Planting Ideas - Garden Design (2023)

Tips for selecting plants with purpose that have captivating foliage, flowers and fragrance and attract bees, birds and butterfliesBy Jan Johnsen

Planting design, often overlooked, can be tricky for new and experienced gardeners alike. Use the following suggestions to ensure that the plantings in your garden have a clear purpose and grab the attention of people, bees, birds and butterflies.

SELECTING PLANTS WITH PURPOSE

1. Choose Plants Wisely for the Front Row

The plants at the visible edge along a walk, patio, or lawn, can make all the difference in its appearance. Low-growing plants in the front row accentuate the shape of the bed, soften harsh edges, and help draw attention to the taller plants behind.

Planting Ideas - Garden Design (1)

Low-growing boxwood, shaped as small globes, make a neat and intriguing edge along a stone walk. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

Low-growing plants in the front row should be full, look good in a line, and not require too much care. If you view a garden bed from a distance, the height of edging plants can be relatively high—around 2 feet. In beds that are viewed up close, the border plants should be lower than 2 feet.

Annuals such as sweet alyssum make a wonderful white edging with its dense, tiny, fragrant white flowers. If cut back they will bloom all season. The perennial green and white variegated lilyturf (Liriope muscari) is another of my favorites for edging beds.

2. Think About Sunlight’s Impact on Color

Our color choices in the landscape are, for the most part, influenced by our geographic locale, the sun’s intensity, and the time of year. For example, in England, pastel colors captivate while bright colors may appear garish in the muted, north light. This is why Gertrude Jekyll, the famed British garden designer, saw purple as a difficult color. But in a bright, sunny subtropical garden, every shade of purple and magenta is exuberantly appealing.

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The orange and purple found in the ‘Magnus’ coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’) looks great in the intense summer sun. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

Similarly, our color preferences can change with the season. In early spring, when the light is soft, we are thrilled by light pink and soft yellow. As the year progresses, and the sun becomes stronger, pastels look washed out and we crave stronger reds, golds and oranges outdoors.

3. Consider Form, Line & Color

It is not often that plants are referred to as an arabesque, which means a sinuous decorative line or motif. But it makes sense that a master landscape artist from Brazil, Roberto Burle Marx, saw plants in this way:

“A garden is a complex of aesthetic and plastic intentions; and the plant is, to a landscape artist, not only a plant — rare, unusual, ordinary or doomed to disappearance — but it is also a color, a shape, a volume or an arabesque in itself.”
- Roberto Burle Marx

He counsels us to view plants as part of a design palette, appreciating their form, line or color and to envision what they might add to a garden.

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The yellow-and-green-striped, bold foliage of ‘Bengal Tiger’ canna lilies always steal the show. They contrast nicely with the white flowers of the peegee hydrangea in the summer. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

CAPTIVATING WITH FOLIAGE, FLOWERS AND FRAGRANCE

4. Create a Foliage Tapestry

I find it interesting that, while we may plant a large mass of one low-growing plant as a groundcover, Nature, if given a choice, prefers to mix it up, with many species growing side-by-side. Why not do the same and plant a conglomeration of different foliage and groundcover plants that like the same conditions?

Planting Ideas - Garden Design (4)

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This stunning symphony of groundcovers and ferns is in Phyllis Warden’s garden in Bedford, NY. Red-leaved Perilla contrasts with white and green ‘Jack Frost’ brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'), Japanese painted fern (Athyrium nipponicum pictum) and the lime colored bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’). Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

Some advise against this style of planting because intermixed plants may be hard to care for. But if you do not want a monolithic look, and don’t mind some tending, plant a combination of small-leaved groundcovers with large-leaved foliage plants. The result can be downright captivating!

5. Embrace the "Sound" of Flowers

The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.
- Basho (Japanese poet, 17th century)

No matter how beautiful an outdoor space is, it is always the pot or plant bed full of flowers that garners the most praise. The delight that flowers bring goes beyond pretty blossoms and sweet-smelling fragrance. Using the metaphor of music, flowers add high-pitched, sweet tones to the symphony within a garden. It is their soaring song, with notes of blue, pink, white and more that we all savor.

6. Incorporate Food for the Nose

Aroma is food for the nose. On average, a person draws 23,000 breaths a day and the scents contained in each breath convey information, mood and provoke memories in a way that nothing else can. Here are three tips for incorporating scented plants in a landscape:

  • Place fragrant plants close to your house so you can catch a whiff of the aroma as you enter your home.
  • Place scented plants on a sunny patio or near a south-facing wall. The reflected heat may make the odors a little stronger.
  • Plant fragrant plants in an enclosed space, such as a walled garden or small side yard. The scent will collect instead of being carried away by the breeze, so you'll be surrounded with aroma.

Get suggestions for fragrant flowering shrubs.

Planting Ideas - Garden Design (6)

Nothing can alter our mood as quickly as scent. This is because smell goes directly to the limbic section of the brain that controls stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure. Roses are both beautiful and therapeutic! Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

ATTRACTING BEES, BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES

7. Remember the Pollinators

A garden is a complex, natural world that we often overlook. While we are admiring the color, fragrance and look of a glorious landscape, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, birds and more are tirelessly pollinating our plants. Global evidence suggests that pollinator populations are declining due to many factors, including habitat destruction, so please consider making your garden a haven for these amazing creatures.

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Bees and butterflies love clustered mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum). It has pinkish-white, aromatic flowers surrounded by silver bracts. Blooms August through September. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

You can start attracting pollinators to your garden by planting flowers, trees and shrubs that are nectar-rich. Also, consider the colors they like. For example, hummingbirds are particularly fond of red, while bees seem to prefer flowers in the purple/violet range.

For more, see: Flowers for a Bee-Friendly Garden.

8. Birdscape with Berried Plants

Many plants produce fruit or seed in late summer to fall when birds are getting ready to migrate south. The fruit of plants such as dogwood (Cornus), crabapple (Malus), and elderberry (Sambucus) add interest to the landscape while nourishing our feathered friends. And you might consider planting one of the many Viburnum varieties. Viburnum berries attract a host of birds in the fall such as robins, bluebirds, thrushes, catbirds, cardinals, finches and waxwings. Discover more berry-bearing trees and shrubs.

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Crabapples are small-statured ornamental trees known for their fruit. The varieties that have persistent small crabapples, less than three-fourths inch in diameter, can feed birds into the winter. Some bird-friendly cultivars to consider include ‘Sargent’, ’Red Splendor’, and ‘Donald Wyman’. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

Chokeberry (Aronia spp.) is a native berried plant that holds on to its fruit over the winter. This wetland shrub, true to its name, has fruits that are quite bitter. Because of this, birds don’t eat them until they’ve undergone several freeze/thaw cycles. Thus, the berries provide both winter food as well as color. A chokeberry to try is the hardy, self-fertile ‘Viking’ black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa 'Viking'). Its extra-large black berries persist through the winter, feeding the first returning robins.

9. Bring on the Butterflies

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

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‘Lucky White' lantana and ‘Superbells Blue’ calibrachoa are a great combo to attract butterflies. Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

The brief joy of a butterfly encounter is well worth the effort to plant a garden dedicated to attracting these lovely pollinators. Summer-blooming flowers such as lantana, ageratum, cosmos and dahlias are great butterfly magnets.

Perennial flowers that are full of nectar are a butterfly's delight. Good options include coneflowers, hyssop, bee balm, catmint, and asters among others (get suggestions for butterfly garden plants). So if you have a sunny open spot, some shelter from wind, and fresh water (they like shallow puddles), then plant some butterfly flowers and sit down quietly to enjoy a bit of happiness.

For more, see: How to Make a Butterfly Garden.

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FAQs

What is a good layout for a garden? ›

Rows. The most basic garden plan consists of a design with straight, long rows running north to south orientation. A north to south direction will ensure that the garden gets the best sun exposure and air circulation. A garden that runs east to west tends to get too shaded from the crops growing in the preceding row.

How can I make my garden look beautiful? ›

7 Secrets for a Beautiful Garden
  1. Brush up on the Basics. Understand the importance of basic seasonal gardening and reap the rewards of a beautiful garden all year round. ...
  2. Give Your Garden Some Style. ...
  3. Small Garden Ideas. ...
  4. Simple Garden Ideas. ...
  5. Take Inspiration From Others. ...
  6. Don't Forget the Accessories. ...
  7. Think Outside the Box.
19 Apr 2022

Is there an app for designing a garden? ›

Garden Planner

It's an all-in app that allows you to arrange your whole garden with an easy drag and drop interface. You can create pools, pavements, paths, fences, buildings, and many other objects. There are more than 1200 trees, flowers, plants, available in its plant library that you can customize.

Is there an app for planning a garden? ›

Garden Planner Pro

The app allows you to map out gardens by dragging and dropping objects, resizing shapes and drawing lines. It also features information for nearly 200 plants, just as GrowVeg Garden Planner does, and it offers growing advice based on your location.

What plants grow well together? ›

Companion Planting Chart
Type of VegetableFriends
CabbageBeets, celery, chard, lettuce, spinach, onions
CarrotsBeans, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, tomatoes
CornClimbing beans, cucumber, marjoram, peas, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, zucchini
OnionsCabbage, carrots, chard, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes
12 more rows

Is it better to plant vegetables in rows or groups? ›

Planning Crop Rotation in Your Garden

As noted above, the best way to rotate annual vegetables is to group them by their plant family, since they are susceptible to the same pests and diseases and also have similar maintenance requirements.

What does a planting plan look like? ›

A planting plan is a drawing that specifies the plants that will be put into your garden. It shows the position, variety and quantity of plants for any given area. Each plant has its own carefully created symbol and each symbol is listed in a key alongside the plant's Latin name and a concise description.

How do you fill a garden border cheaply? ›

This border gap can be filled very cheaply with mulch, such as bark chipping, or even recycled rubber, which looks exactly like bark, and does a great job of keeping your borders looking neat and tidy. Using mulch just around the edge of your borders will keep your costs down, whilst keeping your plants healthy.

What does a planting plan include? ›

A planting plan is a construction document that shows the location, quantity, and other characteristics of vegetation to be planted in the landscape.

What are the seven 7 principles of landscape design? ›

The principles of landscape design include the elements of unity, scale, balance, simplicity, variety, emphasis, and sequence as they apply to line, form, texture, and color. These elements are interconnected.

What should I plant in my garden for beginners? ›

Beets, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, peas, radishes, cherry tomatoes and green beans are some of the easiest vegetables for beginners to grow. Summer and winter squash are also good choices for first-time gardeners.

What is the best free garden planning app? ›

Here are the 10 best free garden planner options online:
  • Smart Gardener. ...
  • BBC Virtual Garden Planner. ...
  • Burpee Garden Time Planner. ...
  • Garden Planner Online. ...
  • Vegetable Gardening Online. ...
  • Marshalls Garden Visualizer. ...
  • Gardena's My Garden. Photo credit: Gardena. ...
  • Kitchen Garden Planner. Photo credit: Kitchen Garden Planner.

Is there a free landscaping app? ›

iScape is one of the best free landscape design apps available, but it's only available for iOS. Planter is best for those who just want to learn more about gardening. PRO Landscape Home offers a wide array of features and is available on multiple devices and operating systems.

Can I design my garden on my phone? ›

iScape App – Free

iScape is useful in helping you get a better idea about what landscaping design would work well for you. It is easy to use and requires you to take a photo of your garden or front yard with your phone's camera. From there, you can create your vision by designing over the image within the app.

How do I create a garden for my budget? ›

  1. 42 cheap garden ideas to smarten up your plot. ...
  2. Repurpose old wooden crates to make stylish shelves. ...
  3. Use old jars as mini planters. ...
  4. Try DIY terracotta candle holders. ...
  5. Create a cool, industrial-style aesthetic with oversized planters. ...
  6. Make an upcycled hanging planter. ...
  7. Guide the way with a cute garden sign. ...
  8. Glow up your shed.
1 Apr 2022

How can I make a garden online for free? ›

GARDENA myGarden is a free online garden planner — for simple, creative garden planning. Do you want a beautiful garden, but without the chore of having to water it? You can use the built-in sprinkler system planner to quickly and easily plan an irrigation solution that is unique to your garden.

How should I arrange my vegetable garden? ›

Aim to plant crops in triangles rather than rows.

Avoid planting in square patterns or rows. Instead, stagger the plants by planting in triangles. By doing so, you can fit 10 to 14% more plants in each bed. Just be careful not to space your plants too tightly.

What grows together in raised beds? ›

Adding clover, peas, or beans to any bed will help increase the nitrogen in your soil. That's because these plants harbor bacteria in the nodules on their roots that help pull nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it to a form useful to plants—both themselves and whatever else is planted near them.

Can you plant flowers and vegetables together? ›

Companion planting, or putting bee-friendly flowers and vegetables in the same beds, is an easy strategy professional growers use to boost yields and keep crops healthy, notes Good Housekeeping. Growing flowers in your vegetable bed attracts native bees and other beneficial insects.

What can you not plant after tomatoes? ›

What should not be planted with tomatoes?
  • Brassicas (including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts) - inhibit tomato growth.
  • Potatoes - along with tomatoes are also in the nightshade family so they will be competing for the same nutrients and will also be susceptible to the same diseases.
1 Jul 2022

What vegetables can I plant close together? ›

Which Vegetables Grow Well Together?
VegetableCompanion PlantDon't Plant Together
PeasBeans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radish, turnipGarlic, onions
PotatoesBeans, corn, peasTomatoes
SquashCorn, melons, pumpkinsNone
TomatoesCarrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppersCorn, potatoes, kohlrabi
11 more rows
26 Jun 2021

Which direction should garden beds run? ›

A north-south orientation is best for low-growing crops, allowing direct sunlight to reach both sides of the bed. For taller crops such as pole beans, peas and tomatoes an east west orientation works best. Leave enough space in between beds to easily maneuver around.

How do I Group plants in my garden? ›

There are two basic rules when arranging plants in the beds: 1) space the individual plants so that they touch each other when they reach their mature size, and 2) overlap the masses of plants and connect them so that they flow without space between them. Avoid gaps or large open areas between masses.

How do you design a functional landscape plan? ›

Home Landscape Planning Worksheet:
  1. 12 steps to a functional design.
  2. Make a scale drawing. ...
  3. Site analysis. ...
  4. Prioritize landscape needs and wants. ...
  5. Consider maintenance requirements. ...
  6. Determine a budget. ...
  7. Identify home landscape use areas. ...
  8. Sketch functional diagrams.

What is the main purpose of a planting plan? ›

What is a planting plan? A planting plan is something that we create to communicate our plant choices to nurseries, construction teams, councils the client and sometimes other people in the community on larger projects. Some people use this process as a design tool to choose their plants.

How can I make my garden borders look good? ›

Choose complementary colours for a subtlety or bold colours and ornamental grasses for bright, contrasting border. Incorporate evergreen plants so borders have year-round interest, form and structure.

What is a good border plant? ›

Ornamental grasses such as fountain grass are ideal for planting along borders, paths, or driveways in that receive full sun. Dwarf varieties grow to two to three feet tall, and three feet wide, adn feature fine green foliage in the summer that produces pinkish "foxtail" blooms in late summer to early fall.

Which landscape edging is best? ›

Best Landscape Edging
  • Best Overall. Dimex Landscape Edging Kit EasyFlex. ...
  • Best Value. Landscape Edging Kit Amazon Basics. ...
  • Best Premium Pick. Steel Landscape Edging (5-Pack) EverEdge. ...
  • Best Faux Stone. Plastic Flex- Wall Landscape Edging Garden Elements. ...
  • Best Hardwood Edging. ...
  • Extra Deep Edging. ...
  • Best for Trees. ...
  • Best Paver Edging.
5 Apr 2022

What is landscape plant? ›

Landscape Plant means any native or exotic (non-native) tree, shrub, herbaceous annual or perennial, fern or groundcover (excluding turf).

Which type of landscape balance is least formal? ›

Asymmetrical balance, also known as informal balance, differs from one side to the other and appears to be relaxing and free flowing.

Is there a free app to design landscape? ›

There are plenty of premium and free landscape design apps available for users of various skillsets. Some top options include iScape, PRO Landscape Home, and Home Outside. To find the design tool that's best for your needs, compare feature lists for the options that are available on your devices.

Is Google SketchUp good for landscape design? ›

SketchUp is perfect for landscape and site design in so many ways. First, it's visual. Unlike other modeling programs that require a rendering engine or exporting to another program to add color, materials, and other items... SketchUp has that all built in natively.

How can I make a garden online for free? ›

GARDENA myGarden is a free online garden planner — for simple, creative garden planning. Do you want a beautiful garden, but without the chore of having to water it? You can use the built-in sprinkler system planner to quickly and easily plan an irrigation solution that is unique to your garden.

How do you plan a flower bed layout? ›

In general, plants in borders are arranged with tall plants (taller than 2 to 3 feet) placed in the back, mid-size plants (10 inches to 2 to 3 feet tall) in the middle, and short plants (less than 10 inches) in the front of the bed. It is best to use groupings or drifts of plants for a natural feel.

What is the best free garden planning app? ›

Here are the 10 best free garden planner options online:
  • Smart Gardener. ...
  • BBC Virtual Garden Planner. ...
  • Burpee Garden Time Planner. ...
  • Garden Planner Online. ...
  • Vegetable Gardening Online. ...
  • Marshalls Garden Visualizer. ...
  • Gardena's My Garden. Photo credit: Gardena. ...
  • Kitchen Garden Planner. Photo credit: Kitchen Garden Planner.

Can I design my garden on my phone? ›

iScape App – Free

iScape is useful in helping you get a better idea about what landscaping design would work well for you. It is easy to use and requires you to take a photo of your garden or front yard with your phone's camera. From there, you can create your vision by designing over the image within the app.

Is SketchUp still free? ›

SketchUp Free is the simplest free 3D modeling software on the web — no strings attached. Bring your 3D design online, and have your SketchUp projects with you wherever you go.

Can I design a garden in SketchUp? ›

LayOut for SketchUp is a fantastic somewhat intuitive program that can be used very successfully for landscape and garden design. It has a much less complicated user interface than other CAD programs that are used in garden design.

What plants grow well together? ›

Companion Planting Chart
Type of VegetableFriends
CabbageBeets, celery, chard, lettuce, spinach, onions
CarrotsBeans, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, tomatoes
CornClimbing beans, cucumber, marjoram, peas, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, zucchini
OnionsCabbage, carrots, chard, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes
12 more rows

Is Planter Garden Planner free? ›

Planter app

It's a decent app for a small garden. I have used territorial seed garden planner for years, but it's about $20/ year. I'm trying SFG this year so I thought I would try it. The free version only lets you create one bed, so I upgraded.

How do you layer a garden bed? ›

Wood: Lay a thin layer of small twigs, branches, or bark at the bottom of your raised bed. You can also add other materials like newspaper and manure at this first step. 2. Less expensive soil: Add in a less expensive soil or loam, old potting soil, or native soil mixed with inexpensive soil.

How do you layer a flower bed? ›

Plant height and width are key to good spatial layering, especially from front to back of the bed. The general rule (just like taking a group photo) is short stuff in the front, medium stuff in the middle, and tall stuff in the back. That way everything is visible.

How do you plan a garden that blooms all year? ›

Invest in Perennials

Perennials are perfect for creating the backbone of your garden. You can add more color and interest by filling in with annuals. Many perennials bloom more than once or have an extended bloom season, such as everblooming daylilies, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, salvias, and more.

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