Getting Inspired to Design With Plants

What is it about designing with plants that is so gratifying? How do you set your plants up for success so you can reap their rewards. Read on for inspiration to get you started with your design, and to it fulfill your dreams.

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Designing Landscape with Variety of Plants DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Priming individual plants to perform well is like taking care of any other living being: It's likeliest to thrive if you provide it with the best growing conditions, and if you respond to its needs as you get to know it better. But there are other trick of the trade to help ensure that your whole garden - not just individual plants - grows to its full potential.

Include a range of plant groups to keep interest going year-round. Trees and shrubs give height, depth and shade, as well as essential structure. Evergreens retain their leaves through all four seasons, and are particularly pleasing when shimmering with frost on a winter morning. Scented climbers, grasses, perennials and annuals all have their part to play, while bulbs and biennials signal the forthcoming spring season with a dramatic burst of color.

Take full advantage of plants' versatility. A structural plant can be a single specimen, such as a stunning cardoon in a border, or a group of plants, like a box hedge clipped to enclose a planting bed. Focal plants attract and guide the eye, whether long-lasting or shortly lived; a lovely individual specimen with vivid flowers or is just as dramatic as spiky Phormium or sculptural tree.

Plants of medium height, including shrubs, grasses and herbaceous perennials,  can help define the style of your garden. Mix strong leaf shapes and flowers and foliage with different colours and textures for a dynamic display; dahlias, for example, are standouts for their shapes as well as their colors. Ground cover is another potential element; choices range from a neat, evergreen carpet to a patchwork show of flowers or scented drift of herbs. Use layers of plants to create stunning, highly textured effects.

From the heart-lifting first bulbs of spring to summer blooms, and on to fall foliage and scented winter-flowering shrubs like Mahonia, seasonal planting is a constantly evolving delight. You can follow a style strictly, or throw in the odd surprise for fun. Designing with plants is the exciting-and never-ending-pleasure of gardening.

Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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