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Perennial Garden
Design, “The Plan”


With knowing how to combine perennials effectively, meaning both sustainably an aesthetically, the main objective (so most points) of the course, here are the details of how this works. There are three components to complete and turn in.  They may be submitted all at once, but it is advisable to submit at least the first two (together is useful) prior to the plan in order to make sure you have the right information needed and choices.   Let me know as you go along if you have questions or would like to meet in real-life in person to go over questions or your plans (

 Plan Considerations (100 points)

To have an effective design, the plants must fit the site and your desires.  So these are what you will outline here.  These are found in the first section of the course book.  You may submit a listing of the below, outline, or full paragraphs of description—your choice.  If you don’t have a site, you can create your own conditions.  These should include:

 Two other practical considerations to keep in mind if you actually plan to plant this garden, and that you might mention if so, are the time you will have to maintain it and your budget in general terms.  If this garden plan is currently just made up, or if these are not given, I’ll assume these are not key factors for you. Regarding size, keep in mind the comments in chapter 4 on Small is Beautiful.

 Appropriate Plants (100 points)

The approach taken by true designers is to design a space using concepts such as texture, color, and repetition, then to choose plants to fit those needs.  This is best if you already have a great knowledge of perennials.  You can take this approach if you wish in choosing plants here (just make sure that cultural needs are met as well), or you can use the approach most gardeners use and that is used in the course book.  This approach is to select plants you find appealing, that fit any desired use(s) outlined above, and that fit your site conditions outlined above (eg if you have wet soils, plants should tolerate these, or if shade choose shade plants).  You may wish to review chapter 2 on Selecting Your Perennials, and the Appendix list. Choosing the right plants for the right site conditions is a basis of what you may see referred to elsewhere as environmental or ecological landscaping.  Your perennial bed will be more sustainable in the sense that plants will live longer, prosper, and need less maintenance than otherwise.  When choosing plants, pay attention to any that may be “thugs” (ie invasive), short-lived, need staking, or have other special needs and issues. 

 Try to “do as I say and not as I do” and keep it simple (I usually end up getting way to complicated with too many plants, which is easy to do).  You may wish to review chapter 4, the section on Putting Your Ideas on Paper, about planting groups not singly, and planting in drifts.  Even though this gets to the next step, your plan, it will help you determine now how many plants you might reasonably choose.  It is okay if you end up with a longer list that you might incorporate in your plan, just keep in mind (as I will) that you wont be able to use all.  You might think of this as your “wish list” of appropriate plants.

 So in summary, choose plants (what I’ll be looking for) that:

The Plan (300 points)

So here is where you fit the plants you’ve chosen (or at least some of them), to your space you’ve chosen using some design principles and tips found throughout the course book.  You may wish to review chapter 4 for some design basics, before applying ideas from other chapters.   

 Follow the process outlined in chapter 4 on Putting Ideas to Paper.  The few and simple supplies needed are listed there.  Emphasis (ie points toward your grade) will approximately be based on: (further defined below, approx. points in [ ] )

Plan presentation (50 points)
Plant list presentation (50 points)
Plant placement in plan (200 points)

 Although in real life you can have an effective design of only a few plants in a small area or large pot, for the purposes of this course figure on a minimum of 200 square feet.  This may include a path if it is not more than 20% of the total area.

 Plan: What I will be looking for is as the authors describe, a graph paper noting:

 The format as shown in chapters on Putting Plants to Work can be used. The plan need not be as professional as those in the book but should be neat.  If your final draft is a mess of erasures and rewrites, you might make a neat final copy.  To help you, and your presentation, if you wish you may color plans, or use tracing paper overlays for each month with plant groupings colored—but these are options and not required. 

 Plant list: In addition, you should have an attached plant list on separate page.  The plant list can be handwritten legibly or typed. This should have:

 Plant placement: Most important is the use of plants and their placement.  Although in real life for instant effect you may choose to place plants close together, for the purpose of this course place plants according to their mature spread as outlined in the book.  I will be looking for evidence of some design, such as contrasting textures or colors, repetition of plant shape or flower structure, keeping to a theme such as one color, or other as outlined in the book. You may find some Vermont Extension leaflets of further help to the text.

 You may incorporate some companion plantings (chapter 3 on Perennial Partners), but for the purpose of this course (on perennials) limit these to no more than 25% of your plants.  Although in real life you can have effective designs with only one or two different plants, for the purpose of this course you should use 15 or more different plants and no more than 30.  Different cultivars can be counted separately.

 In summary, keep in mind (as I will when scoring, approx. 50 points each):

 Plans may be dropped off to me in the main PSS office (Jeffords Hall), just make sure your name and email is on them.   Or they may be mailed:  Dr. Leonard Perry, Dept Plant and Soil Science, Jeffords Hall, 63 Carrigan Dr, Burlington VT 05405. 

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