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Garden planting plans

At Simon Orchard Garden Design, we love producing planting plans. We can do this as part of a complete garden re-design or as a standalone project if you simply need help choosing plants for an existing border. Creating a great planting scheme is no easy feat and requires knowledge and experience if you want to create show-stopping borders that look good year after year. Here’s how we do it:


Before we start creating the planting plan, we need to consider the following -

Penstemon 'Raven'
  • What are the soil conditions – sand, clay, chalk, loam and if it’s acidic or alkaline

  • We also need to look at the aspect – how much sun and wind it is going to get and nore generally, whether the garden is prone to hard frosts in winter or whether the ground is boggy or free-draining. Of course, we can look at improving the soil in various ways. If you have very free-draining sandy soil we can dig in organic matter, or conversely if you have heavy clay soil, grit and organic matter can be mixed in to improve drainage. But if you want to keep costs down and work within the limits of your existing soil then the gardener’s mantra ‘Right plant, right place’ is paramount to ensuring your plants will thrive.

  • Lastly, we decide on the style of planting we are going for, whether this be rambling cottage style, Mediterranean, formal/clipped, hot tropical, woodland…the list goes on.


Armed with this information we start pre-selecting plants which meet the site-specific requirements, creating a list of trees, shrubs, climbers, perennials (including grasses) and last but not least – bulbs.

When we’re picking plants, there are various things to take into consideration, such as:

  • Eventual height and spread, and time to get to full size

  • The form of the plant (i.e whether it is low spreading or columnar, mounded or lax and open, solid or light and airy)

  • Flower colour and flowering season, as well as whether the leaves change colour for autumn interest

Plant moodboard
  • Whether is it deciduous or evergreen to provide structure in the winter when everything else has died back or shed its leaves

  • Whether it is scented and the time of day that the scent is strongest


Now the actual planting plan can be designed, mapping the plants onto a scaled plan of the planting areas in your garden. A labelled circle is drawn for each plant, representing the plant as it’s mature size (or the size we intend to keep the shrub or tree pruned to).

We place the trees and large shrubs first – because these will be the backbone to the planting scheme, holding the garden together throughout the year. We’ll then move onto climbers, perennials, including grasses and then the bulbs.

Generally speaking on a deep border we will create a tiered effect with lower planting at the front and higher plants at the back, but we’ll sometimes place tall airy see-through plants nearer the front to create a veiling effect, breaking up the view and adding a delicate softness to the scheme. Classic plants for this are Verbena bonariensis, Thalictrum dalavayi and Stipa gigantea.

Apart from single statement plants we tend to group perennials in odd numbers – 3’s, 5’s and 7’s to create a more natural look, and depending on the look we are going for, plant in blocks, grid format or drifts so that groups of plants weave alongside and around each other.

We’ll also make sure we create contrasts between plant grouping – spikey plants next to flat umbellifers, big waxy leaves next to small hairy ones, light airy plants next to solid mounds – this all helps to create visual interest which is pleasing to the eye.

Finally, we need to consider the colour scheme, whether this be a magical and elegant white-silver-green combination, a calming and peaceful blue-purple-pink scheme or a bold fiery red-orange-yellow combination. We often use colour wheel theory to decide on the planting colour scheme. You can read more about this in this article from Better Homes and Gardens.


When the planting plans are completed and you’re happy with them we will create a nursery plant list so be sent out to our trusted nurseries for pricing.

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