The five garden design mistakes people make when it comes to planting – and how to avoid them

When it comes to garden design mistakes, planting isn’t your problem. You certainly know which plant tribe you belong to. You lean towards a wild Mediterranean theme with drifts of lavender and an olive tree. Or maybe modern front garden ideas are more your thing and you like sculptural block planting.

You may prefer a loose and airy naturalistic meadow plantation with spectacular feather grasses and seed heads a la Piet Oudolf. Or maybe you just fancy nothing more than a romantic profusion of Vita Sackville-West style roses. But whatever your inclination, don’t be tempted. You may end up building your garden around your planting choices when it should be the other way around.

“For most designers, plants come last in the design process once the layout and structure of the garden has been decided,” says Kew-trained garden designer Richard Rogers. “The only exception is trees, in part because a garden may have existing trees that are protected and need to be designed around, or because they add structure to the space.”

If your garden is small, also avoid the urge to cram a selection of all of your favorites as this creates an inconsistent patchwork effect. It is better to choose two or three different varieties and buy several of each to plant in blocks or beds that will create more impact and bring harmony to the space.

Think of the planting as the icing on the cake and you can’t go wrong. Read on to find out the top 5 planting mistakes people make, and check out our guide to gardening without digging for more planting inspiration.

Mistake 1: Opting for narrow flowerbeds

(Image credit: Peter Reader)

“One of the biggest garden design mistakes is having really thin flower beds,” says garden designer Lucy Willcox. “The classic layout tends to be a rectangle of lawn in the middle with plantings around the edges. You end up with a really boring planting plan because you don’t have the depth to create something exciting. ‘

When designing a planting plan or purchasing new plants, it is really important to pay attention to the ultimate size of each variety, in order for the plant to thrive in your garden and fit in. in the overall picture. “When planning planting layouts, we plan for at least 3 to 5 years of growth and spacing the plants accordingly,” says garden designer Tom Murphy.

If the new plants are placed too close to each other, or planted in too small a space such as a narrow planting bed, they can eventually form an indistinct “jungle” where the individual shape and habit of each species is lost. Not quite the eye-catching feature you had in mind.

Mistake 2: Assuming Plants Can Be Left Behind

garden planting design mistakes

(Image credit: Diana Marklew)

We’re so used to seeing plants growing in the wild that we don’t think they need to be tended. What we forget is that in the wild they grow where conditions suit them best. But the garden environment is a whole different ball game.

“We buy a plant that has been precisely nourished and watered to allow it to grow strongly, and then we plant it in our garden,” says gardener Peter Reader. “Assuming we’ve picked the right plant for the conditions, this plant always faces another set of obstacles. He is often left to his own devices. Watering is irregular, we forget to feed it and it is often planted in soil that has not been enriched for years. It’s like putting an athlete on a starvation diet and always expecting him to deliver a world-class performance. ‘

It is important to grow plants that will like the conditions in your garden, water them until the roots are well established, and feed them regularly. Be sure to also feed the soil with organic mulch. This not only gives the plants nutrients, but improves the structure of the soil, which helps it to drain well. Remember that the soil is a living environment that will better support your plants if it is well maintained.

Mistake 3: planting one of each color

garden design

(Image credit: Fiona Agneau)

Too many different colors generate a chaotic aesthetic. Instead, choose a simple color scheme and make sure you stick to it. “Ignore the color wheel at your peril,” says gardener Diana Marklew. “The adjacent colors in the wheel are harmonious and work well, for example blue-green-purple or green-yellow-orange. If you want to add drama, choose opposing colors to create contrast, such as blue-orange and purple-yellow.

Avoid filling a small garden with bright reds, oranges and yellows, as these colors shorten the space. Go for cooler shades of purple and blue instead, as they fade out and make the space bigger. “Neglecting to make a background color element is also a missed opportunity,” adds Diana. “A dark fence behind the plants really makes the colors sing. “

Don’t underestimate the color green either. “It creates calm and connects us to nature,” explains garden designer Michelle Brandon, who specializes in therapeutic planting. “The garden doesn’t need to be filled with singing and dancing colors. We have enough stimulus in our lives to cope with what it is. Soft colors such as green and cream bring a feeling of relaxation and tranquility to an outdoor space.

Mistake 4: not turning a negative into a positive

garden design planting

(Image credit: Lucy Willcox)

It is important to consider the look of your garden and plant accordingly if you want the plants to thrive. “People often worry about having a north-facing or shady garden, but a few well-chosen plants can turn even the darkest corner into a haven of peace,” says gardener Fiona Lamb, trained at Capel Manor.

The right plants can add a bright touch to a shaded space. “Consider using shade-tolerant plants with white flowers to brighten up a dark corner, such as the ‘Spring Symphony’ tiarelle or the ‘Honorine Joubert’ anemone, suggests Fiona. Also consider using interesting foliage to add drama, such as the majestic leaves of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Alexanders Great’.

If your garden is dark because it’s neglected or shady because of its appearance, turn it into a positive one by matching the right plants with those particular growing conditions to create a striking display.

Mistake 5: forgetting to showcase your plants

garden design spotlights

(Image credit: Daniel Shea)

Plants take on an architectural quality when illuminated, adding a magical touch to create a very different daytime look. Discreetly placed and planned lighting at the design stage adds drama to the planting, enhancing it in the evening as well as during the winter months so you can still enjoy your house plants when you are not so much. in the garden. It also adds an upscale touch to your garden design.

Choose upward lights that are either recessed into the ground or attached to movable spikes, as they are ideal for illuminating plants and can be moved around depending on the mood. Light diffuses through the plants to cast sculptural shadows against the backdrop of a wall or fence. “Subtle garden lighting creates a relaxing ambience,” says gardener Daniel Shea. “I always use warm white bulbs, hiding the fittings among the planting. The best plants for upward lighting are those with broad foliage, preferably around 2 to 3 meters. If possible, they should also be evergreen. This means that the lighted plant becomes a feature all year round.

Upward lighting also works well to showcase ornamental grasses, bamboo, and palm trees, all of which have architectural shapes that will create interesting shifting shadows. After all, your carefully curated plant collection deserves the spotlight.

Arthur Parkinson’s expert advice on turning a small garden into a flower paradise will also be inspiring.

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