Answer: Preparing to plant a new garden can sometimes seem overwhelming, but if you take it one step at a time, it should come together easily.
The three chief factors determining what will grow in a particular spot are sunlight, the composition of the soil and soil moisture. While you can have some influence on soil composition and moisture, as far as sunlight goes, you're stuck with what you have. It is important to have a good idea of what amount of sunlight will reach your garden throughout the year. Plants that require "full sun" will generally need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Patches under large deciduous shade trees receive only mottled sunlight. In this situation there can be large variations in the amount of light hitting nearby spots, so generally you will want to find plants that require "half sun," or a few hours of direct sun a day. Other sites, like the north side of a building, are going to remain in shade year-round. The shade garden requires the most careful planning, but there are many wonderful plants that will thrive in the darkest of shade.
Some of the best plants for shade include Red Osier Dogwood, Yew, impatiens, bleeding heart, hosta, lamium, hydrangeas and periwinkle. Of course there are dozens of other possibilities. You'll want to visit garden centers and make note of the plants that especially appeal to you. Be sure to jot down their mature size (usually mentioned on the plant label). Then go home and sketch out where you'd like to put each plant, being sure to give each enough room to grow to its full potential. Do the same for plants that prefer sunny spots. After you'd sketched things out and are satisfied with the look on paper, purchase your plants and set them out in the garden beds. You can move them around until you're happy with the way things look. The final step is planting.
Fall is a good time to plant hardy trees, shrubs and perennials so you can get started now. Some tender perennials and annuals should not be planted now. Your nursery staff can tell you which plants are best to put into the ground now.
Hope this information is helpful!
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