Grit Blogs > For Dragonflies And Me

Plan Your Perennial Garden Now and Designing Plot Plans

Jean Smith"If ever I loved thee, my garden 'tis now..." Yes, I am longing for the beauty and relaxation of my gardens in these cold Michigan winter months. The garden is my place of rest... it's where I go when I feel weary, when I need to wind down, when I long to escape the stresses of life... It is my Eden here on earth. Many people have strolled through my gardens in awe wondering when and how I manage to care for them all with my busy farm and market life. I always say, "This is not work! This is where I come to get away from the work!"  But alas, that is not true for all.  If you are a die hard gardener or someone looking to create your own little Eden, it doesn't have to be difficult and it surely won't happen all in one season. My gardens have been born over a period of seven years and they will continue to grow, change and flourish in my tender loving care for many more.  Now is the time to start planning and designing your new dream gardens. You may feel like how do I begin? What plants should I choose? Where am I going to put this bed?  The next couple months will give you ample time to decide on what, where, how and when and whether to order plants or wait for the nurseries. These are all important questions that need to be addressed before the big day of breaking ground. That day is right around the corner...don't let your dreams sit stagnant and lifeless, start planning now.

In the next few posts here I am planning on giving my own 'renditions' of my garden's. I will show all the photo's of them at my blog spot.  Hope you are inspired, enjoy friends!

There are several factors to take into consideration when you start the process of designing your garden plots.
1. Decide on Location: This is the first step. It will determine what type of plants you will purchase, whether irrigation will be necessary and if so, what type.  Will it be up against a building? In the middle of the yard? An extension of an existing garden?
2. Type of Garden: Do you want a perennial bed/border with a few annuals as fillers? Is this a small bed that you would like to plant up with annuals each year to have it different and versatile? Is it to be a split of both annuals and perennials?
Will it be a formal garden, herb garden, rose garden or kitchen garden?  These are all important factors that need to be made early on.
3. Plant Selection: Once location and type are determined you can start choosing the plants. Take into consideration if this is a shady, part shade/ part sun or direct sun all day location.  This will play a huge factor on plants. Decide whether you will order some and/or purchase at nurseries. What about getting started with plants from family and friends when they split their plants this spring?
For an extensive list of perennials follow this link:
4. Architectural Elements: This is very important, but type of garden will determine what those elements will be. My gardens are Cottage Style, so I get to use all kinds of what I feel are cool Garden Junque items! Stone statuary, bird baths, arbors/trellis', iron work, picket fences, wheel barrow, crates/drawers, buckets and boots... and the list can go on! Determining what you like can help in choosing the type of garden. Will you have walk ways? If so, what will be the stepping stones?
5. Irrigation: will you use sprinklers/hoses, underground sprinkler systems, above ground drip lines, soaker hoses?
6. Mulching: is so important! Mulch will help maintain moisture and hold back weeds. Again what you choose should fit with your garden style.  Mulch- what color, lava rock, white marble stones, bark, etc.

Documentation is a key element in helping you along the garden design path. I highly recommend that you Keep a Garden Journal for specific notes on what was planted where, where the plant was purchased, and any other important details.
1. Draw your Garden Plan layouts (see mine attached). This will give you something to work off. It may change from the original design, but having a place to start is so helpful. 
2. Keep all tags and receipts from plants that have a warranty in your journal. This is especially important for large, expensive items such as trees, shrub's/bushes and fruit bearing plants. It is very frustrating when you loose a year of growth when a plant doesn't make it through the winter. But if you have that receipt, at least you won't have to 'buy' another one!
3.Photograph your gardens. I suggest doing this in the early and late parts of each season (spring-fall). Each year you will have a wonderful and accurate account of how things grew.  If you really liked a particular planting or arrangement you created with annuals, be sure to include the tags with a photo of the bed, along with where you purchased the plants. It is very difficult to remember the varieties and where you got them. Not all nurseries/catalog's carry the same items. 
4. Keep Ideas: I often see planting designs and architectural items in other gardens that I would like to replicate in my own. I take photo's to put in my journal otherwise I would never remember everything. I also photocopy ideas out of gardening mag.'s and store them there as well- I don't like to rip pages out!

When we purchased our farm seven years ago, it was an empty, foreclosed mess with not a flower bed to be found. Just one bare patch of dirt stared me in the face every time we walked into the back door.  This was the first bed I planted and I foolishly did so without a long term goal.  I wanted color and I wanted it now.  After the first year and the war against me from the quack grass, I was forced to dig up all the plants and do it again.  This time I did it right! We laid black ground cover over the dirt, set  rocks around the perimeter and then filled in with rich soil. I was able to replant most of what I had there while adding several new plants.

To see my rendition of The Side Garden as it appears now and all the beautiful photo's that go along with it during different stages please go to my blog spot at
. Legend For "The Side Garden"  please see attached drawing. This bed is just under 200 square feet.

The Side Garden is lined on both sides and the front with boiling ball size rocks. The back side is sloped down with pieces of slate about the size of a sheet of paper.
1. Peony- 3 plants, 2 Varieties- 1 early bloom and 1 mid bloom
2. Hollyhocks- Because these reseed prolifically I only allow about 7 plants. They are single flower pale pink and pale yellow.
3. Iris- Root beer
4. Hosta- 1 'Blue'
5. Aster- 3 in back center and 1 behind the antique metal feed cart - all purple
6. Lavender- Hidcotte, 2 plants on each corner
7. Creeping Phlox- 2 plants, both pink
8. Hardy Geranium- 3 plants, all pink
9. Lily- Tiger 1 plant
10. Sweet William- 3 to 5 plants, multi colors
11. Sea Lavender 1 plant
12. Calendula- multiple plants that flow over the side of the rocks along with Sweet Allysum
13. Double Pink Petunia's are planted each year in this Antique Feed Cart that I pulled out of a junque pile behind a barn several years ago. It has moved three times with me.
14. Jack Mani Clematis growing up an Antique Iron Gate purchased at an Antique shoppe!
15. Several Terra Cotta clay tiles and a Chimney flu are planted each year with different annuals.
16. An old wooden chair has a tin bucket with geraniums planted in it.

Stay tuned next time for How To's on growing, harvesting and using mint's for tea! 

Enjoy Friends,