Planting design is the art of composing plants to create a design. This is usually an aspect of garden design, which includes paving design, landform design, water features and the design of vertical and horizontal structures. The following brief historical summary illustrates some different approaches to planting design. It is arranged in reverse chronological order, with key dates, working back from the present day.
Around the turn of the twentieth century there was a renewed enthusiasm for looking at all the different ways in which plants are arranged in nature. This led to a particular interest in wildflower meadows and drifts of tall grasses intermixed with herbaceous plants. See review of Piet Oudolf's Planting Design: Gardens in Time and Space. and see list of 100 Top Plants to Avoid for Amenity Landscapes.
The artistic approach to planting developed into the idea of treating a bed of plants like a box of paints and arranging them according to the principles of abstract design (Cubism). See also Abstact Style of garden design.
The gardenesque idea was developed by using aesthetic principles drawn from the fine arts combined with a craftsmanship approach to fine workmanship. See also Arts and Crafts style of garden design and the online text of Gertrude Jekyll Colour schemes for the flower garden. (+ Jekyll plant list)
This idea was based on the use of exotic (ie imported) plants in compositional arrangements inspired by natural groupings of plants. See also Gardenesque and Picturesque style of garden design
An entirely new approach to planting design developed in eighteenth century England: the idea of planting in natural groups - inspired, initially, by the arrangement of planting in landscape painting. See also of garden design. See also Gardenesque and Picturesque style of garden design
Baroque planting developed from renaissance practice but more elaborate and purely ornamental. Intricate parterre patterns replaced simple knot gardens. See also Baroque style of garden design
Renaissance designers hoped to re-create Roman gardens - but, having less evidence than us about the Roman style of planting design, assumed they had made knot gardens. Early renaissance planting was of mixed fruit and flowers bounded by low hedges. Later renaissance planting was more determinedly ornamental. See also Renaissance style of garden design.
The Mughal gardens of India were planted as flowering orchards. See Villiers Stuart on Mughal planting design
Tthere was a reversion to the pre-Roman practice of intermixing culinary and medicinal plants with some flowers See also Medieval garden design
The Romans were perhaps the earliest civilization to plant gardens with plants with a primarily ornamental role. See also Courtyard style of garden design in Rome
Little information is available but it seems probable that garden planting was, as in Egypt and Mesopotamia, of intermixed flowering and fruiting plants. See also Paradise style of garden design
Vedic texts mention the planting of flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs. There does not seem to have been any planting of herbaceous plants.
There is good evidence from tomb paintings and from papyrus texts to show that flowering and fruiting woody and herbaceous plants were intermixed. See also Egyptian domestic style of garden design
Bas reliefs and cunieform scripts indicate that planting was mainly of fruit and vegetables, with some flowering plants.
Naturalistic planting design at the Chelsea Flower Show 2006
Abstract planting design in Mein Ruys garden
Arts and Crafts planting design
Gardenesque planting design
Renaissance planting design
Medieval planting design
Indian planting design
Persian planting design
Egyptian planting design