Planning a garden design entails identifying location characteristics, selecting plant types and garden themes fitting that environment, drawing the layout, determining a budget and choosing plants for each position. Organizations such as The Old Farmer's Almanac and local extension agencies offer plans and planning software on their websites.
Location characteristics include the available space, existing features, the amount of sunlight and shade, the patterns of cold and heat and whether the site is wet or dry. Conditions affect plant selection and garden theme. A small garden area requires vertical planting or the use of containers. A wet site demands water-tolerant plants and suggests a rain garden theme. U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones match temperature ranges to plants suited to that region.
Drawing the garden layout shifts planning from analysis to creativity. Online templates, wish lists and garden photos are sources of inspiration for a dream garden. Tools range in complexity from pencil and graph paper to planning software. The layout takes advantage of existing features such as walls, trees and hardscape to frame the garden. Once an overview is drawn, budget limitations inform the materials used. For many gardeners, planning is progressive and constantly changing as money becomes available or tastes evolve.
Picking specific plants to complete the design involves heading to a neighborhood garden center. It will stock flowers and vegetables suited to local conditions and typically employs knowledgeable staff.