Sarah Speller is a garden designer who believes everyone has it in them to be a gardener and to enjoy creating beautiful outdoor spaces and plant combinations. She also believes that creating and maintaining a garden can be enormously positive for health and well-being.
m: 07879 643483
a: Putney & North Norfolk
Learning how to create a planting plan is fundamental to creating a lovely garden. Sarah Speller shares her experience:
- It is a really good idea to take the time to put a planting plan together before buying plants for your garden. The important thing is to be rigorous on editing the plan to avoid having “one of everything” which will look messy and disorganised.
- Start with your skeleton planting of trees and shrubs, on which all the other planting will “hang”. With this you are looking at height and spread; the importance of the vertical as a balance to the surrounding buildings; the tree may act as a pivot point for a border or a contrast with more rounded planting such as clipped topiary. In a corner you might use a columnar tree such as a yew to link the planting area to a wall boundary, but then use lower shrubs (eg Euonymous fortunei) at the base to link the tree back to the rest of the border and the garden.
- You may be looking at shrubs to form hedges either on the border of the space or to provide a screen to break up a space. Consider whether to use evergreen or deciduous hedging plants. A hedge of yew or box will provide contrast with lighter and airier perennial planting in front. Variegated shrubs could be used to lighten a boundary with grasses to provide movement in front.
- Once you have the outline skeletal planting settled you can start to layer the perennial planting within the space, keeping in mind the prevailing conditions (sun/shade) and your preferred style.
- Draw out the area to be planted to scale on tracing paper. The optimal scale is 1:50 which allows room to show plants clearly, and is small enough to work for the average suburban garden. Using a 1:50 grid underneath the plan will help to plot plant sizes against the area to be covered. The scale ensures that you don’t over plant the area in question.
- Start to sketch out on tracing paper the plants you have in mind, using either free hand or a circle template to scale. By placing a series of circles together with edges touching you can calculate how many plants you will need to cover each square metre of garden. Most books will show plants height and spread when mature-generally height will be accurate, but spread can vary depending on the planting conditions and competition from neighbouring plants.
- In terms of planting density, the more you overlap the planting, the quicker you will achieve coverage; however it is clearly going to require more plants and, ultimately you may end up having to remove plants through overcrowding. Generally, for optimal plant health, you should plant at the density suggested by the plants’ mature sizing, mulching any gaps or using infill plants as a temporary measure.
- On the plan, use symbols for climbers, bulbs and different types of plant (evergreen v deciduous, spiky v soft foliage). Draw lines to the side for plant names so as not to crowd layout. Remember to show how many of each type of plant to include; groups of plants are better in 3s, 5s or even 7s.
- When you are happy with your planting plan you can let yourself loose on the garden centre or nursery in search of your plants. Most good garden centres (eg RHS Wisley Garden Centre or Squires) will have the plants you have selected in stock or available to order but you can use the RHS plant finder in order to track down plants at specialist nurseries. You may well need to use specialist tree nurseries for particular specimens. Crocus is a good online reference point for finding particular plant varieties and information on good combinations; they also offer a mail order service.