First a disclaimer. The featured image is not my own, I borrowed it from the interweb, but gives an impression of what I’m aiming for.

I have begun to wrangle my growing list of available plants into something approaching a design for the borders. Actually that’s not quite true.  It’s really more like arranging the chess pieces before the game starts.  Perhaps it’s more like trying to find the missing rook down the back of the sofa.  Anyhow, acts preparatory to border design rather than the design itself.  Definitely not procrastination.  Nossir.

To begin to make sense of all this, I’ve done what any troubled office worker would do, created a spreadsheet. Step 1 has been to build a database of plants I have or expect to have and researching characteristics such as preferred aspect, colour, flowering season, foliage colour, height, spread and so on. This being a blog about propagation, I have also noted propagation methods recommended for each plant, for future reference.  Step 2 has been to attempt to identify which plant goes well with which other plants on my list. To do this I’ve looked through various garden books I have, garden plans, websites to see what I can find.  Here is the database in all its glory.  If you click on the image you can zoom in to see what’s going on in the messy place that is my brain.

plant db pic
Where is the borderdesign() function when you need it?

I was beginning to find it bewildering to think about colour palettes with umpteen variations on a theme of red, red/purple, red/orange, pink/red blah blah.  I’ve added an attribute to each plant – everything is either hot, warm or cool.  Red and orange and their ilk are hot; yellow, pink, purple, brown, are warm; white, violet, blue, green are all cool. I’m going to make groupings based on that attribute and height, in the main. Next I have to decide which plants go in which border. I’m thinking of taking a leaf out of Rosemary Verey’s book and have a hot border and a cool border, perhaps with some ‘warm’ grading between. Not sure yet. My head might actually explode if I try to factor in foliage too. Oh, and flowering time. And preferred aspect. Boom!

The prep work on the database is paying some dividends, however, some useful management information is seeping out from the underlying data. Here is the cross-reference table of colour temperature vs size.  It will at least help me to figure out what might go where.  The numbers in the table are quantity of plants available, more to be added as cuttings strike, germinations happen.

plan table
Method to my madness…

I should consider this to be an iterative process, I think, for my sanity as much as anything else.  Year One will be an experiment to see what works well, where there are bare or uninteresting spots at different times of year. I can always move plants around. I’m also impatient so I’ll overstuff the borders I think. When things start to look overcrowded, I can remove to make room.

To misquote the Orange One, ‘who knew healthcare garden design was this complicated?’

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with some more definite border designs.

What plant combinations do you recommend from your garden? Or what border planning advice do you have for a novice?  I’ll be very happy to hear in the comments.

[Update 02–5-17, see what the border design eventually became.]