How to Design a Garden

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Between identifying a theme, plant selection, growth needs, plus ongoing care and maintenance, there are a surplus of details to consider when designing a garden - and sometimes that can be overwhelming. Regardless of the size or space, the most important element to designing a garden is knowledge - learning about your gardening zone, soil type and plants on your gardening wish list.
Equipping yourself with this know-how will help ensure a thriving, aesthetically-pleasing garden. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to design a garden bed to help you get started; you'll be well on your way to achieving the ideal outdoor space.


Step 1:
Select plants that are native to your area as they are best suited for your local soil type and climate. Native plants can also adapt more easily to other environmental conditions, like inclement weather. It's best to first identify your USDA hardiness zone for this type of information.
Step 2:
Choose plants based on your location's average sunlight. It's no surprise that different plants have varying growth needs - especially when it comes to sun exposure. Having too much or too little sunlight can inhibit growth or even kill plants. Pay close attention to the sunlight specifications on seedling packets and plant labels to make sure you're selecting appropriate plants for your space and placing plants in the optimal location in your garden. Typically, full sun requires 6 or more hours of sunlight for plants like daisies and roses; partial sun is anywhere from 4 to 6 hours for plants like hydrangeas and hostas; and shade means 4 hours or less of sun for plants like impatiens and lily of the valley. 
Step 3:
Examine soil. It's also important to identify the type of soil in your garden to ensure your plants can tolerate its overall makeup. Is it wet or dry? Does it drain well or hold water? Is it acidic? If you have wet soil, choose plants that thrive in moist conditions. If you have soil that tends to be dry, avoid planting something that requires moisture so plants can survive. Also, keep in mind that nearby trees and shrubs have extensive root systems which will leave less water for annuals and perennials located nearby, so choose and plant accordingly. 
Step 4: 
Determine what's most appropriate for the size and space of your garden. If your bed is below a window or on the smaller side, choose plants that aren't tall and don't spread. If your garden is near your children's play area, select plants that stimulate senses - plants with texture and smell - to pique interest; however, make sure they are tough, sturdy plants too.
Step 5:
Plant near a water source. Consciously place plants that need to be watered frequently near the front of your garden; refrain from placing them in the far corners as it will be more difficult to water them properly. Place 'end of the hose' plants deeper in the garden as they won't need as much care or water.
Step 6:
Keep colors simple. Think about the color scheme of your plants, and how and whether they complement one another. Sometimes it is easier to create a cohesive plan if you stick to a few colors rather than many. Warm colors like red and yellow feel closer and more dynamic, whereas cool colors like blue and green recede and are more calming.
Step 7:
Be aware of surrounding structures. A garden bed against a brick wall that absorbs and retains heat throughout the day will be hotter than a similar full-sun bed that isn't against a wall. Concrete sidewalks and paths have the same effect, so it's best to make sure plants can handle such conditions before planting begins. Walls can also serve as a wind barrier, making them a prime location for delicate plants that need extra protection.
Step 8:
Arrange plants. To create a visual impact, place shorter plants like ferns near the front of your garden with taller plants stacked behind, in ascending order. Keep in mind that a bloom with a backdrop will often be more eye-catching and is best planted towards the back of your garden. It's also a good gardening practice to group anywhere from three to five of the same plant together for a more cohesive look. Stray from planting in rows or straight lines; use zigzags, blend or overlap plants for a more natural look. However, before you start digging, you should set out all plants first and rearrange until you achieve the look you desire.
Step 9:
Plant in succession to ensure consistent blooms. While it's ideal for plants to bloom at different times throughout the year, sometimes it is easier to start planting in succession throughout one or two seasons to familiarize yourself with the process. Then as you evolve your garden over time, you can incorporate new and unique plants to fill in the blossoming gaps.


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