Planting by Shape

Lead Image for Planting by Shape

It's time to shape the face of your garden. So, first things first, determine the size and shape of your garden. Look at the area around your garden to get an idea of what you would like to see as your garden takes its shape and grows. Consider the natural shape of the horizon, the surrounding structures, and how the size and shape of your plants might enhance or conflict with the area.

It may be best to measure the space you are planting in and draw out your design on paper first. Once you have your layout set with edges in place, choose your plants by understanding the different shapes available.

Use Plants of All Sizes and Textures

Learn to balance your garden with the shape of the plants, taking into consideration that they will usually grow bigger than they are when purchased.

1. Cones

Just as it sounds, cone-shaped plants are larger at the base and more narrow towards the top of the plant. Many cone-shaped plants are dense, creating a heavy, solid look where they're planted. Evergreen trees are a perfect example of a cone-shaped plant.

2. Spheres

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Because of their circular shape, sphere-shaped plants are a great contrast to spiky plants and those that have a flowing fountain-like appearance. Allium is a flower that naturally grows in the shape of a sphere. Some plants, such as shrubs that do not naturally grow in that form, can be trimmed to be a sphere.

3. Mounds

Plants that take the shape of a mound provide some depth, but with a softer look. They are usually shorter to the ground as well. With mounds, you can cover a large portion of your garden and balance out your smaller plants. An example of a mound-shaped plant is the Silver Mound Artemisia.

4. Mats

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Also known as ground cover, these plants grow low to the ground and spread out, but they can help tie the garden together. Aizoaceae, or ice plant, which grows well in coastal environments, is considered a mat plant.

5. Spikes

Plants that take the shape of spikes are an excellent way to give a garden some design and flair. Spikes are just as they sound -- plants that have branches or spire-like flowers. Blazing stars are the common name for the Liatris, a tall spike-shaped flower.

6. Fountains

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In contrast to spikes, fountain-shaped plants give a garden some elegance. They are usually narrow at the base, flare up and outward at the top, and some have ends that arch downward just like water from a water fountain. Fountain grass is a common ornamental grass that is drought resistant.

Bring Your Design Together

Ultimately you are an artist with a blank canvas as you start your garden. What direction you chose to go with is up to you. Here are some tips and suggestions for bringing the shapes together for a pleasant design:

  • Basic contrasts help even out the garden design. Flowers and spherical plants that stand tall contrast well with shorter mounds or smaller sphere-shaped plants.
  • Consider the silhouette of the plants as well as the lines, form, and density.
  • Plants that have sharp lines or spiky grasses break up the monotony of circular and rounded plants, or an abundance of plants that are bulky.
  • Using a variety of shapes and silhouettes is pleasing to the eye, so make sure to be diverse in your plant selection.
Also be sure to check out "Planting by Color."