Buy By Design

Aimed, hit bounced bak

Thanks to the subscribers who said our Garden Design webinar was helpful but what do we have that’s quicker advice.

We’ll take that as both “Hit” and “Miss.”

 

Buy By Design

Most garden centers do 50% of their yearly sales in just 6 weeks in spring. It’s not the only time to plant and not even the best time to put perennials and woody plants in the ground (fall wins that award). Yet the plants fly out the garden center doors.

Because gardeners buy in spring like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

It’s fun to be part of the swirling activity and let impulse rule your plant selection but when it comes to permanent plants – trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcover – you’ll save time and money if you plant the right plant rather than the one that caught your eye. The landscape will be more attractive, too, if there is a long sequence of bloom rather than a synchrony that forever recaptures the day you shopped.

Take a list

We take a list to the garden center, plant names and numbers. It would be great if you could do that but if you go there for ideas because plant names don’t come to you, try this:

Focus for a moment on the place you plant to plant new. Look at it from the angle you will most often view it: From the kitchen window, from the driveway as you come and go, wherever.

 

Want something for near the bench?

Want something for near the bench?

Look from the amgle you most often look. It's a whole different scene.

Look from the amgle you most often look. It's a whole different scene.

White background? Now that you've noted that, you won't waste a white-flowering plant there.

White background? Now that you've noted that, you won't waste a white-flowering plant there.

Note the background, sides

Notice what the background will be for anything planted there. A fence, the open lawn, a group of trees, the neighbor’s house? If a plant will be the background, clip a leaf from that plant. If the background is a structure or wall or lawn, take a photo of that feature.

Next, from your main viewing angle look at the spot to be planted. Shift your eyes slightly right, then left to identify what might flank and accompany the new planting. Take photos or foliage clippings.

Your goal at the garden center: A plant or plants that will complement and contrast with the background and foliage you noted.

Your goal at the garden center: A plant or plants that will complement and contrast with the background and foliage you noted.

Pick a color season

Put your phone in your pocket and the leaves in a bag but don’t head for the garden center yet. Consider what time of year the surroundings show color. Early spring to the right, fall color in the background? Then maybe something with high summer bloom and a complementary fall leaf color would work best.

Now go to the garden center. Ask the staff or use the in-store guides (garden centers spend so much time preparing them only to see them mostly ignored) to identify some things that will be in color at the right time. Check the plant tag for a match to your site’s light and soil. If it’s likely to grow well in that spot, take out your photos and leaves to consider the combination. Pay special attention to the way the greenery goes together, or doesn’t. We bet you’ll come up with some winners.

Border jewel (Polygonum affine) is green, white and pink in July...

Border jewel (Polygonum affine) is green, white and pink in July...

...warm brown all winter. Two colorful seasons.

...warm brown all winter. Two colorful seasons.

Sedum Autumn Joy colors up in late August, extending the color sequence.

Sedum Autumn Joy colors up in late August, extending the color sequence.

Choose for textural contrast

Textural contrast is always a winner. The visual pattern of light and dark on a plant surface is its texture. Large areas of light and dark? Coarse texture. Tiny divisions? Fine. So large leaves near small is pleasant to see and big bold flowers are better when accompanied by massed, tiny flowers.

Foliage color is the most durable plant characteristic. Green leaves near gold, blue-green near maroon… such combos can be as attractive as floral partners but with a longer lasting show.

Make some plant choices for textural contrast. Texture is the pattern of light and dark an object projects.

Make some plant choices for textural contrast. Texture is the pattern of light and dark an object projects.

Think in black and white to appreciate texture contrasts. The foreground hibiscus is coarse in texture, the background fountain grass is fine in texture.

Think in black and white to appreciate texture contrasts. The foreground hibiscus is coarse in texture, the background fountain grass is fine in texture.

Big bold flower heads give the fall-face Sedum Autumn Joy a coarser texture than the pottery. Pleasing contrast.

Big bold flower heads give the fall-face Sedum Autumn Joy a coarser texture than the pottery. Pleasing contrast.

More design help

For more help choosing plants and designing, check these items elsewhere on GardenAtoZ.org

Perennial Combinations

Easiest, Best Perennials

Simple, Successful Garden Design

Perennial Combinations gives you diagrams of perennial groups for various sites

Perennial Combinations gives you diagrams of perennial groups for various sites

Easiest Best Perennials articles includes your choicce of a excel chart you can customize or a pdf of our plant picks

Easiest Best Perennials articles includes your choicce of a excel chart you can customize or a pdf of our plant picks

Simple Successful Garden Design walks you through the process of making a great garden.

Simple Successful Garden Design walks you through the process of making a great garden.