Starting a garden from scratch is a thrill. There are so many possibilities! To help narrow those down and make the process feel less daunting, we offer two ways to approach your project.
The first way is to consider your restrictions. Many of these pop up naturally, whether we like them or not, for example, how much light the space gets, your growing zone, soil type, the actual size you have to work with, and so on. In each garden design below, you’ll see a common element many gardeners have to plan around. This helps limit the palette and often makes the planting more interesting.
The second way to simplify garden planning is to take a cue from the house style it’s planted in front of. Many home styles have a distinct path forward when it comes to design. We have created garden plans crafted around 7 common home styles to inspire you. Below you’ll see plans for a townhouse, mid-century ranch, colonial, craftsman, cape cod, Mediterranean, and modern farmhouse.
( If you’d like to dive into what garden roles are and how to use them in your design, check out the digital version of Gardening Simplified to learn all about them.)
Townhouse Garden Plan
Townhouses come in many different styles and colors, but the yard size is typically pretty small. To make the most of the space, look for plants you love but in dwarf sizes or with narrow footprints. Use taller plants to emphasize the features you love about your home.
Now the restriction: salty soil. One of the most common culprits is sidewalk salt. Thanks to shoveling or snow blowing, that salt can sometimes end up in the garden. To be sure your garden stays healthy looking, only consider plants labeled salt tolerant and choose from that group.
Mid-Century Ranch Garden Plan
Most mid-century homes are very long, which means there is a lot of potential gardening space. To keep the area manageable, plan a bed that’s long and pretty narrow. Choose plants that will bulk up nicely and take up garden space. Avoid planting a ton of small plants that will require a lot of individual maintenance. From there, ensure that the heights of the plants will vary against the backdrop of the home, an undulating line will break up the straight lines mid-centuries are known for.
Now the restriction: shade. Although true shade plants are available in less abundance than full sun options, it’s important to choose plants that will reliably perform in under 4 hours of direct light. That way your garden won’t look thin or unhealthy.
Colonial Garden Plan
Many colonial-style homes are quite symmetrical. Windows are mirrored, the spacing between doors and windows is even, etc. This type of building is perfectly matched with a mirrored garden. A formal-style garden is a natural fit.
Now the restriction: deer. Deer cause trouble for so, so many gardeners. Only choose plants that are clearly labeled as deer resistant (or check them against this list). Consider installing the garden in stages. Only plant one or two of a new-to-you plant to see how the deer will respond.
Craftsman Garden Plan
With an artistic, highly detailed aesthetic, you’ll want a garden to complement it. Go with plants that draw from the colors you enjoy in your home, or complement the exterior colors. Often craftsman homes have interesting colored trim and differently colored details, draw those colors out with your plant selection!
Now the restriction: you only grow plants native to North America. Easy! There are so many handsome native plants in a range of colors, as the example below shows!
Cape Cod Garden Plan
To play into the romantic charm of a Cape Cod or cottage style garden, embrace the blousiest or most intricate blooms with the richest scents and textures. Together these plants will create a welcoming view, worthy of a painting.
Now the restriction: you want a cut flower garden. Only choose plants that would look good together in an arrangement. So no matter the season or what’s in bloom, you’ll always have a vase filled with loveliness.
cut flower stems
Purple, white, and pink color scheme
Garden roles used:
groundcover, specimen, border
Mediterranean Garden Plan
Generally, you’ll see some long straight lines and stucco siding. Break this view up with nicely rounded plants filled with good texture. Look for plants with really small leaves or tiny little flower petals and plants with large blousy blooms that will contrast the solid sides of the home.
Now the restriction: drought tolerant. With drought being a big issue many gardeners face these days, you’ll find pretty clear notes on whether a plant can thrive through drought or not. Stick to these plants and save some water after they’ve gotten established in the ground in their first year.
Modern Farmhouse Garden Plan
A loose, meadow-like look perfectly matches the warmth of a farmhouse. Choose plants that will look good without a tight prune. If you’d like a dense look overall, keep the spacing between the plants pretty tight.
Now the restriction: must benefit pollinators. While each plant listing will let you know if it attracts pollinators, go the extra mile and choose different flower shapes and bloom times. This makes it easier for a range of pollinators to use your garden.