How to Start a Garden with the Right Plan

The key to creating a beautiful garden, no matter how large or small, is to plan ahead.

When you first open the seed catalogues in the spring, or make your first trip to the garden center, try to visualize the theme you’d like to have in your garden.

Do you want a rustic country garden with a relaxed look, or a pristine design with every plant in place?

1. Where is the main focal point of your garden

The is the first decision that you need to analyse and consider all the pros and cons of where it should be built.

  • If you are planting along your backyard fence, you’re only going to be viewing the garden from one side.
  • If you are planting an island garden in the middle of your yard, you’ll need to create a 360 design.

2. Choose your plants wisely by


Take the time to read the tags on seedlings, or the descriptions on seed packets or catalogue descriptions so you’ll know how large each plant is expected to grow.

It helps to plan your garden on paper before you start planting.

Use a scrap of paper to diagram where you will plant what.

Start with your focal point plants. Usually this means the tallest, largest plants. These could be sunflowers, ornamental grass, or even shrubs or trees. In some cases, your focal point might be a bench, or birdbath.

Once you have decided what the most important element of the garden is, start to fill in the secondary plants.

Designing with colors

If you have never experimented with design, choosing colors that complement each other might be a new task for you. A color wheel can be helpful. You can choose a favourite color, then use the color wheel to choose other colors that will accent it.



It’s also important to choose plants that will provide a good balance of blooms to foliage.

Most plants will come with instructions on how far apart they should be planted. Take this with a grain of salt.

Usually plants can grow much closer together than the packaging states. The closer they are, the less you’ll have to weed.

That being said, if you plant them to close together, they will compete with each other for nutrients and might not reach their full potential.

Make sure your soil is healthy and full of organic matter before trying to squeeze in more plants.

Plants that grow well together

Perennials and annuals often complement each other well. You can establish perennials for the long term, and fill in empty spaces with annuals each year. This also allows you to change the look of your garden easily. If you want to switch things up without doing a major overhaul, you can simply choose different annuals.

3. Garden design

For some gardeners, the design of the garden is secondary to its function. They may be primarily vegetable gardeners, or they may be most interested in attracting wildlife such as birds or butterflies to their gardens.

These gardeners can still enjoy beautiful designs, either by incorporating flowers into their vegetable rows, or be arranging the vegetables in such a pleasing fashion that they’ll be as pleasing to the eye as a flower garden.

Eg.: Planting vegetables in the ‘three sisters’ formation of corn, climbing beans, and squash can provide a unique visual while also providing food for the table.

Remember that gardening is art, and art is never wrong.

Experiment with what feels right and know there is always next year to make changes to your design.

  • Shad
  • December 21, 2015
  • Blog