Garden planning can be so confusing. The task can be kind of scary when you’re not familiar with a lot of different perennials and flowering shrubs. Relax. Garden design is a lot easier than you think it is.

The problem with garden designs is that the plants have to work with not just your zone, but with the soil in your yard. You can amend your soil, but doing so raises the cost of creating a garden, and makes the process a lot more work too. So unless you’ve had the planning done for your particular garden space, it’s not a sure-fire thing.

Garden layout is really pretty simple. Place plants so there is something going on all over the place during the stages of the season from spring through fall. That does get a little complicated, but here’s the thing you need to come to terms with. The best garden design isn’t instant… it evolves. Unlike your landscaping, perennials can be moved very easily without harming the plant. Sure, they might get a little droopy, but just water them well every day for the next week or two and they will snap out of the disturbance very nicely.

The important thing about garden design is that this is YOUR garden. Just get started. Don’t worry about impressing people. Use the plants that really appeal to you that will tolerate the conditions in your yard. Mind you, the soil and micro-climate conditions change from one spot to another. A plant that is supposed to get 3-feet tall might only get 18″ high in sandy soil, and it could be so happy in rich soil that it reaches an incredible 4-feet. Plant sizes are averages. Overly exuberant plants will force you to deviate from the plan every time. So will those that are less besotted with your watering practices, drainage, sun exposure, and several other things.

Garden planning is more process than art. Good things will come in time.

Garden planning is more process than art.

Perennials come in a wide range of sizes from 6″ or less tall to 6′ feet or more. Use the heights they are supposed to be as an initial guide on where to plant them in the garden design. If they over or under perform – get your shovel and move them. If you discover that the soil drains too well or doesn’t drain enough – amend the soil in that spot so they’re happier. Hopefully, you figure that out before you lose the plant. Don’t feel like a failure if you kill a plant or two. It happens. Some plants are just weak to begin with, and losses might not be anything you did or didn’t do.

Free garden designs are easy to find. Just go to the cheapest mail order nurseries websites and they will happily sell you garden plants in packages for sun, shade, butterfly gardens, and a bunch of different types of garden plans. I can guarantee there won’t be anything super exciting in that package. No new introductions will ever be included, and you can find the same plants by searching for them using terms like “shade perennial”, “butterfly perennial”, and so on.

Gardening should be fun and relaxing. It’s nothing like your landscaping. You don’t need a garden planner. Let your taste and instincts guide you.

When you first start gardening – don’t bite off more than you can chew. Create one bed. Buy some awesome looking plants that are hardy in your zone, and plant them. It will look sparse at first. Just slap some annuals in to fill up some of that space. It will be more impressive next year, and even better in year three. Need more plants? Buy some! Its an adventure. Enjoy it, even if you have to make it happen in stages.

I found this earlier today, and it’s awesome. Gardens aren’t landscaping.


Yards are maintained, gardens are tended. Driving down the street you can usually tell yards from gardens. Some are a little of both but one philosophy typically dominates.

There is nothing wrong with maintaining a yard any more than there is anything wrong with eating boring food. Many people do yard work because they don’t know how to garden. I am going to tell you in two words everything you need to know to start becoming a gardener: Have fun. That’s it.

A garden is not always prettier than a yard, but it is more interesting. In moments of frustration gardeners have been known to throw tools, say bad words, and swear they are never going into the garden again. But that just proves the power that gardens and gardening can have over our emotions.

Gardening takes work just like yard maintenance does but the rewards are greater. Yardwork is done out of a sense of duty, gardening is done out a sense of possibility. A garden reflects the personality or personalities of the people that care for it. And just as you have a preference for one personality over another, not every style of garden will have universal appeal. That’s the point.

Don’t spend too much time wanting others to admire your handiwork, just make sure you like it. Good gardeners do not try to rigidly enforce conformity from plants but rather allow the garden to develop. Many people find that simply lowering their expectations, particularly as beginners, is all that it takes to enjoy their gardens more. Another way to find more pleasure in gardening is to get help. The more square-feet you have, the more potential to get overwhelmed. Buy, bully, or barter your way to some assistance. If that doesn’t work then focus your attention on a smaller area to start.

There is no surer way to kill joy than by biting off more than you can chew. Gardening can make you a better person. Gardens and gardening can feed the soul.

Gardening is not for everyone. People who live in high-rise apartments with no balcony, no windows and no electricity for grow lights should not garden. What those people should do is move.

Susan Harris, TwinFalls Times-News

Now, plan your garden your way with plants that really excite you. So you kill a few, give some away, move them around… whatever. It’s normal.

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