I'm new to landscaping and completely unfamiliar with different types of flowers and bulbs. What is the best way to plan a small perennial flower garden? Is there a website with charts comparing common flowers, bloom times, sun requirements, height, etc? I've looked online but haven't found anything comprehensive. Am I even going about this right? What is the best way to learn and plan?


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Horticulture is a very big subject - you'd need to refine your research to locate anything helpful, there is no 'catch all' website, all will require some degree of knowledge if you're completely new to gardening. Information on this subject for schoolchildren can be very helpful if you really know nothing much, it generally covers the basics of photosynthesis and the science side, but not how to design with plants.

If you don't want to call in a professional to plan it for you, the usual way is to plant things you like the look of which are available in your area, with some consideration given to their height and spread, whether they prefer sun or shade, light or heavy soil, and learn by making mistakes at the same time as doing an awful lot of reading up about plants. You could look around at what other people grow in your area which would give you an idea of what grows wherever you are. Also look at images and information which covers plants for whatever part of the world you're in.

A very long time ago, I started by reading the RHS Encyclopaedia of Plants and Flowers (I'm in the UK) and a range of books known as the 'Expert' series by D. G. Hessayon, which is a collection of small books on various subjects, such as The Lawn Expert, The Tree and Shrub Expert and so on. Whist I learned many things by doing this, and by making mistakes in my own garden, it also taught me the extent of my ignorance, at which point I did various home study courses, then a two year part time course at Horticultural College, at the same time as starting a small landscaping business. But there are many people who don't want to do it professionally, and simply try different things in their own gardens; some work, some don't, but a garden is never really finished anyway - things grow too big or spread too far or get too tall or whatever, and rejigging is usually necessary periodically, especially with perennials.

In regard to perennials, what you can plant depends on where you live and the weather there, but bear in mind that most of them disappear below ground completely in winter, so the usual way round that is to mix shrubs in with the perennials to give something to look at when the perennials aren't doing anything. If you live in a hotter region of the world, looking at information on tropical plants might be helpful, but if you are somewhere with very cold winters, then hardy plants would be the way to go.

Check in your local area for basic horticultural courses covering plants, or gardening clubs - these can be very helpful. The other thing to add is to try always to get the Latin or botanical name for a plant rather than some random common name - once you've got the Latin name for a plant, you can use google or similar to find information on it very easily. Common names for plants vary round the world and even different parts of a country, so it can be misleading to google a common name - you may end up looking at something that isn't even the plant you want.

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    As @bamboo said , grow stuff that wants to be there. Look around your neighborhood and see what grows well. Don't try to grow American Holly in Chicago ; don't try to grow Peonies in E Texas.. Don't try to grow azaleas in full sun unless you want a challenge. One more comment ; Watch out if the info says "very easy to grow" ; I have found that often means Invasive. Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 20:46
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    Another hint for you - plant labels for shrubs (should you want to mix them into your garden) are often incorrect as to mature height or spread because the labels (in the US at least) are produced by companies that have no interest in or actual knowledge of the plants. For perennials, height and width can vary from the listed values due to cultural conditions: too much/too little soil fertility, too much/too little water, etc. You won't actually know how a plant will behave in your garden until you grow it for awhile - that's part of the fun in gardening!
    – Jurp
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 12:16
  • Some catalogs specializing in perennials also include plans for their plants within the catalog; you may find those helpful as well.
    – Jurp
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 12:17

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