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If you’re struggling with creating a cohesive landscape and arranging plants within a garden bed, you’re going to love this blocking method.

1- Create a Series of Blocks that Overlap Each Other

The first step in the blocking method is to draw out a series of rectangular blocks that overlap each other.

These rectangular shapes will form the composition of your design, so take your time. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ideas!

Thumbnail sketches of different blocking method formations

Draw a series of blocks that overlap. I like to create small thumbnails and experiment with different block formations. Illustration by PrettyPurpleDoor.

If you know where you’ll be planting your garden bed, make sure that none of your blocks will “block” your windows, doors, utilities or other views.

For example, if you had a low window on the right side of the garden bed, you’d want to add a rectangle that’s lower than the bottom of the window.

2- Fill Each Block with a Plant

Thumbnail sketches of plant forms inside blocks.

Fill each block with a single plant or a series of the same plant. I like to create multiple small sketches then choose my favorites to refine. Illustration by PrettyPurpleDoor.

Use one only one plant type or one form per block (like a row of catmint or a group of inkberry holly). For right now, just use basic plant shapes and repeat them in the blocks.

By having to repeat the same plant form and also choose different forms for each block, it’s going to force you to think about layering and repetition, which are two really important principles in garden design.

Here are some plant forms you can try.

Hand Drawn Plant Forms
All plants can be reduced to a simple form, such as mounding, rounded, vase, horizontal, spikey, weeping, oval, pyramidal and more. Illustration by PrettyPurpleDoor.

If possible, repeat your plant forms within the block and try to use a variety of plant forms in your layout. This will add contrast to you design. Contrast, by the way, is another important garden design principle.

If you like these plant form sketches, you can also grab my free printable and use them to create your own garden plan.

3- Refine Your Design

Thumbnail Sketch with Refined Garden Drawing Below

Here you can see the selected sketch and how I refined the shapes and forms to make them more “plant-like.” I also add color at this stage to better visualize the design. Illustration by PrettyPurpleDoor.

After I’ve drawn a few different thumbnail versions, I pick my favorites and refine them.

This is where you can start to think about what plants you may want to use and how you can achieve a good balance.

If you still don’t know what plants to use, that’s ok!

After you come up with the layout you like, you can research plants that are in the particular size, shape and color you’ve drawn. One website I like for this is garden.org’s advanced plant search.

I almost always pick my plants last when I’m designing, too.

4- Add Color

Next, add color so you can better visualize your design. I like to experiment with a lot of different color combinations.

Searching inspiring gardens on Pinterest, Houzz, Instagram or even in magazines is a great way to get inspired with color.

Another handy trick is to look at the artwork on your walls or the colors of the clothes in your closet! It will help you to learn what colors you’re attracted to and what looks good together in your eye.

Two garden plan drawings in different color schemes

After you’ve developed a design using the blocking method, be sure to experiment with different color combinations to see what may inspire you. Illustration by Pretty Purple Door.

If you want to learn more about color, check out my article on creating your own color garden schemes.

Or, head over to this article if you want to learn more ways you can draw a killer garden plan by hand.

Garden Plan Blocking Method How-To Video

Watch this quick video of the blocking method in action.

I learned the Blocking Method from Lisa Nunamaker over at Paper Garden Workshop, so be sure to check out her website and thank her for introducing us to this fun and useful drawing technique! 

Wrapping Up

If you’re struggling with arranging plants in a garden bed you’re going to love this blocking method. First, create a series of blocks that overlap each other. This will form the composition of your design so take your time. Fill each block with a plant. Use one only one plant per block. If you can, repeat your plant within the block and try to use a variety of plant shapes/forms your layout to add contrast. Next, refine your design… think about what plants you may want to use and how you can achieve a good balance. Then, add color so you can visualize your design.

If you’re looking for more ways to draw your garden, head over to this post where I discuss my top 5 tips for drawing a killer garden plan.

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