What plants do you need for your space?

by Jane on March 21, 2016

It’s the peak season for plant buying and getting out in the garden. How do you decide what to buy for your plot? I have just designed a planting plan for a little courtyard garden, and think some of the principles I used might be useful this time of year.
1. Think when you want to use the areas in your garden. Do you get out in it all year? Most people spend winter looking out at the garden from inside, quickly going through the front garden into the warmth. I’m not suggesting we use patio heaters all year round in order to go out, just to consider seasonal use when you decide about plants.  For this little garden, there was a big bed which wasn’t visible from the windows or doors. I used this bed to plant the colourful non-evergreen plants my clients wanted, which would be at their best from April to October. The places in front of the French windows, visible all year round, needed a bigger proportion of evergreens, with some winter flowers as well as summer ones.
Big pergola viewed from kitchen
The view from the kitchen – important for winter interest.

2. Which way do you face and how much sun do you get?
This garden was tricky because although it faced southeast, large trees beyond the fence meant there was sun during part of the day, but not a lot, except in certain places. So plants had to cope with this. Be realistic or your plants will not flourish.
3. Do you have a theme you want to represent in your garden? Any holiday memories you’d like to recall, or childhood associations? This could help you decide what you want and will bring a unity to the garden as well as making you smile. Make sure, however, that you still choose the plants that will suit your garden site. The plan I just did has an Italian, Mediterranean theme, however I did abandon that in places where the only plants that could grow were shade-loving. Ferns were introduced!  I did use box cones for an area with dappled shade, to give an Italian feel.

Box cones
Box cones used in Chenies garden in Bucks.

I hope these points are useful.  One site I use a lot, which has an ‘inspiration’ page, is Crocus.  Another with ideas is Shoot, where you can not only look at other gardens (professionally designed or amateur) but you can look at their plant lists to see how they got the effects they achieved.  And you can also go on Pinterest, but beware of idea overload on this vast site!

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