5 Steps to your perfect garden design – Step 3, A recipe for Planting Delights

Ok so planting is a huge topic and the one that most people find the most difficult to get into. The next few blogs will cover how to think about this in a way that anyone can have a dabble at.


Well of course someone does at a later stage, but this is about defining what you want and what will give you the effect you are after. You can use this either to give a really good solid brief to a professional, or use it as the basis for further research to select your own plants.

Just choosing plants you like the look of at the nursery has a place and I talk about this in a later stage, but unless your gardens is being designed specifically to showcase your favourite plants, you need to consider these pretty much last. Otherwise it is like choosing the ornaments and furniture for your home in a random series of shop visits with no overall plan of where anything will go or how it fits together.

So I have divided this recipe for planting delights into 3 bite-sized chunks:

A) Colour palette (this blog)
B) Structure
C) Textures
D) Specific favourite or signature plants (which might be utterly at odds with all the above but we have to make them fit!)

Part A – Colour Palette

I am sure you know the colours you like, but looking at plants you will find that the texture, outside context and foliage will probably shift your preferences versus what you might choose for furnishings and paint. Looking at lots of images is a really good way to tease this out.

You don’t have to restrict yourself to a single palette as this can change through the season. Some good examples…

A white only garden (like the famous one at Sissinghurst below) is fantastic, but takes real discipline and ruthlessness. I tried this once for myself and a supposedly white wisteria came out purple, as did some crocuses. I never had the heart to rip them out and it gradually morphed into a “purple and white” garden.

More commonly people will want to see either some pastel shades in with the whites such as these wonderful borders from Old Bladbean Stud 

or will introduce stronger purples and lime greens, including darker purple leaf…

In the hotter tones the most common preferences are a purple/orange palette …..

Possibly including bolder dark purple leaf tones…

Or a more mixed “riot of colour” approach…

There is a significant difference in feel between schemes with dominant planting colours in the red/pink tones and those including yellow….

Yellow is a colour many people have a strong feeling about, although it looks very different depending on what it is paired with- many “yellow haters” love this cool Chelsea Garden by the fabulous Luciano Giubbilei

Colour in the flower is very different from colour in the leaf. Purple, silver, lime green and dark glossy green all have different impacts. Variegation in leaf is particularly striking, but a very bold statement so be careful with too much of it – white variegation typically works better than gold which has a tendency to look garish.

I have a particular love of a cool palette with a fair bit of purple leaf, for a moody stylish look such as we used in our Gold-Medal winning Hampton Court Garden

Accent planting

It is worth splitting the overall theme from the “accent planting”. Many people who like a cooler colour palette are nonetheless happy with some pops of red or orange at times, or even bolder patches of it, and this can have real impact. the accent planting may only be there for a short period of time, or may change over the seasons. A cooler spring and early summer palette can give way to some late summer hits of red and orange to very good effect.

There is a world of difference between a garden with colour dotted through the planting….

A beautiful flower bed full of tall and short purple flowers and fluffy grasses

So the first part of the recipe is to use these images (and find more on google) to identify

1) Your overall palette (eg cool colours with pastels)

2) Your favoured accent colours (accents of orange liked but not red)

3) Whether you prefer “ bold and punchy” or more “relaxed and mixed”

The CG team are experts in helping you to create the impact you want, and are happy to work with you in collaboration.

Do feel free to send us your ideas or queries – click here

We are happy to answer directly, and will share here any that have broader interest. This article forms part of a series, so have a look at the others via our news page here

CGLA are an award winning team of Garden Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here