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How to Create a Theme Garden

Updated on March 6, 2017
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Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Medieval Herb Garden at The Cloisters, New York, NY
Medieval Herb Garden at The Cloisters, New York, NY | Source

Theme gardens are gardens that are designed around a specific idea. They are a great way to showcase your interests and even your favorite flowers. The most common themes are Shakespeare, the Bible, colors, historical periods and geographical areas.

Choosing a theme

Choose a theme that is meaningful to you. Researching plants and designing your garden will be more fun if the result is a something that really speaks to you. For instance, if you are a Civil War buff, you might want to use plants that were commonly grown during that time period. Members of the Red Hat Society could choose flowers in their signature red and purple. Or perhaps you are a Harry Potter fan. Wouldn't it be fun to plant a magical garden of plants mentioned in that series?

Do your research - libraries

Once you have decided on your theme, it's time to start your research. The first place to go is to your local library. Don't worry if the selection is limited. Many libraries are members of consortiums, groups of libraries in a geographic area that lend books to everyone living in that area who is a member of one of the participating libraries. Do a keyword search on the consortium website just as you would on an internet search engine such as Google. You will be rewarded with a list of books matching your keyword(s). Each listing tells you which library has the book, whether it is available or not and often a brief description of the contents. Place your order for the book or books that you are interested in and they will be delivered to your local library in a few days. Then you can get started on your design and plant list.

Japanese Garden at Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Japanese Garden at Brooklyn Botanical Garden | Source

Do your research - public gardens

Visiting public gardens is an excellent source of information and inspiration. Many botanical gardens have Shakespeare Gardens if you have chosen that as your theme. There are also Japanese gardens and Chinese gardens to visit, garden restorations from various time periods and plant collections if you are interested in creating a native plant garden or a woodland garden. Be sure to bring a camera and a notebook. This is a great chance to see the plants you are considering in an actual garden. Take pictures of design ideas and plant combinations that you want to use in your own garden. Use your notebook to write down plants to add to your list as well as any additional information from your visit that you want to remember.

Buying plants

You don't need to wait until spring to buy your plants and seeds. You can order them from the comfort of your own home thanks to the internet. The sources for plants and seeds are nearly endless. You can either request catalogs or shop online. Be sure to check out online message boards for seed swaps. When spring arrives, you can visit local nurseries. Participating in local plant swaps is a great way to get rid of any extra plants you have and exchange them for plants that you want.

You don't have to be limited to just one theme garden. You can have as many theme gardens as you have ideas and space for them. And don't forget a place to sit and enjoy your theme gardens. A strategically placed bench can serve as a focal point in your yard as well as a place to relax and enjoy your creation.

© 2008 Caren White


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