Thursday, 21 January 2021

Personal plant palettes

Most, if not all, garden designers have a palette of plants that they regularly dip into and which end up

Most, if not all, garden designers have a palette of plants that they regularly dip into and which end up forming the style by which they become more widely known and liked.

The palette is formed by successes. Success being in this case whether the plants fit the criteria to create the style of garden they are to be used in and as to whether they are fit for purpose on a whole host of other levels: from level of maintenance required through to longevity of flowering and suitability in a changing climate.

I like to think that I can design to pretty much any brief. I became a designer because I love the challenge of every new project, every new client and the variety of personalities and styles of potential gardens that they bring into the mix.

And I still stand by this and use versatility and personalisation as the backbone of my business, but I cannot get away from the fact that to use plants that you know are going to work is incredibly reassuring.

With the literally millions of plants available to us these days, knowing every single one inside out; its habits, its changeability across a wide range of soil conditions, how to maintain it to best effect, and so on, is a pretty tall order. And not only that, there are lots of plants I simply don’t like, and find it difficult to put into my schemes.

Thus it has happened that I now have quite a tight planting palette of plants that I know will work, know how to look after and that I love the look of. These plants work across the board in the gardens that I create.

It’s not a static palette. It grows every year under strict management and with garden trends too, but it is a library of plants that is my stalwart.

What the palette contains is uniquely personal to me and my business and it’s taken many years to hone it to perfection, through observation, practical application and sadly, but necessarily, trial and error.

It has been a worthwhile exercise, though, and I can highly recommend that anyone who wants to have a garden to their own design and tastes (which is quite a task if you don’t have huge experience and plant knowledge), creates a similar planting palette before implementing any changes or purchasing new additions for the garden.

It’s all to easy to get carried away in the garden centre, lured by pretty specimens on offer, especially if the sun is shining and you just can’t wait to get out in the garden!

But before you go, do what you would do if you were planning a new room for your house; cut pictures from magazines and find images in books that take your fancy and start a folder of these together with lists of plants that will allow you to create your garden of choice.

This way, when you get to the garden centre and are faced with an Aladdin’s cave of delights, you know which plants will fit with your style of garden and can make sound investments whilst still enjoying yourself.

The RHS has just recently given its own commendation system, the ‘Award of Garden Merit’, an overhaul too, providing members, the horticultural industry and the wider public with an up-to-date and incredibly broad facility for choosing plants that they consider to be the best in the business.

So when you are compiling your list for your garden, cross-reference with their choices and plant finder tool, both available on their website .

And if you are still struggling then of course ask for help from a professional garden designer who would be only too happy to help you put a list or a scheme together that will suit your own personal palette!

l Jennie Herrington runs The Green Room Garden + Interior Design in Wargrave.

Tel: 0118 940 4204, email or go to

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