How My Garden Grows: Seven


A “Bird’s Eye View:”

Designing the Horizontal Spaces of  Your Garden

Dear Readers,

To read or review the previous posts in this series, click here:  How My Garden Grows: One.

Each post, One through Six, will provide a link for the next post.



Margot’s Get-Real Guide:


Identify the horizontal space:  Do you wish to create a border, bed, island, or garden path?

Speak Compass:

Toward which direction does this space face?

Sun exposure requirements will determine your plant choice.


Choose plants that will soften the angular architectural features.

Standing Feature:

Consider one standing “feature” in each large bed, border, or island.

Ex:  a fountain, a stone statue, a bird bath, a bird feeder, a fogger/mister, an obelisk, or a tutor.


Within the design, plan open spaces, for these purposes:

  • Walkways [“allees”] for trimming/pruning.
  • Access to water spigots/hose, fountains, bird baths, bird feeders, utilities. etc.
  • “Growing and breathing space” between plants and buildings or between plants and fences or walls.
  • Foot-paths, stepping-stones, etc.

Study Notes:

Research, using The Southern Living Garden Book:

Which “care-free” and “bullet-proof” plants are best-suited for the space?


For beauty and low-maintenance all year round, perennial evergreens should form the “spine” or “backbone” of your garden spaces.

Ground Covers range in height,  from 6 inches to 4 feet, so you have a great variety of sizes from which to choose.


From your Study Notes, create a Table or Chart, listing each “care-free” and “bullet-proof” plant.

Include these categories:

  • Formal name, informal name
  • Requirements for light exposure:  Su=Sun; Sh=Shade; P=Part; Lt=Light; F=Full
  • Requirements for: soil, moisture, fertilizer
  • Size:  height, width, “OC,” which means “off-center” or “space between plants”

Use this Table/Chart, to revise the Sketch of your garden design.

Keep the Chart:   At the end of the season, add notes:  What worked?  What did not?


Draw a rough sketch of the horizontal space.  Indicate approximate sizes of each section.

Refer to your Study Notes and add your favorite plants to the design.

Stature & Size:

Height, Width, Depth

Do not line up your plants like little soldiers!

Within the space, mix up the height, width, and depth.

Surface Texture:

Provide contrast between/among the plants.

Consider the shape of the plant [macro] or the texture of the leaf [micro].

Shades, Hue, Color:

Break out your color pencils, crayons, or water-colors, as you design your Sketch.

I do not like a strict color scheme:  I have a Georgia red-brick house but I use a “Crayola” color palette.

Consider the color of the bloom, foliage, stem, bark, etc.

An all-white night-blooming garden is fabulous, with a view from a porch or window.

Snow Drift:

Imagine a snowdrift, on a slope, with soft curves of snow, covering the earth.

This is the soft, organic look you want.  Avoid sharp edges.

For perennial evergreen ground cover:   Plant three different plants in three large “drifts,” of roughly the same size, with the central drift slightly larger.


The “Paisley” shape is one of the most pleasing designs to the human eye.

In your composition, employ the “paisley” shape:  Use a different plant for each paisley shape.

Interconnect and overlap the shapes, as above drawing illustrates.


Within each paisley shape [above], stagger the plants, with an odd number of the same plant.


Take your Sketch and your Table/Chart to the Nursery.

Select your favorite “bullet-proof” and “care-free” plants.

Choose an odd number of each type of  favorite plants:  1, 3, 5, etc.


Shear or Prune?

Most perennial evergreen ground covers do not require maintenance.

For those plants that require maintenance:

Consult the Southern Living Garden Book and choose the appropriate method:

Prune from the inside:  encourage a natural, soft shape;  allow air to circulate; eliminate weak stems and branches.

Shear according to the natural design shape; plants should look lush and full.

 Plan Your Future Design:

Gradually eliminate turf and replace with beds, borders, islands, and garden paths.


Coram Deo,



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Filed under Gardens, Healing Gardens

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