There are various classes of plants that can be used for various occasions for your garden design. They include shrubs, annuals, bulbs, trees and perennials. When making garden design plans with plants, you can focus on just 1 or 2 plant groups to get a contemporary look or you can select from all plant groups to ensure that there is interest all year long. To have a beautiful garden, you can select plants of various colors, textures and shapes. The plants must work well with others in the garden and landscape.

Definition of Plant Groups in a Garden Design 

Various plant groups have different functions in a garden design. Landscape designers need to understand how each group of plants can be combined in a garden design to create a pleasant effect. Large shrubs, climbers and trees are used as the structural background of a planting scheme by offering various height, color, depth, structure and depth. Midrange plants like grasses, bulbs, herbaceous perennials and small shrubs are good for defining garden design styles and providing seasonal attractions with their foliage and flowers. Groundcover plants create blooms at a low level and a low mat of leaves while focal plants provide attractive accents making borders and vistas attractive. Biennial and annual plants will put on an attractive show from spring to early fall and they fill up the gap between the other plants that are more permanent when they are placed in borders.

Garden Design | Creating structural features with plants

Structural Plants

Permanent structural plants are used to contribute to the form and shape of a garden. They include hedges, shrubs and trees. To get a good garden design plan, a landscape architect must know how to position and identify these plants.

Evergreen plants serve as interesting plants all year-round. Deciduous shrubs and trees provide colorful foliage in the fall and attractive displays of flowers in the spring. Hedges are good for shelter, privacy and defining boundaries. Deciduous hedges allow a lot of light in and they provide color while evergreen hedges make for colorful displays while providing great backdrops for other planting groups. Evergreen or deciduous hedges could be informal or formal by considering their flower types, leaf size and colors. Leafy shrubs also provide green foliage backdrops for groundcover and smaller midrange plants like hedges. Structural plants can be used to lead the eye around a garden or to block and frame views. Shrubs and trees can create a visual link between a landscape and a garden by extending the display. When plants are repeated, they create connections between various planting areas and various parts of a garden.

Structural plants have various shapes and forms. They could be loose like weeping pears, laburnums and garryas; textural and spiky like hollies, mahonias and yuccas; rounded and neat like photinias and choisyas. Various plants can be manipulated to create various artificial structural effects like climbers over arbors, arches, pergolas and walls. Yew, holly and boxwood can be clipped into topiary shapes, spirals and pyramids.

Focal Plants in Garden Design

The focal plants are used to catch the eye in a border or bed at the end of a pathway or in the center of a lawn. Focal plants have a particular foliage form or shape and they are evergreen. Some focal plants could be seasonal that perform for a short time of the year providing accents when they are needed.

Focal plants can be used as signboards to direct a guest around a garden or guide the eye to some focal points. White-stemmed birches, acers, cardoons, yuccas and phormiums will let the eye focus on a particular point away from unattractive features like dirt and others.

Garden design Creating focal plants

Midrange plants

Midrange plants are medium in height and they rely on texture and shape of leaves for interest more than their flowers. Their seasonal flowers could also be a very useful feature and could make an interesting statement a lot of them are used in a border. When midrange plants are grouped together, the ones with strong foliage forms like hostas, rodgersias, acanthus and ligularias can be used to create bold paintings. They can also be used to separate plants with foliage forms or looser flowers.

Midrange plants are good contributors to the structure of a garden.  A lot of them are perennials that die in late fall and appear again in spring. They can’t serve the same purposes as permanent woody plants.

Using midrange plants Garden design

Groundcover plants

Groundcover plants are highly ornamental plants that provide a tapestry of form, color and texture. They help to suppress weeds by creating a blanket over the soil. It is not only low-growing groundcover plants that exist. They are of various sizes and shapes. The most important thing is that they provide a dense canopy.

Cool shady areas are good for groundcover plants like hellebores, bergenias, Geranium macrorrhizum, epimediums and ferns near a wall with moist soil. Dry, sunny areas are good for plants that can tolerate droughts like sedums, dwarf genistas and helianthemums. Leafy groundcover plants include catmint (Nepeta), thyme, Santolina chamaecyparissus and Hebe pinguifolia.

Seasonal Interest

Various plant groups can be combined and those with seasonal highlights can be selected to create a garden design plan that is attractive all year long.

In the winter, berries of hawthorns, stems of dogwoods (Cornus), hollies, willow (Salix) and viburniums provide color while sarcococcas and witch hazels (Hamamelis) provide lovely flowers. Instead in the summer, bulbs, flowering perennials and annuals provide a range of heights, colors and flower shapes. In the fall, acers, cotinus, trees, shrubs and cotinus all provide foliage color. They can be used with asters and other late-flowering perennials. In the spring, bulbs like crocus, hyacinths, daffodils, muscari and tulips provide color while flowering trees like magnolias, plums, crab apples and cherries bloom.  

Also read: All You Need to Know About Soil for a Landscape Architect.