Plant Design Secrets

If you’ve attended the FREE online Garden Design Workshop this weekend you saw just how important shape is when it comes to creating a great looking garden. In the free Garden Design Workshop I demonstrated a really simple technique that showed you this core principle and just how much of a difference it could make to your garden.


Getting the shape of your garden right is THE most important part to get right. Without the correct design shapes in place  first it doesn’t matter how good a planting scheme you do, it just won’t EVER look good.

Once you do have the correct design shapes in place in your garden, then what?

Then we get to the plants. The icing on the cake, if you like. For me, it’s the plants that really bring a garden to life and finish off the design.

However, just like in the design phase, where shape is the most important part to get right, so too it is with combining plants.

The BIG mistake that nearly everyone makes when choosing plants is to focus on the pretty bits, the flowers or the foliage.

And why not? Surely the whole point of plants is their flowers and leaves!

Yes, of course you’re right, but consider this… Unless you live in a tropical country, chances are the plants you choose will spend longer without flowers than with them. So if you’ve just chosen a plant for its flowers and nothing else, then 80% of the time or more, the reason for your choice isn’t there.

If you’re a foliage lover and aren’t too bothered by flowers, then you’ll be able to do a slightly better job than those that have just focused on flowers, but you still aren’t likely to get it perfect either.

Here’s why…

It’s not the flowers or the foliage that will make for a great combination, it’s the overall look of the plant. Let me give you an example.

If I have something roundish shape like a Lavender, I wouldn’t then put a Santolina (cotton lavender) and Convolvulus next to it. That would be round overkill and from a distance, they’d blur into one. I would, however, quite happily place a spikey shaped Iris next to the Lavender and something flat topped like Achillea or Sedum next to that before I’d put another round plant in.

So, in order to achieve a really successful planting scheme, you need to consider the overall shape of plants you use and how they will look next to one another.

There are many other tricks to skilfully combining plants to create stunning combinations that I will take you through in future articles. If you’d like to know now and be guided through the entire process step-by-step then take a look at the Plant Design Formula.




About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!


  1. Garden Design Cambridge says:

    Very informative article Rachel. I agree with you that we have to pay attention on plans which we will have in our garden to be various in shapes, colours etc.

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