Thoughts on planting design

When it comes to planting design, I respect the view of the nurseryman and horticulturalist.  They know what plants need to grow and be healthy and how they should be handled to best effect.  I do have knowledge in those areas – I have a masters degree in landscape management and a background in landscape contracting and I have done my fair share of garden maintenance (including €0.70p per hour summer jobs in my youth) – and I keep this knowledge in the back of my mind when I am picking out plants for a garden.

I have completed gardens in a whole variety of situations from large exposed sites in wet parts of the west of Ireland to sheltered dry conditions in the east, flat ground to steep slopes, alkaline to acid soils.  I need to know what plants are going to grow and survive in different parts of the garden, in differing environmental situations. Despite their geographical location most gardens have a mix of conditions present.

For my garden designs to be successful, I also need to know what shape the plants will be at maturity, how fast they will grow, to what size and I also need to know what type of maintenance they need.

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That said, for me, planting design within the framework of garden design is mainly about creating a beautiful garden, a picture through the kitchen or sitting room window or from one side of the garden to the other that my clients will enjoy throughout the year.   I have developed a planting style that matches my clients’ expectations but this is an endless journey of learning, adapting and improving as well as gradually changing tastes.  For planting styles change with time just as they do in the worlds of architecture and interior design.  This is because new knowledge arises, new plants become available, and because with access to the internet we are learning things from gardeners all around the world and we want to have a bit of what we see too!


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