If you’re anything like me, creating a new garden bed or planting is an anxiety-producing activity. No matter how often I read the books, think about plant combinations or sketch out my garden plan, I’m never absolutely sure if I’ve created the best possible design. I definitely have a fear of commitment when it comes to putting plants in the ground.

Using pots for garden layout

My plants just wait in their pots for me to commit to a design.

Photo Credit: Tres Fromme

Finished garden

Less than a year later, my planting beds look exactly how I wanted them. (And they look great in bloom!)

Photo Credit: Tres Fromme

In other gardens, I’ve spent a lot of my time digging up plants and moving them around to find that “perfect” spot. Sometimes entire beds became refugees as I sought a new home for each resident. Admittedly, this produced unexpectedly delightful results front time to time. Most often, though, my plants had trouble getting established because of the constant relocating. I also found myself exhausted – and frankly, my significant other was befuddled by the whole thing. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, here’s an idea that might help you out – like it’s helped me.

When I started my new garden in Dallas, I made a conscious decision to take my time. Being a plant fanatic, however, I wasn’t really able to restrain myself from buying scores of plants, so I found myself wondering what to do with them all. My patio became a temporary nursery. While the neat rows of pots looked rather tidy, it really wasn’t much of a garden.

Instead of sketching out a design and planting right in the ground like I’d always done, I took a new approach: I decided on a design, then placed the plants on top of the soil – pot and all – where I thought they’d work out best. Then I took my time living with the results.

I took all sorts of things into consideration when deciding whether I liked how the beds looked or not: I viewed them from the house. I watched how the dogs moved through the plantings. I observed how the colors and textures matched. And since nothing was planted, making adjustments was easy – I just picked up a plant and tried it in a new spot. Reviewing the planting scheme this way helped show me what was effective and what was missing. A few trips to the garden center helped filled in the gaps, but still, nothing went into the ground right away.

And so I lived with my “draft garden” for about two months. Yes, watering the 20-odd plants was a daily chore – and yes, a few died along the way. (Living in a black 1-gallon pot during the heat and sun of a Texas summer is no easy accomplishment. The survivors certainly proved their drought tolerance and generally rugged constitutions.)

The relatively cool fall weather found me, shovel in hand, finally making a commitment. This was an excellent time to plant, since the shrubs and perennials would have all winter to put down roots and prepare for the following spring. Since Dallas gets lots of rain in winter and spring, I was free from the vigilant watering that an earlier planting would have mandated.

And my garden was worth the wait! I’m truly pleased with how it looks.

So if you find yourself digging up plants and moving them all season long to get the right look for your garden, consider taking a new approach. Hold off on any rash planting commitments and take the time to move your plants – container and all – around the garden until you’re happy with where they’re at. You don’t have to wait as long as I did to put them in the ground, but do play the field a bit – and you’ll finally have the relationship with your plants that you’ve always wanted!