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How to plan a garden layout

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Here's how to plan a garden layout

Here’s how to plan a garden layout

You?ve eyed that lovely empty plot long enough. It?s time to stop imagining lush beautiful someday-flowers and give gardening a whirl. Before rolling up the sleeves and getting elbow-deep in soon-to-be fertile soil, it?s best to put your ideas on paper.

Knowing how to plan a garden layout saves you time and boosts your chances of success early on. Whether you intend to plant sun-lovers or an endless sea of beautiful bulbs like tulips and alliums, it?s important to first consider sunlight, drainage and soil type to help determine which plants are most likely to thrive.

The first phase of garden design entails applying your knowledge of plants, including when to put them in the ground, when they bloom and hardiness. If you?re learning on your feet, refer to garden books or sites. The USDA provides a plant hardiness zone map to help gardeners select the seeds best suited for the native conditions of their region.

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Many gardeners think visually – perhaps that?s why designing the plan is so much fun. This is where you transfer the dream garden from your imagination to paper. To do this you need graph paper. 


Sketch your plot to scale and include existing features – trees, shrubs, paths and hills. Bring the sketch to the plot and use measuring tape so your proportions are accurate. Make note of which parts receive more sun and shade.

Keep a list of the qualities of the plot and its limitations. This will serve as a checklist to review before ordering seeds and bulbs.

Gather inspiration

When learning how to plan a garden layout it?s easy to get overwhelmed in unnecessary details. Try to keep an open mind and gather images of flower garden ideas and themes that inspire you. 

Rather than writing down the names of every plant you see and love, keep the plans broad, like ?yellow and violet tulips? or ?shade-loving annuals? rather than setting your heart on specific varieties that may be hard to find.


You?ll need a few pieces of tracing paper for the design stage. Trace the existing plan of the plot, including only the features you want to keep. Now decide if you want to highlight any of these or creature new ones, such as a fountain or sitting area.

There?s no limit to how many drafts you can make. Put several ideas on paper, playing with the flow and placement of particular beds. Keep what you like from each draft and continue revising until you have a plan in hand that reflects your vision.


Many gardeners prefer a mix of flowers with staggered bloom times to enjoy an ever-blooming garden filled with color, fragrance and life. 

Avoid cramming plants together – give them enough space to grow. Most need ample air flow through the bed, as well as nutrients and water from the ground. Too many flowers in one space will deprive all of them.

Order your bulbs and seeds early in the season and follow planting instructions precisely.


It?s highly likely that you?ll be itching to start planting before the last snow has melted. Be patient. When the time finally comes, break your plan into manageable pieces in order of the four design elements: floor, walls, ceiling and furniture.

Floor: Prepare the soil, laying any paths, removing grass and planting groundcover.

Walls: Fences, hedges and trellis may all serve as garden ?walls?. 

Ceiling: This refers to any overhead covering, like arches, pergolas, awnings or a dense shrub with branches. 

Furniture: Tables, benches and other ?furniture? go in last. This simply involves choosing styles that complement your garden without stealing the show and placing them in a fitting spot.

Now you know how to plan a garden layout and create a stunning, serene space.


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