I recently posted an image of these dahlias and nicotianas on my Instagram account with a confession. You may think I carefully planned this combination; the mauve of the nicotiana flower picks out the deep pink and mauve highlights of the dahlia petals so perfectly, the centres of each flower are a buttery-yellow match, the flower forms create a dynamic collage of contrasting pompoms and stars. But sadly, no. As I explained in my post, I can’t remember the name of this dahlia without fetching my dahlia label collection and looking through it. That’s always assuming my philodendron hasn’t run away with that particular label… And I bought the nicotiana at a plant sale in my local village hall, planting it without a clue as to its eventual habit or flower colour.
So, my confession is that this planting combination is no more than a happy coincidence. There are some elements of my garden that I’ve planned out meticulously and there are places where I’ve bunged stuff in to see what happens. There are successes and failures in both instances. What transforms you from a garden tinkerer to a garden designer is what you do with these experiences.
So onto my garden design tips, in your own garden or beyond, you will need to become really, really good at two things;
Is the number one rule in mastering garden design. Lots of us can identify a beautiful outdoor scene but appreciating the constituent parts takes time and good powers of observation. Understanding why and how something works means you can replicate it, plus lessen your chance of error in the future. To quote a quote, take time to smell the flowers. Spending time in your garden and learning its quirks, nuances and intricacies will inform your design all-round.
If, like me, you have a memory like a sieve then you’ll need to take good notes with accompanying photographs, to document what worked and what didn’t. Keeping decent records makes things like bulb and seed orders easier because you’ll already have a good idea of what to order. Keeping a garden journal is a great idea; I have about 3 different books on the go at any one time. Some of the plants I grew in my garden this year are difficult or expensive to source, so I’ve saved their seeds. This is where being a good record-keeper comes in really handy because inconveniently, seeds bear no relation whatsoever to the plant they will eventually become.
Do you have any garden design tips? I’d love to hear them, if you’d like to share, please comment below. Thanks for reading.