Design Tips

Planning a new planting scheme – some tips to help you get started

1 Written by Lisa on 5th Feb 2016 in Design Tips

Now’s a great time to be planning for what’s to come in the garden and it seems more urgent this year with the rather early appearance of some of the spring bulbs.  Even on our windy hill we have Narcissus ‘Tête-a-Tête’ in flower already and primroses too, which have virtually been flowering since Christmas.

Helenium at Hauser & Wirth Somerset Lisa Cox Garden Designs

I hope that we’re not being lulled into a false sense of what’s around the corner as, in a way, I’d just like some of those crisp bright days rather instead of the mild wetness that seems to have been the feature of the year so far.

But whatever is around the corner, spring will be with us soon enough and so it’s a great time to be working on planting plans so that you’re ready when the spring does arrive and you can get outside planting.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re planning to tackle a new planting scheme…

Know your site

Soil, aspect and drainage are the keys to getting the planting right.  You need to choose the right plant for the right place in order to create a planting scheme that will thrive. So, if you have a sunny expose site you know you’re not going to be able to grow plants that are delicate or shade-loving.  You need to choose plants that are robust enough to withstand being exposed to the elements.

Shape, texture & form

Gardeners who love plants often get tempted by the delicate qualities of individual flowers, but when I’m approaching a planting plan first off I’m thinking about the plants I’m going to use in a different way.

I tend to consider the shape, texture and structure of the plant before I think about the colour of the flowers.  So I may not even know which plants I’m going to select at the very beginning.  Once I know what job I need the plant to do then I can successfully choose a palette of plants that will do the job I need them to do.


Colour is important as it absolutely affects the way we feel about our gardens.  Rich warm oranges and reds will give a much different mood than soft yellows, creams and purples so you need to consider the overall colour effect of the planting scheme if you are to achieve a harmonious planting scheme.

If you’re mixing colours, try to choose those which have the same tone.  Thinking of the seasons will help you here.  For example, spring colours are generally warm and vibrant, think colourful swathes of spring bulbs which always look amazing together, or, if you’re more drawn to pastels, think of roses and flowers with cool muted tones and the mood you’ll create will be much calmer and serene.

Use tried and tested plants

This may be stating the obvious, but using plants that you know are robust will make for a much more successful planting scheme.  Using plants that have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), will stand you in good stead as it’s the RHS’s seal of approval that the plant performs reliably in the garden.

Buy some big things

Shrubs and trees will take much longer to reach maturity that herbaceous perennials so it’s always a good idea, if your budget will stretch, to invest in a few larger things from the off.  Herbaceous plants generally establish within a year or two of planting whereas trees and shrubs in some cases need up 10 years or so to make an impact.  Buying a couple of specimen-sized shrubs or trees will make an impact from the word go, so it’s worth the investment!

Dealing with sloped gardens – five things to consider before you start

2 Written by Lisa on 25th Jan 2016 in Design Tips

Surveying kit

I’ve just started working with a new client who has a small but tricky garden because it slopes quite steeply and there are two pine trees that are subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Read more

It’s bulb planting time!

0 Written by Lisa on 1st Oct 2015 in Design Tips, Plants

Golden narcissus at RHS Garden Wisley Lisa Cox

I’ve just returned from Surrey after 5 long days planting my project in Weybridge.  No photos yet I’m afraid as it wasn’t looking very photogenic without the lawn and with the protective boards down on the terrace.  But I’ll be popping back at the end of October armed with my camera so I’ll share the pictures with you as soon as I can. Read more

The importance of creating focal points

5 Written by Lisa on 17th Aug 2015 in Design Tips

Bench in Homebase Garden RHS Chelsea 2014 Lisa Cox Designs

However large of small your garden is, introducing deliberate focal points will help to create a journey around your garden. Read more

Fences won’t work for a windy site

0 Written by Lisa on 28th Jul 2015 in Design Tips

Elder in flower Lisa Cox Garden Designs

What you can always guarantee when you live high up on a hill is a breeze.  A couple of weeks ago when the sun was blazing hot we certainly welcomed it, but on other days it can make things a little chilly. Read more

Softening the edges in small gardens

4 Written by Lisa on 6th Jul 2015 in Design Tips

Grass mounds Hauser Wirth Somerset Lisa Cox Garden Designs

Using curves in small spaces can be a challenge as often there just isn’t the space to allow the curve to be what it is. Read more

Planting – getting the colour tone right

0 Written by Lisa on 12th Jun 2015 in Design Tips, Plants

RHS Flower Show Cardiff 2015 Lisa Cox A Front Garden for Victoria Park Mazda

When I designed the garden at RHS Flower Show Cardiff I really thought the crowd would be divided about the planting because of the warm and vibrant colours.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong, everyone seemed to love it! Read more

Some golden rules when choosing your paving

2 Written by Lisa on 25th Feb 2015 in Design Tips

New terrace East Horsley Garden Design Lisa Cox

I went to Southampton for a meeting about RHS Cardiff yesterday and one of the main things to decide were the hard landscaping materials.  It’s so important when you’re choosing your materials that you check they work well together, and are in keeping with whatever materials are already on site otherwise you could be looking out onto a garden that makes you cringe! Read more

Looking beyond your boundaries

0 Written by Lisa on 16th Feb 2015 in Design Tips

Majestic oak tree in Surrey hills Lisa Cox Garden Designs

Borrowing the landscape is a garden design trick of old.  Even if you’re not lucky enough to have a great view, it doesn’t mean that you can’t borrow some of the features from the neighbouring landscape. Read more

Do you really know your garden?

2 Written by Lisa on 27th Jan 2015 in Design Tips

Snowdrops Lisa Cox Garden Designs

We ventured out into the garden yesterday to do a bit of clearing up. The house had been empty for almost a year before we moved in and before that was rented out for a few years so the garden has really been left to its own devices. Read more

Lisa Cox Welcome

I specialise in helping families to turn their gardens into an extension of their home and into a space that can be used and enjoyed all year round.

read more >

Sign up to the Newsletter
Thank you for signing up.
Let me create the Right Garden For you click here >
Find me elsewhere

Websites by Flourish, Guildford, Surrey