Most garden centres these days have an overwhelming range of plants, both familiar and new. If you're starting out, seek the advice of one of the trained staff on site, who can guide you towards the right plants for an attractive garden.
Everyone's garden needs are different. Some selections are based on the need for colour, privacy, shade, herbs and vegetables for cooking, or for plants to create a year round look with low maintenance.
Once you've established what you're looking for, answer the following questions:
What do I need from the colour?
What conditions are available for the plants?
Will they be in a hot area or a shady spot?
Will it be a wet or dry location?
This will help you narrow down the choice to suit your needs.
Most successful gardens have the following six elements -
1.Foundation Plantings - small trees and shrubs planted around the perimeter of a house to soften the lines of the building. Evergreens keep their foliage and colour all year round. Choose trees and shrubs that look good all year round, and won't grow too large for the spot. Make sure that the roots won't damage the house foundations.
2. Trees - can be evergreen or deciduous, with the latter providing a variety of leaf colour, flowers and fruit. Think about the characteristics you want in a tree, draw up a list and present it to the nursery. Consider height, width, form, bark textures, colour, suitability to the climate, how much shade it will create when mature, pruning needs etc
3. Shrubs - Shrubs are classified in the same way as trees - evergreen or deciduous. They can start off life just a few inches tall and grow to the size of a small tree. The spread varies well, so shrubs can be short in height but several feet across. They are low maintenance compared to flower borders. Draw up a list of the planting size, the traits you want and take it to the nursery, who will help and advise you.
4. Ground Covers - Needs less maintenance than a lawn. Nearly all low growing spreading plant can be used for ground cover. The thicker the cover, the less weeding you will need to do. Consider height and spread, colour, thickness of growth, disease resistance, and how well they will co-exist with other plants.
5. Perennials and annuals - One of the easiest ways to add colour. Perennials, which are initially more expensive come back year after year, so save money over time. Annuals have to be replaced every year. Most bloom in mid to late spring and provide colour for months. When choosing an annual ask about its sun, soil and water requirements, and how long it blooms. With perennials, also ask if the plant dies back in cold weather.
6. Vines - they add vertical interest, as well as greenery and colour to a garden, using little ground space. They are good at creating privacy, hiding eyesores and making the most of a small garden. Whatever the variety, pay attention to how it will attach itself to its support. Some types e.g. the clinging type are only suitable for brick stone or other surfaces that are maintenance free.