Best Planting Design

There are no hard and fast rules of the best planting design in any medium- merely a personal approach which, if valid and combined with a mastery of technical aspects, can lead to good design. The following are the approaches to planting trees and shrubs in the landscape.

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Knowledge of Landscape Designer

Thorough knowledge of plants is absolutely essential to the successful use of trees and shrubs in landscape design- About this, there can be no compromise.

Such knowledge must extend far beyond the identification of genus or species, or familiarity with sources of supply; it must be knowledge based on experience with every aspect of the plant species-its growth habit, soil preference, reaction to transplanting and pruning; its hardiness to climatic extremes, resistance against or susceptibility to diseases or fungus or insect pests; its moisture requirements, tolerance of salt, carbon monoxide, or other hazards natural or of man’s making; and finally knowledge of the company it keeps, more technically termed ecology- those plants with which it is at home in nature, which have similar preferences of cultivation and with which it looks most natural.

Constant but predictable change

Trees and shrubs are changing the shape, color, and size during their juvenile stage, but they are not mercurial. All changes can be anticipated by the designer who knows and understands plants. The fall foliage color of each variety is predictable and varies only in intensity from year to year. Only a design that anticipates these changes and emphasis them can be truly successful and beautiful.

Four-dimension for best planting design

This element of change means that for the landscape architect a design is not completed until planting has not been executed. The completion of planting is only the beginning of a process in which time in combination with the natural phenomenon of growth carries the design forward.

A capable designer will anticipate the rate and amount of growth to be expected by the species he has used in his design, thereby ensuring proper spacing of trees in maturity in relation to buildings and to each other.

Appropriate Design

Since landscape architectural design is most often created in relation to enframing buildings, it must relate itself closely in quality to the surrounding architecture. It must be appropriate:

a.  Appropriate in the close of plant materials and in the degree of enrichment.

b.  Appropriate in color and vitality to the buildings of which it is a part, and

c. Appropriate to the use for which it has been designed.

Dominant tree and shrub

To ensure unity in a planting design it is wise to select one plant species to be used in greater quantity than any other and to be placed in all principal spaces. Such a dominant plant will, by the repetition of its form, color, and texture, lend continuity to the design.

Limited plant list

As in architecture, a restful elegance can be achieved in planting by the simplicity of detail and material. The use of only a few plant species and varieties closely related by texture, form, and color will lend this quality to a design. Such restraint in the use of plants is especially important in close proximity to buildings to avoid distracting from the architecture.

Architectural trees and shrubs

Certain species have a regularity of form that is retained without pruning. Such regular of form lends itself to regular or geometric spacing as in an avenue or grove where all trees and shrubs must be matched.

For architectural plantings of this kind, it is inconsistent to use a tree such as Ficusnitida with its dense foliage and characteristically conforming close crown.

Architectural or orchard plantings call for a density of foliage and branching in order to present a strongly outlined appearance in winter as well as summers, such as Araucaria excelsa, Thujaorientails, Hameliapatons, and Murraya exotica.

Evergreen skeleton

A planting design that disintegrates in winter when defoliation of deciduous trees and shrubs takes place is a weak design.

Evergreen, properly used, can provide a skeleton that gives year-round structure to outdoor space, contributing color and contrast as well.

Evergreen trees and shrubs are also useful in providing recall from one area to another like Murraya exotica, Hemeliapetons, Cupressussempervirensand Pinushelipensis. 


Color in the landscape must be massed to be effective. The use of single plants of colorful foliage or blossom creates a restless scene; groups of plants (three or more) of similar color are more effective.

Colorful trees and shrubs also aid in providing recall. A word of caution, however, against many varieties of unrelated colors and the use of colors that conflict with architecture. Examples: Delonixregia, Sapiumsebiferum, Acer oblongum, and Hemeliapatena.

Specimen tree and shrub

The isolated specimen tree and shrub of unusual size, shape, color, or texture is an excellent device to emphasize a point in the spatial composition or draw the eye toward or away from some aspect of the architecture.

The specimen tree and shrub placed in a space of proper proportions should be used as one would use sculpture, Examples: Alstonia scholaris, Mimusops elengi, Plumeria obtuse, and Hamelia patens.

Native trees and shrubs

It is always wise to plant species native to the site if they adequately fulfill the design requirements, for these species have already proved themselves hardy in the soil and climatic conditions of the area.

This will mean fewer maintenance problems in terms of winter protection, summer watering, soil enrichment,  and other care.

Immediate effect

The immediate effect is the term given to a planting which, because of the size of the trees and shrubs used, present armature appearance from the outset.

Under most circumstances planning an entire planting for immediate effect is an error, for the owner then has nothing to look forward to. Even those who are most in a hurry should be given the pleasure of watching some trees mature.

On commercial projects, however, where the planting assumes a certain advertising value, the immediate effect is often an appropriate approach.

Planting for the future

Public buildings with a long life expectancy should be planted to long-lived varieties such as palms, Olive, and Alstonia which are very slow in maturity.

There can be used in combination with faster-growing varieties like Poplus, Tamarix aphylla, Eucalyptus, and Melia to provide some immediate effect and can be removed later on.

Minimum maintenance

A planting design that needs, for its continued good appearance, more care than it is likely to receive is a bad design.

The choice of trees and shrubs requiring special pruning, spraying, or watering care should be provided at all costs unless adequate maintenance is available or unless a special design effect is desired which cannot be equaled by any other tree and shrub.

The selection of hardy species is always better for less maintenance.

Inspection, identification and labeling of plants

Since trees and shrubs do not have standardization of shape or size as do architectural materials, the planting plan is not the end of the landscape architect’s contribution but merely a starting point for composing with actual plants delivered to the site. The implementation of the planting plan is as follows:

a. All plants are inspected in the nursery prior to digging.

b. The number of individual plants is placed on the plan so that these will be delivered to the proper area of the project.

c. While the plants are being dug in the nursery the planting contractor is requested to place stakes on the site for each plant as shown in the drawing. When the plants are delivered to the site, they are placed at these positions and united in order to show their branch structure.

d. All the landscaped plants are labeled with their scientific names.

Planting process

It is the process that transfers the design from paper to the site. The result of this process of installation in a planting scheme which accurately locates and identifies all plant materials to be planted.

The successful installation of planting materials in landscape is determined by:

Preparation of the planting site

Proper planting

Post-transplant care

Lawn grass

Preparation of Planting Site


Areas that have not been touched by building operations can be prepared by cultivating the topsoil to a depth of 25 cm.

When the subsoil forms a hard layer this should be broken up to a further depth of 25 cm without mixing the two layers.

Clearance of Debris

All the wastage of building materials and stones should be collected from the cultivated soil and removed from the site.

Clearance of Weeds

It is much easier to destroy weeds while the ground is still bare of planting materials. Weeds should be controlled by cultivation or weedicides.

It is essential that the manufacturer’s instructions are followed in detail and all precautions are observed when using weed killers.


It may be necessary to provide special drainage in certain cases, particularly on heavy soils or where the natural drainage has been impeded by buildings operation or landscaping.

Drains should be laid after ground shaping has been completed and the level should be so accurate so that the overflow or excess of water should run into the drain.

Top Soil, Digging and Filling of Pits

Topsoil should be deep enough for plants to be planted with all their roots in this layer. Areas witch have been stripped or dug of topsoil will need the following minimum depths of soil after spreading of filling.

  1. For ground covers and flowering beds 25cm deep.
  2. For roses and shrubs 45×45 cm deep.
  3. For trees pits 75×75 cm deep.