...are all essential preparation reading, before drawing the gardening plan.
Even though I'm going to show you how to draw the garden layout planting plan, I don't think it's always essential to do a full planting plan, when planning your flower bed design in practice.
I don't always draw a plan, or if I do, I very rarely stick to it. Sometimes a planting plan can be as little as a sketch on a scrap of paper, but if it gets things straight in your head before you make any planting decisions in your flower bed design, then it's served it's purpose!
Actually, it's always an excellent plan to have a good idea of the direction you're going with your planting...
...and some suggestions and possibilities for what you want...
...so that you're not completely stumped when you turn up at the garden center, or end up wasting money on plants that you don't really want or need, or aren't at all suitable for your garden conditions.
This isn't just an instruction guide for putting pen to paper, it's actually a guide to the thought processes in your planting choices for your flower bed design too.
Whether you actually choose to draw it out on a gardening plan or not, the design process I use is the same, and works equally well.
You can create your final planting flower bed design over a short period of time, usually on paper, by creating and imagining it in your head...
Or, you can build it up gradually, over a longer period of time, for real, as the seasons pass, in your own garden.
Here's what I do to create my design for garden flower beds...
First, either use a copy of your existing garden layout plan, if there is enough space, or draw out a simple plan of your flower bed or border, to scale.
To draw on your gardening plan is actually quite simple - just draw on your plant in a bird's eye view - a simple circle will suffice!
There's no need to get all artistic or technical about it (like a professional garden designer). As long as it is clear and reasonably accurate, it will be plenty good enough for what we need it for!
You should check what the anticipated final size of your chosen plant will be - for example, after 5 or 10 years. This information can be found in gardening books and encyclopedias, or on labels.
Use the same scale as you have chosen for your original plan, to draw a circle of approximately the right size.
You'll need to label your plant so that you can identify it again later. You can write the full name next to, or on, your circle, if you've got plenty of space on your plan...
However, it's usually much better to number your circle, and then provide a separate 'key' with the full name.
This is because:
You might get short of space, later
You might change your name several times, and it can be much less messy to just have to change the name on the key, rather than the plan itself.
You can also use color on your plan, to identify the main color of your plant choices - it's a good idea to do this on a copy of your original plan
To create your structural framework for your flower bed design, think about your garden in the winter time, when there's not much growing.
Think about the positions, shapes and sizes of the trees, large shrubs, evergreens and focal plants that you will be able to see then.
It is a good rule of thumb to make one quarter to one third of your framework planting evergreen - to make sure there'll always be enough green showing in your garden over winter.
If you have trouble doing this on a purely imaginary basis (...and it's not the easiest of skills to master!), just wait until winter in your garden, and se what it needs more of, or less of, and where.
As we go through the garden, creating our gardening plan and planting flower bed design, season by season, the book I've found absolutely invaluable is The RHS' 'What Plant When'.
This lists plants by seasons (even dividing into early and late summer, for example), and then by the main color of each plant (whether it's flowers, foliage, bark or stems) in this season.
There's even a section just for 'Green' if you'd like to create a foliage garden, and an excellent 'All Seasons' chapter, which can help you to create your structural framework of planting, and to make sure you've always got a green backdrop somewhere in your garden.
I simply go through the book, season by season, and create a planting plan with the colors, sizes and shapes listed in the book, (heights and widths are also listed, along with a description, and other useful growing information).
Remember to create a harmonising 'backdrop' or 'basis' for your design, and then use occasional contrasts for interest, and focal features.
Creating your plan season by season makes sure you always have something of interest to look at, at every time of year.
You can draw this all onto a single plan, if you like, or use tracing paper, and overlay each separate season onto your planting framework plan, if you prefer.
Here I've drawn my planting plan on an overlay of tracing paper
The advantage of this is: you are clear what looks good in each season.
The disadvantage is: in most cases the plants themselves don't just disappear when they aren't in flower - they may be a permanent fixture, or they may take some time to emerge in Spring, and die back in Autumn - so you need to make sure you leave them enough space on your gardening plan.
You can even do this gradually, just by looking out of your window each season, at your garden, and choosing what's in stock at the garden centre.
The disadvantage here, though, is in:
Waiting longer for your finished flower bed design
You may have to pay more for plants when thay are in season, at the garden center, rather than planning ahead, and buying bulbs, or ordering bare root plants, which can save you a huge amount of money!
Simply build up your planting plan gradually over the seasons, adding more and more plants, until you are happy with your design...
Here I've used a 'Y' to signify a yellow plant in the key, rather than color the plan in.
Remember to take into account the final size of the plants - and the time it takes to reach that size.
You might end up with:
Plants crammed in and outgrowing their spaces
Or, lots of bare earth, in the early stages
It does all depend on how 'full' or 'finished' you'd like your garden to look early on, as well as your budget or timescale...
...but it is still usually better to plant with the final size in mind, and then infill the bare earth with temporary annuals, ground cover, or perennials, that could be moved elsewhere (or even given away) at a later date, when the planned planting reaches close to its final size.
I'm sure your intial planting plan and flower bed design will change many times, and be adapted to what's available cheaply, or in stock locally...
...but that's half the fun of gardening - the fact that your natural work of art is never really finished - it's ever changing, and can always be added to, changed and improved.
Remember to buy:
You will find planning your flower bed design by seasonal interest and color much easier with my own favorite 'What Plant When' book - it lists plants first by the main season of interest, then by color - so incredibly useful - I recommend it to everyone!
If this book interests you, please support my website by using the links on this page to buy. The price to you is always the same, but I will earn a small commission.
This allows me to continue to provide you with the information on this website, all for free.
Thanks for your continued support :)
Once all your gardening plans and flower bed designs are completed, you can, at last, think about doing the work!