Friday, December 17, 2010

The Wildflower Garden Planting List

From In the Garden

Today I would like to talk about the plant list from the wildflower garden design I did for my client Barbara. Barbara requested native wildflowers and had a pretty good idea of exactly what she wanted in her garden (she sure made my job easy). All I had to do was to fit the plants into the design in a pleasing manner and use my experience to make sure the plants chosen would do well in the new garden. I posted the design here so if you need to refresh your memory go back and check the design because today's post is only about the planting list.

Planting lists can be arranged any number of ways the designer would like to arrange it, but there are some elements that are helpful and even necessary to have on the lists. They are: the code identifying the plant on the design, botanical name, common name, quantity, size required for planting, and height and width of the plant. Some designers put the spacing on their plant lists. For instance, if foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) should be planted 8" apart on center (O.C.) then you could annotate that information on the planting list. On all of my designs I usually include an approximate cost of the plant based on my experience-remember it is approximate only. An additional required piece of information would be to annotate whether or not a plant is existing. I usually note this in the last column on my planting lists. The planting list above though is from the planting diagram I posted about this past Monday; therefore it only includes plants that the landscaper will need to plant-no existing plants are annotated on this list but the design itself included existing plants.

Some designers arrange their plant lists into categories such as groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, trees, vines, etc. I have found I do not like this method because when a client; who is not always plant savvy; looks for a two letter code on the plant list he or she may not realize that HH; which stands for Hedera helix, aka ivy, is a groundcover or vine. This results in confusion looking for the code in the subcategories until it is found under 'groundcovers'. I find it so much simpler to just arrange all plant material alphabetically on the plant list. Therefore HH will be easy to find on the list for anyone.This is a personal preference only.

Codes on the planting list and design or diagram will be the same. In other words, whatever you see listed on the design or diagram should have a corresponding line on the plant list. Like everything else with designing, designers have several options when choosing codes. I will discuss only two types of codes I have personally used.  The two types I have used in my designs are two letter codes and four letter codes. You could also use the alphabet to label your plants (I.E. A=Callicarpa americana) and you could also direct label the plants (spell out each plant on the design and list).

When I first began doing landscape designs I really liked to use the four letter codes. I used four letter codes on my very first professional design found here. The four letter codes can be chosen a few different ways in order to keep them standardized. I chose the method of using the first three letters of the genus name, and the first letter of the species name. For instance; a tulip poplar is known botanically as Liriodendron tulipifera. I would choose LIRT for my four letter identifier. This helped to give more information about the plant and I could easily look at the code and tell you what it was without looking at the plant list. The problem with this was if you had several types of hollies that have different species or cultivars then you have to get really creative in order to vary all the codes. It wore me out and I soon realized it was not a sign of weakness that I would refer to the plant list if I could not remember the exact plant on the design based on the code-so why not switch to the two letter codes if I had to refer to the plant list anyhow? My logic let me get past that because even with the four letter codes some designs are quite in depth and many codes can be confusing and even I forget things at times. I'm only human right? Also, due to the fact the four letter codes are more writing on the design the additional clutter can make the design harder to read. Needless to say I now use the two letter codes.

I found most designers like use the two letter codes and I switched to it myself. The two letter codes I use are pretty simple. I just take the first letter of the genus and the first letter of the species and use that. For instance, if I used the plant Amsonia hubrectii, I would choose the code AH for the code. If I also had a plant called Agastache hyssop which theoretically would also be coded as an AH, then I might have a problem because I certainly could not use the AH again. In this case I might choose to use the A for agastache then maybe the first letter of the cultivar name (if applicable). Let's take a look at coding Agastache hyssop 'Blue Fortune'. I might choose to use either AB for agastache and blue as in 'Blue Fortune', or AF for agastache and F as in 'Blue Fortune' in order to differentiate the agastache  from the Amsonia hubrectii. Have I confused you all enough? I hope not because coding plants is really not difficult. The key is to stick to a method and use logic when choosing the codes.

As far as botanical and common names I use good plant references for ensuring I have the right names. Common names of plants may vary so it is vitally important to always use the botanical name. I usually use the common name most used in my region to identify the plants but refer to good garden books to ensure I have the right botanical name. Some great plant references are: Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plant for shrubs and trees, The Native Plant Primer by Carole Ottesen for all native plants, The Prentice Hall Encyclopedia of Garden Flowers by Anita Pereire for garden flowers, and one last quick reference that is useful for general information about a plant is The Southern Living Garden Book. I use other books as well but generally these ones will provide most of the information you might need for your plant list.  

Quantity is based on the amount of plants needed based on the design. The height and width of the plant is the mature size and you can get this information from the above listed books. The size on my plant lists refer to the planting size. This is the size I recommend the landscaper or client purchase for planting. Perennials will normally be in 4" pots or gallon pots. I prefer shrubs in 3 gallon pots or larger but will occasionally specify smaller pots for shrubs depending on the shrub, cost or availability. Larger pots and sizes for planting aren't necessarily the best way and I've found the smaller sized plants will adjust better and fill in pretty quickly. They'll also be better established and more able to withstand stressors in the garden. 

I use Microsoft Excel to print my lists. Computers are wonderful! Not only can I prepare a professional looking list I can keep track of all the plants easily while working on the design. Once all is said and done, been quality checked over and and over again, I print the list. Avery has a full sheet label I use to print my plant lists. It is Avery 18665 Clear Full Sheet Label. This label is a lifesaver!  The paper is transparent and when you place it on vellum you can't tell there is a label there. This method of printing and attaching the label to the design was quite popular in college amongst my classmates so I thought I'd pass the tip along.

One last thing I try to do with my plant lists is to specify an alternative plant. Sometimes the first choice simply is not available or the client finds something else that appeals to them so an alternative gives them options. Ultimately, while I design and specify gardens and the garden plants the garden belongs to the client and they have to have the final say....

in the garden....

Any plant list tips or experiences? 

Note: I switched out my printer and do not have a scanner hooked up to my computer. I should've thought to scan this plant list on my husband's computer but did not. Consequently you have a screen shot of the actual plant list. Sorry for the extra stuff in the shot. 

References used: Plan Graphics for the Landscape Designer and Designing the Landscape, both by Tony Bertauski. 

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team,  

In the Garden


  1. That was very interesting. One can tell you have applied a lot of your knowledge to incorporate what you learned in your classes and have come up with a great product. Very professional Tina. As for the screen print, it works...don't apologize.

  2. Thanks Janet, you are most kind and that is appreciated. There is a lot of info in this post but it's hard to cover something like this in article.

  3. Wow, there is alot of info here, I just kind of put the wild flower plants where I think they may like a spot. I've lost alot that way.
    I have to check into those labels! I need something for all the babbles I have, whew!

  4. It all makes good sense but I must say I am surprised that there is not a universal code system for all the plants. It is all a lot of work.

  5. Dawn, Tons of info I know. But it might be helpful to others-plus I can refer back to it when I forget; which I so often do now a days. Hope you are staying well.

    Mom, It would be impossible to have a standard key I think for all the plants. There are just so many plants. The key really makes it all work. Lots of work indeed.

  6. Wow, this is like a learning a new language! Interesting and tons of info you shared today....

    Warmer here today and I am loving it....

  7. Skeeter, It got cold here again but the Jimster and Mr. Fix-it are off so we are going to do something. I see some walking in store to help work off the holiday pounds. I hope you enjoy this day very much.

    Only one more week until Christmas!!

  8. Thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge Tina - it's very interesting and clear that you have a passion for your work! Merry Christmas

  9. What a great post to help people planning large plantings like that. You certainly are organized. I'm sure your clients appreciate seeing everything planned so nicely especially if they're aren't sure about picking plants.

  10. So interesting Tina. Thank you for taking the time to do this post. There are sure lots of wildflowers listed I know nothing about. The advice I liked the best was: "specify an alternative plant." That is such good advice. And I am going to make note of it for myself! I sit and dream up these planting ideas then can't find the plant, or find it needs shade or more sun--good, good idea to think of alternatives!

  11. Putting your plant lists on Excell is a great idea. Whenever we move and I have a new yard to landscape or I decide to redo a garden bed, I always just use Microsoft word or an old notebook.

    Have you ever grown Bowman's Root? It's latin name is Porteranthus. It'a southeastern native that is really beautiful in the spring and makes a great green filler in the summer. It has wonderful leaves that look like japanese maple leaves and white, star shaped flowers.

  12. As someone who has never taken a class in landscape design, this is really helpful, Tina. I can see you're very organized, and your clients surely appreciate how professional your plans are. Have you already planted this garden? I'd love to see it in bloom!

  13. TS, I don't grow Bowman's root but it is on my list for a desire. I'll come across it one of these days. I like that it fills in the summer and does not disappear in the summer-had no idea.

    Rose, We have not gotten this garden planted but the landscaper is laid on and things will most likely get moving. First some stone edging then backfill then the plants. Probably not until the spring so it'll be the following spring before it looks like much. I'll probably post pictures.

  14. This is really interesting to learn. Plant lists are helpful in so many ways, now your client will always know what she has in that garden, unlike me who loses track because I don't write anything down. I bet this garden is beautiful going by the list of what's planted in it.

  15. Hi Tina, I really enjoyed that insight into your professional life. How do you determine plant spacings? Do you go for eventual size or plant closer to give a more full look initially knowing that division etc will be required later?

  16. Wow great post! You really have to be creative with the names and abbreviations since there could be so many similar combos out there!

  17. This is great Tina! Thank you for sharing some of your techniques for organization. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for a very Happy New Year!