sure the RHS did a series of books at one time. That will at least give you a start.  Or the RHS do a planting design service. Or ask at your local garden centre.

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Also have a look on Pintrest - search for things like 'cottage gardens'.  That'll give you plenty of ideas.  Work out which bits will be sunny, part-shade, shade and start collecting ideas like that on your own Pintrest boards. You could even have a board for each section you want to plant up. I find it an invaluable tool for building up lists of things I want to do.  Repetition is a good idea as well - repeating the same thing along a section tends to tie the scheme together rather than just dotting individual plants about.  However, it is more economical to buy individual perennials then split them the following year to get the repetition.  Gardens do evolve over time and even experts end up moving things around from year to year - it's all part of the fun.  I hope you enjoy the joy of watching a whole new garden evolve and grow over the years.

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