Some of the best planting combinations happen by chance but if you are planning to create a whole new border all at once, a planting plan will help you decide on the best plants to use and where to position them for maximum effect. Here's our ten-step guide to help you create a planting plan:
1. Measure the border and transfer it onto a scaled drawing
Draw a rough sketch of your border and transfer it onto a piece of paper using an appropriate scale. For details on how to draw a scaled plan, see our article Measuring Your Garden.
2. Draw up a shortlist of your favourite plants
The list of potential plants for you to choose from is vast and you will only complicate matters for yourself if you don't narrow down your choices. Using a good gardening encyclopedia, list all your favourite plants and include on the list the following details: season of interest; type of plant - shrub, perennial, bulb, etc.; projected spread over 5 years; projected height over five years. List around 30 or so plants. You might not use them all in your final plan but that will give you a good choice. Make sure you include different foliage shapes, flower shapes and at least a few evergreens for winter interest.
3. Choose your evergreen plants
Choose your evergreen plants first. This will let you see how the border will look in winter when there is no other interest and whether or not you need to add more evergreens to keep the border looking good all year.
4. Draw your evergreen feature plants onto the border plan.
Feature plants are the ones that might immediately draw the eye. They are often bigger than the others in the border or have an unusual shape. Good evergreen feature plants are phormiums; cordylines and Italian cypress. Choose your feature plants and draw them onto your blank border. You can represent each plant simply with a circle or you can draw something more representative of the plant's shape. What is important here is that you scale each plant according to their growth after five years or so and not according to their size at planting. This will ensure your border doesn't get too crowded over time and allow your plants ample space to grow.
5. Number each plant.
Assign a number to each of the evergreen feature plants on your plan. Now you will be able to see what plants might draw the eye immediately and you can ensure you have spaced them evenly across the border instead of concentrating them all in one area.
6. Create a planting key
The planting key will correspond to the numbered plants on your plan. Give each plant a corresponding number and add the following details: botanical (latin) name; common name if you like; height; spread; any other interesting details.
7. Draw all the other evergreen plants onto your plan.
Now draw in every evergreen you have chosen and check the look of the plan to make sure you have left space for other plants and that you have an even spread of evergreens. Don't forget to number them and add them to your planting key.
8. Now draw any deciduous feature plants.
Plants like acers and sumach will stand out because of their shape and foliage so you should add them to your plan early on so that you position them correctly.
9. Draw in all the other plants in order of season of interest.
Starting with spring interest choose a good selection of plants which either flower in different seasons or have foliage which changes colour throughout the season. This will again give you a good mix and a good, even spread of interest.
10. Colour your plan accordingly.
It is a good idea to colour your plants on the plan according to their main season of interest. You can do this all on the one plan but it is better to copy your non-coloured plan four times and then colour the border for each of the seasons. That way you will be able to represent the seasonal foliage and flower colour changes. For plants which die down over winter or for deciduous shrubs, leave them uncoloured in the winter season's plan.
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