Garden Design Ideas – Garden Planning Ideas

Garden Beds and Borders – Planning Ideas

In the design for a garden bed or flower border, it is obviously expedient to have shorter plants near the front, but do not regiment the heights too much — allow some tall plants to have forward positions. Taller, late-growing herbaceous plants can come in front of early flowerers that look drab and need hiding such as spring bulbs once they are past their best.

Bulbs can also be grown under deciduous shrubs that come into leaf late, as they can use the winter light and enjoy the dark, dry shade of summer during their dormant period. It is much more effective to group three, five or seven of the same plant together. Reworking a bed and splitting up herbaceous plants gives a good opportunity to do this.

Herbaceous borders are often considered a lot of work, but with careful planning and choice plants the only regular chores are tidying back the withered growths in autumn and weed control. Spacing groups of plants well makes it easier to weed between them, and heavy mulches are an immense benefit.

Herbaceous plants combine well with bulbs which have a similar habit, but obviously climbers can only be added if a framework is provided for them. Many shrubs can be planted alongside herbaceous plants to make a mixed bed, but they soon predominate. This combination will only work if you choose dwarf varieties, prune them very hard or give them plenty of space.

Herbaceous beds, even those containing bulbs and annual flowers, tend to be rather empty much of the year, so are best positioned where they will be appreciated in summer, but not so conspicuous from windows in winter. Or you can give these beds year-round interest by adding a backdrop of winter- and early spring-flowering shrubs which will draw the eye before becoming obscured by the spring and summer growth.

Garden Beds and Borders - Garden Design Ideas - Tagetes Patula Bedding plants, especially if bought in, are wasteful in ecological terms as they are started off with heat, peat and plastic containers, and in order to get continuous colour and interest, their bed needs replanting for winter and spring interest. Some, such as sweet alyssum, zonal pelargoniums, Impatiens and fuchsias are ideal for creating small, colourful features throughout the summer and will survive even if confined in pots and containers.

One of the very best companion plants for any part of the garden is the French marigold (Tagetes patula); this is a bedding plant that everyone should grow. It attracts beneficial insects, discourages many pests and kills eelworms as well as having compact form and brightly coloured flowers over several months. French marigolds should never be transplanted whilst in flower so nip out any flowers and buds beforehand to ensure more success later.

Many bedding plants are not annuals, but are merely grown for one season only, then discarded. True annuals may be used in their place.

Annuals offer some of the brightest blazes of colour, often growing well in very poor soil and sites, particularly when direct sown. Some, such as sweet peas, night-scented stock, pot marigolds and the poached-egg plant Limnanthes douglasii have outstanding value and should be included in almost every garden. One problem with annually replaced bedding plants is that most need starting off early in the year under cover, where they compete for space and time with the vegetables. There are several ways to avoid this, other than having permanent herbaceous or shrub beds. Sowing annuals in situ saves space, but they need very careful weeding and even the quickest do not flower till late spring. Hardy annuals sown in the autumn and overwintered flower earlier than spring-sown plants, though they may also finish sooner and then need replacing.

Biennials are the best solution; sow them in a seedbed in late spring and summer, after the brassicas are planted out and no longer need the space, then plant them out in their flowering position in autumn or early the following spring. Sweet rocket, sweet William, foxgloves, wallflowers and stocks are all very useful in this way and give a lot of effect for little labour.

Flowers for cutting are better grown on the vegetable beds where their loss will be less noticeable than it is from the middle of your best border. Growing them on the vegetable plot also breaks the rotation, and benefits the crops as well as bringing in beneficial insects. Shrub borders need the least maintenance, especially if they contain many evergreens. The dense shade of large shrubs keeps most weeds under control and few ornamental shrubs need much pruning, as long as they are well spaced. As a general guide, leave most shrubs unpruned unless they get too big; prune those that flower early in the year immediately after flowering and those that flower later as soon as the leaves drop; prune evergreens, tenderer plants and those with hollow stems such as buddleia  in spring, and the Prunus family in mid-summer. All shrubs benefit from soil enrichment and watering, but this is rarely absolutely necessary — they are mostly very tolerant of different soils.


Access to Your Garden

garden design ideas - garden paths and drives It is no good having a lovely garden if you can’t get round it in the wet or because of obstacles. Ease of access is important because human nature being what it is anywhere that is at all difficult to get to will be neglected. Good paths, stepping stones, easy gates and no low branches or snatching brambles make the chores easier, so they get done.

Patios, from a few slabs by the garden door to a full terrace, are the viewing point as well as access for most gardens. Keep them tidy, as junk and litter not only spoil the appearance but make access difficult and dangerous. Loggias and overhead timber work combined with the patio help blend an unsympathetic building into a garden and cast a pleasing dappled shade, but drip in the wet. A patio makes its own micro-climate — hot and dry above with a cool, moist root run below, though it may be drier if sheltered from prevailing rains by the walls. This makes a bed let into a patio the ideal position for climbers such as Clematis; grapes or roses, though the flowers do better climbing around posts than on hot walls which would be best used for grapes, pears or other fruit.


Paths and drives

These also create a micro-climate as well as providing access. The hard standing or driveway again makes for a cool, moist root run with water run off; it gives off heat day and night, while its openness allows better airflow. Like walls, your paths and drives can therefore be supportive to the less hardy shrubs.

Grass paths soon wear badly where traffic is heavy, but can be improved quite cheaply by setting in stepping stones. A slab path set on sand is probably the best as it can be moved yet is low maintenance and very durable. Gravel, done properly with board edging and hard core underneath, makes a very attractive path and if the gravel is deep enough can be kept tidy and weed free with raking.

However, if you put a gravel path anywhere that muck, mud and soil are frequently dropped or that weeds seed, it will become difficult to keep clean as plants germinate so readily in it. The same applies to loose brick paths, crazy paving and badly done cobbles with many gaps. Point gaps well and fill all potential niches with creeping thymes or chamomile before they become a weed problem! Concrete paths are fine but can be expensive or arduous to make; they are rather permanent and somewhat utilitarian in appearance.

Shredded bark or pine needle paths are good if they are laid over hard core where traffic is heavy, otherwise they can be churned to mud. These really look best in woodland or shrub settings but are also useful in vegetable areas as they repel slugs. This sort of path is best avoided near the house as it is carried in on feet.


Choosing the garden’s ‘furniture’

As well as understanding and catering for the needs of the plants and the natural ecosystems, it makes sense to plan your garden to use recycled and environmentally friendly products to minimise your impact elsewhere. The garden has furniture literally and figuratively – you will want to have seats, birdbaths and planting containers if not classical statuary. These need to be ecologically acceptable and aesthetically harmonious, which may cause conflict with the pocket, and the conscience as well. Well that’s where your ingenuity is called for.

05. January 2011 by admin
Categories: Planning and Design | Tags: , | Comments Off on Garden Design Ideas – Garden Planning Ideas

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