You’ve dug the soil over, laid out the beds and pulled up the weeds. Now it’s time to choose some plants. But choosing plants for your garden isn’t just a question of deciding what you like and throwing in some seeds. There are plenty of things to consider, based on such factors as the overall design aesthetic, through to considerations based on location and climate. Whether you’re planning a garden full of colourful flowers, an exotic space full of tropical plants, or a vegetable garden brimming with produce, your success depends on wisely selecting your plants.
Assess your space
Aside from your design concept, the layout of your plants or flowers depends largely on the location and conditions of your garden. A major consideration is the size of your garden. If you’re well organised and fortunate with climatic conditions, you can plant a perennial flower bed in a garden of just a few square metres. If you want a varied vegetable garden, trees, or fast-growing plants, much more ground space will be required. If your garden is large, but your family uses it in different ways – socialising, playing, storage, etc – you may need to plan your planting around how much space you have and where it is relative to sunlight.
Another major factor in your choice of plants will be the climate of your local area. If you live in a hot region you may want to choose hardier flowers that can withstand hot summers, such as caladium, petunia, or marigolds. Colder climates call for a different kind of toughness – pansies, Swiss chard and snapdragon are just a few examples. If you’re growing vegetables the same principles apply – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and okra are great hot climate crops, whereas veg such as spinach, carrots, kale, beetroot, cabbage, and cauliflower all suit colder climes better. Rainfall is also a major factor, and plants can be picky about the amount of moisture they like in the soil. If you need more info check online or ask your garden centre for advice to suit the weather where you are.
Determining the type and quality of your soil is a major part of planning a garden and choosing plants. If you’re blessed with rich, fertile, nutrient-rich soil, your life is much easier, and you can grow whatever it is you want, climatic conditions allowing. But many gardeners come up against soil that is dry, sandy, rocky, peaty or full of clay. If you have any of these, don’t despair, as many plants favour different conditions. Again, your garden centre can help once you’ve assessed your soil type. If you find that your soil is completely unworkable, or you want to make things easier for yourself, consider putting in raised beds – this allows you to control the soil you use, as well as being easier to work with (less bending) and easier to weed (you may not have to weed for a season or two). Another solution that many with more compact gardens are turning to is a container garden. Again, this allows full control over the soil.
A big factor for many gardeners is maintenance. For most of us, gardening is a part-time occupation, and there are only so many hours we’re willing to spend nurturing attention-hungry plants and flowers. So, when choosing your plants, decide how much time you can realistically commit to your garden, and select those with needs you can fulfil. If you’re a beginner, low-maintenance plants are a good way to get results quickly. Low-maintenance flowers such as daisies grow quickly and shouldn’t require anything except a dash of fertiliser from time to time. Perennial low-maintenance plants are even better, as no crop rotation is needed – if they suit the climate then they will bloom again and again. These include yarrow, daylily, false indigo and coneflower, among many others.
You can use the design of your garden as a cue for how and what to plant. If you have a compact garden but with walls and fences, climbing plants look great and don’t require any extra space. Use different plants and flowers to highlight water features, sitting areas and pathways. If you have a garden that is mostly lawn, potted plants and flowers, or hanging baskets, can prevent you from having to dig up grass to make flower beds. You can even take the design of your house on board when choosing – elegant beds and pots with strong lines and colours can suit a more contemporary building, whereas wildflowers, rustic plants, and vegetable patches can suit a more traditional house or cottage.
Choosing plants and flowers is an intrinsic part of garden design. Making the most of your outdoor space with plants that suit not only your design aesthetic but also your climate and logistics will put you in good stead to have a garden to be proud of.