Absolutely everything ‘man made’ that we use in our everyday lives, from knives and forks and tables and chairs, to the cars we drive and the houses we live in, have the origins of their form – the way they look, in their function – the thing they do.
In other words they have been designed to be fit for their purpose.
So why is it that still most of our gardens continue to just muddle along, bits of them occasionally changing piecemeal when the home changes hands and often it seems with very little real thought and consideration.
Take patios as an example. Most builders’ standard layout (sorry builders!) is a rectangle of slabs along the back wall of the house regardless of its orientation, the material it’s made from or its age and style.
You might end up sitting shivering in the shade if it faces north on paving that looks just like all your neighbours’, it might be a lost opportunity, but at least it’s not a living thing and it won’t die by being in the wrong place.
Plants on the other hand could very well do just that if so little thought is put into their placing. Different plants need different conditions to thrive depending on their species origins. Some need full sun and well drained soil, maybe these came from the Mediterranean region or coastal sandy soils. Some need shade and deep humous rich soil, possibly woodland dwellers and others will need more moisture than the average coming first from the margins of streams and ponds.
Luckily most gardens can supply several conditions so we can accommodate plants with quite a range of different needs. By a north facing wall, instead of that paving , we could have Hosta and ferns, in the drier shade under a hedge or trees, Epimedium and Pulmonaria and on a sunny bank Lavander, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme.
By choosing plants which are best suited to them, we can use the opportunities these conditions give us to make the most of our gardens.
There’s a lot more to planting design than this of course but fundamentally it’s not about the latest plant fashion, at its heart it’s the it’s the combining of the right plants in the right places.
Our gardens are ‘man made’, and just as worthy of being made fit for purpose and designed with as much thought as anything else, so this spring when you go to the garden centre and buy some lovely new plants make sure that you’ve put some thought into the design of your planting first.
Why bother? Just look at a well designed garden, it really is well worth it.