Time to plan and research

17. January 2021 by Isabelle Van Groeningen
Categories: About gardening, english, Winter | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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Planung - so entstehen Pflanzpläne © Isabelle Van Groeningen
Planning – creating plans

9 tips for planning your garden

Flagge Deutschland für deutsche Übersetzung – auf Deutsch lesen – First of all may I still wish you a very happy New Year. That 2021 will be a beautiful garden year, with lots of gardening success. Some of this success comes through sheer good luck. A seedling having found the perfect partner, providing a most pleasing colour match. A dying plant making room for a needy neighbour. A wrongly bought plant, turning out to be much nicer than anticipated. A cool-weather spell delaying the flowering start of a plant, which ends up flowering together with a later one. 

The importance of planning

Not all success is down to good luck, nor to good maintenance – it is also down to good planning. The better the planning, the better a scheme works, the easier it should become to maintain. If a plant is happy in the place where it is growing, then there is usually very little you need to do to keep it thus. Taking your time to reflect on which plants would look well together will also help to prevent the “goulash” effect that often comes from sticking plants haphazardly into the ground. 

The time is there: take it

Mehr Lieblingsbücher zur Garten-Planung © Isabelle Van Groeningen
Favorite books for garden planning

So now is the perfect time to sit down and plan. It is precisely what I am doing at the moment. Outside the weather is too cold and horrible to do much. Thanks to the lock down, the Garden Academy is like a hungry baby that is at long last asleep: normally it permanently demands our attention, but right now we can relax and take time to plan and work on projects we’ve been thinking about since years. 

Sample borders

One of these new projects is a series of themed flower beds, for which people can order the plants and copy for themselves. Our classic large herbaceous border is very popular, but few have time and space (and the courage) to make such a big border at home. A smaller version of this has now been planned, as has a cottage garden border, a white border, shady and dry beds. 

Investing time in our online presence

In the meantime we’re also busy improving our online presence and extending our webshop, and are working out how we can keep our customers supplied with plants in the coming weeks, if, indeed the lockdown is extended. Spring is coming, regardless of what the weather is like just now, or whether or not you can go out to buy your cheerful spring flowers or not. 

Give problem areas a face lift

You may not have any new borders to plan or a website to redesign, but I am sure you too have one, or more, areas in your garden with which you are not happy. I know I have a few of those corners where the planting is not quite right, and have made myself lists of plants for each of these, in the hope that this season they will look better than in the past. 

Investigate plants that intrigue you

Planung - Gehölze Geophyten © Isabelle Van Groeningen
Planning: Books Geophyts

There may also be particular plant groups that have recently caught your attention that may be suitable for your garden. This is the time to sit down and look at them more closely. Regularly I “discover” a plant. They may indeed be new to me, like some years I spotted Baptisias for the first time in Hans Kramer’s wonderful herbaceous nursery in the Netherlands. But they may be old familiar faces, where I have realised their value for a particular situation. Arisaema is one of those genera. It is not a “pretty” plant, but a has great architectural potential, and there are some hardy species that are proving to be perfect for my dry shady borders. 

Books versus internet

Lieblingsbücher © Isabelle Van Groeningen
Favorite books

Somebody asked me recently if I still use books, or have replaced them with the internet as my source of information. I use both. I still love the feel of books, and find leafing through, noting pages, flicking back and forth from one to the other easier and more rewarding. Over the years I have built up am impressive reference library of books related to plants and gardens written by great experts. This expertise is what I so appreciate. The drawback is that this accumulated knowledge lives at home on my bookshelves, though a select few also stand in my office. The internet is available there where I have access to it, which nowadays is pretty much everywhere, and is a quick way of checking up on something. The danger is that it is cluttered with secondhand (mis-)information, so one has to sieve through it carefully. Where possible I will use nursery websites to find out about plants. 

Bean’s Trees and Shrubs

Planung - Beans, Trees & Srubs © Isabelle Van Groeningen
Beans, Trees & Srubs

One on-line preferred source of information is Bean. W. J. Bean’s Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles has always been one of my favourite refence books on trees. The UK equivalent of Gerd Krüssman’s magnum opus on woody plants. William Jackson Bean (1863– 1947) was curator of the arboretum in the Botanic garden of Kew by London, and published the first edition of this, by now 5 volume-large series of books on trees and shrubs, the last revision having been published in 1988 by Desmond Clarke. Since then the international Dendrology Society has enabled this valuable work to be put online. Not only is all this knowledge available online, tree specialists such as John Grimshaw of the Yorkshire Arboretum help to update it further. As research never stands still, botanists permanently discover more plants and reclassify them. Nurserymen continue to select new, improved forms, so that it is wonderful to have this great source of fully up-to-date information at hand. Its drawback: it is in English, but for those of you who struggle, do what I do: copy and paste the text into a translating programme such as deepl. It may not be perfect, but it will give you the most important information you are looking for. 

Have a look for yourself: www.beanstreesandshrubs.org 

How to go about making those plans?

Go out into your garden and look at each area closely. Remember what it was like throughout the seasons. Look at past photographs. You may see the weak moments, you will also discover plants that have vanished, or used to look better. Then start making a list of what you need for this spot (plant type, height, colour, flowering season, shape, soil / light requirements,…) then start reading up to find the right plants for those spaces. They exist. The choice is huge, there are thousands of plants at our disposal, there is bound to be one that will fulfill your needs. 

Good luck in your search, and enjoy dreaming of flower- and scent-filled summer months!

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