How to Create a Planting Plan

With adequate planning, you can have the garden you've always wanted in a few simple steps
Set Up Mock Landscaping Plan Before Planting

Set Up Mock Landscaping Plan Before Planting

Mock up the planting plan by using garden pots as a way to visualize where plants will be located. It is easy to move the containers around until the look is satisfactory.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Mock up the planting plan by using garden pots as a way to visualize where plants will be located. It is easy to move the containers around until the look is satisfactory.

Planting plans are really easy to draw up, and they will help you to organize your ideas and plot the position of the plants. You can also use a plan to visualize how much space you have and the number of plants needed for your design. 

Measuring and Visualizing Your Border 

Before making a plan, first carry out a survey of the site, checking how much sun it receives and the soil type. Then measure your planting area accurately, and draw the outline to scale on graph paper. Look through your chosen list of plants, and double check that each will suit the specific conditions of the bed or border, and note their heights and spreads to calculate the space they require.

Many people find it difficult to look at a two-dimensional plan and visualize how their three-dimensional planting design will look, so try using props to create an impression. Set out tripods, buckets, and pots that are approximately the same heights and spreads as your plants in the area you have allocated for them. Even top designers use this trick to check that their planting ideas will work on the ground. 

Making a Plan 

You can either plot your plants to scale within your outline plan using professional symbols, or simply use a bubble diagram to show roughly where you are proposing to site different species. The benefit of a scale drawing is that you can estimate the number of plants you will need more accurately. Large plants, such as trees and shrubs, are relatively easy to plot using a compass to draw circles to scale.

Remember that young trees and shrubs will be smaller than your plan suggests, so fill in the spaces with annuals or perennials that can be lifted and moved easily as your woody plants grow. Plot smaller plants, such as perennials and bulbs, in groups, rather than as individual plants. 

Calculating Plant Quantities 

The quantity of trees and large shrubs you require will be obvious from your plan, but perennial numbers may be more difficult to calculate. To help you make an accurate estimate, mark out a square yard on the ground, then buy one or two mature plants, and place them in the square. Allowing some s pace for spread, you can then calculate the number needed to fill a square yard and therefore the quantities required for your border. Bulbs can be packed very closely together, and if you are planning on large-scale plantings, check out specialty suppliers that offer discounts for bulk purchases.

The Final Plan 

To produce a plan for your garden design, use paper and pencil to first mark out trees using circles, and calculate the areas beneath the canopies that will sustain shade-loving plants, such as epimediums. Tall grasses are accent plants that need sun, so should be set where the trees cast little or no shade. Note that more dramatic plants, such as Helleborus foetidus and Actaea simplex, can be used as single specimens, while a mass of the yellow-flowered Alchemilla mollis might fill the areas in between and spill onto a gravel patio.

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