What makes a successful planting plan?

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

For tailor-made Planting Plans click here

Creating a successful planting design for your garden borders can involve hours of decision-making. I know – I’ve put those hours in and scrawled lists of plants on countless sheets of paper and backs of envelopes.

The first step is to know your garden.

1. Go on a fact-finding mission

Check out which areas of the garden catch the sun and at what time of day. In other words, where’s the best place to drink your morning coffee? And is it the same for your afternoon tea?

The Weatherstaff garden design software for tailor-made garden plans
Planning the perfect garden

Know where the wind whips through, creating draughty corridors and which parts still have frost on the ground long after the rest of the garden has warmed up.

Find out what your soil is like. Is it sandy, clay or loam? Rather boggy underfoot or permanently parched? Is it acidic, alkaline or neutral? – you may have to treat yourself to a soil-testing kit to find out the answer if you don’t know.

2. Start a list

Now you can start jotting down the names of plants you like and cross them off one by one if they’re not suitable for your growing conditions.

Or check out the Plant Encyclopaedias and make a list of plants that will be happy with your conditions.

3. Do some day-dreaming

You’ll probably have a good idea of the kind of garden you’d like to create. Do you see yourself drifting amongst your roses, secateurs in one hand, glass of something suitably chilled in the other? Or admiring the reflection of your stylish, minimalist planting in your contemporary, metallic water feature? Rearranging your log piles and bat boxes in your wildlife-friendly habitat? Or gathering armfuls of cut flowers in your rustic, riotous cottage garden?

And behind this vision of yourself in your perfect garden, what colour-wash is brushed over the planting? Soft pastel shades? Hot pinks? Harmonious hues or clashing colours?

4. Start another list

Take your earlier list and worry away at it until you find plants to suit your growing conditions and your colour/style choices.

Ah, but will your flower borders look wonderful all year round? Next step:

5. Check for seasonal colour

Make sure you plan for year-round interest by incorporating spring bulbs, choosing plants for autumn colours and providing winter interest with attractive skeletal plant forms and evergreens.

6. Keep thinking

Just as you’re all ready to head off to the garden centre, stop and think again. What have you forgotten?

Do you need plants that can cope with coastal conditions or urban pollution? Prickly hedges to deter intruders or tall screening for unsightly views? Do you need to avoid poisonous plants in a family garden? Despite being terribly keen to create that beautiful picture you imagined earlier, have you been practical enough if what you really need is a low maintenance planting scheme? Make some new lists.

7. Take up a pencil and a clean sheet of paper

The back of an envelope will not do for this. You need space! Because now you’re going to take that final list of perfect plants and get creative.

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner - intelligent garden planning software
Leopard’s bane and forget-me-nots in a yellow and blue colour theme

The best garden designs have a structural framework, scaled to suit the size of your border. Trees or shrubs form the backbone to your planting, while perennials and bulbs create splashes of colour for seasonal interest.

Plan out where your plants will go in your garden border – keep thinking as you go. Have you checked final heights and growth rates? Bear these in mind as you place your plants – so that you won’t have to dig them all up and start again in two years time. Try to visualise your flower beds at different times of the year, especially in late autumn and winter. Remember your framework.

8. Try a new approach!

Of course, you could always try the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner.

Enter details about your garden bed’s conditions and select your colour scheme and style, using the simple interactive screens. Then sit back and let Weatherstaff do the work….

Using complex, intelligent design logic, the PlantingPlanner whizzes through thousands of plant combinations, selecting colours which harmonise (if you want shocking colour combinations – it can do that too!) and finding plants which not only suit your conditions and style preferences, but also work well together.

The best combinations are then arranged within a sophisticated structural framework, to create a tapestry of colour throughout the seasons.


Looking for gifts for gardeners you know? The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes a unique gardening gift, suitable for all levels of experience. Interactive and fun to use, new gardeners can create beautiful flower borders, with built-in help panels to provide support all along the way. Experienced gardeners will enjoy experimenting with the suggested designs, trying out different colour combinations or adding in old favourites.

How to make a successful planting plan - from Weatherstaff garden design software
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The Weatherstaff Team