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How to design and plant a garden: Dan Gill's guide, from assessing conditions to picking the plants | Home & Garden | Leaf Probably

Now would be an excellent time to create a landscaping plan for a small area and do some designing and planting.

Small yards are common in urban areas. Older neighborhoods are typically divided into small lots, with the home taking up most of the space. Even if your garden is large, there are often areas that need to be addressed on a small scale – such as: B. a terrace or an inner courtyard.

Our cool season, which runs from October to March, is the best time to plant hardy trees, shrubs, ground cover or vines.

An important part of landscaping smaller spaces is plant selection. Once hardscape decisions and plans are made—walkways, patios, fences, arbors, etc.—careful plant selection completes the process.

RATE ATTITUDE: The first step in plant selection is to assess the growing conditions of the area. Light is of particular importance. You must choose plants that will thrive in the type of light the area is receiving.

We commonly use four terms to describe light conditions based on how many hours of direct sun an area receives and when direct sun occurs.

  • Full Sun: Eight hours or more of direct sun, a south-facing area
  • Partial Sun: Four to six hours of direct afternoon sun, a west-facing area
  • Penumbra: Four hours of direct morning sun, an east-facing area
  • Shade: Two hours or less of direct sun or dappled light during the day, a north-facing area, or an area shaded by large trees

THE SIZE IS IMPORTANT: It’s also important to consider the mature size of the plants you choose. It doesn’t matter how big plants are when you buy them – you need to know how big they can grow over time.

Never buy trees, shrubs, vines, or even groundcover for small gardens unless you know, read the label, ask the nursery staff, or have researched their adult size and how fast they grow or spread. Typically, you should choose plants that are naturally short or compact, or short-statured varieties of taller plants.

However, you should understand what the word “dwarf” means. This term simply means that the plant is a selection that grows smaller than the original species. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the plant will be small. Even if a plant is a dwarf variety, it’s still just as important to know how tall the mature plant will be.

pink and hedge

Matthew Ponseti adds texture to a metairie yard by layering plants in front of a hedge—and he adds a graceful flow of color with pink flowers.

COUNT YOUR EXCITEMENT: In small, intimate rooms there is less space for planting. Many gardening enthusiasts tend to plant whatever they can get their hands on—the more plant species, the better. However, plants should always be selected as part of an overall concept. The integration of plants into a design that carefully considers the shape, color and leaf shape of neighboring plants in relation to each other distinguishes a garden from a plant collection.

Creating a draft

You can approach creating a planting design in a number of ways. Here are some ideas that I think work well to balance what is achieved through design and what is allowed to develop more casually.

Consider the planting design on three levels.

  1. First of all, the structural level forms the basic structure of the garden.
  2. The second level provides most of the garden planting and fills the space.
  3. The third level, the decorative planting, provides colorful flowers or foliage and sets it apart from the other two.

The planting of the first level should establish the bones of the garden. The selection and placement of these plants should be done from the start and should involve a carefully thought out plan. Plants used in this phase include small trees, screens and hedges, and prominent specimen plants. Watch the adult size carefully as they are the largest plants to enter the design and in small space situations these plants cause major problems if they get too tall.

Plants on the second level should also be carefully planned. These plants need to fill in the gaps and create mass in the planted areas. Plants in this category should generally be used in masses or groups of several plants to avoid crowding the entire arrangement. This group includes compact shrubs, short perennial vines and ground covers that don’t spread too quickly. (Asiatic jasmine is an example of a groundcover that grows vigorously and requires a lot of control effort in a small area.) These plants provide stability to the garden and should generally be evergreen, although the use of some deciduous shrubs can add interest and indicate seasonal ones changes towards.

The third level of plants, At the decorative level, which includes bedding plants, annual vines, and perennials, you can relax and stick to a carefully thought-out plan. You can rely more on the natural development of the plantings.

Greenery 4 June 4, 2021 (copy)

A trellis frames the entrance to a garden, while hanging plants expand the area by taking advantage of the higher spaces.

Up and in

There are two interesting ways you can enrich your use of plant materials. If floor space is limited – go upstairs. Use fences, arbors, and trellises to grow colorful vines. Use hanging baskets and wall-mounted planters and pots. You can greatly increase the plants you grow by utilizing the space above ground.

Another great idea is using container plants that are placed at entryways and on porches, decks and patios. Growing plants in pots or containers gives them great versatility and mobility, allowing you to change the look of the landscape almost on a whim.

Whether you are creating a new landscape or enhancing an existing one, now is a great time to plant. But think and make well-considered decisions.

A well-planned small garden full of plants that are appropriate in size and growing conditions is a delight both for its beauty and how well it meets the needs of the family that uses it.


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