Beautiful gardens don't happen by chance. Whether you prefer breathtaking rose gardens, manicured lawns and pruned shrubs or wildly exuberant flower beds with wave after wave of blooming color, the requirements are the same: planning, preparation and work. Consider soil and climate conditions and how much time you can spend maintaining the garden. The results will be well worth it.
Review the location of your garden. Determine how much sun the area receives. Flowers that thrive in sunny conditions will stop blooming if planted in too much shade. Plants that like the shade won't tolerate full sun conditions and will die. Inspect the soil and drainage of the area. Some plants like roses don't do well in soggy soil. Others like bog plants prefer wet feet.
Decide on the level of maintenance. Formal gardens require pruning, dead heading and fertilizing on a regular basis. If that maintenance can't be provided the garden will start to look unkempt and that look isn't beautiful at all. On the other extreme are country gardens or wild flower gardens which don't require much upkeep beyond regular watering and some fertilizing. Large areas of lawn will need to be mowed and fertilized to look their best. Other ground covers provide greenery but won't need as much care.
Match climate and weather conditions to your plant's preferences. Many areas of the country are going through drought conditions with restrictions being placed on water usage. Xeriscaping, or landscaping with low water usage plants, is preferable in these areas. Plants that require chilling such as peonies won't do well in temperate climates after the first year. Tropical plants won't grow in areas where the temperatures approaches freezing. High heat can be a problem as well. Camellias for example won't tolerate temperatures over 90 degrees for very long.
Plan the garden on paper before purchasing plants. Consider the mature heights of trees and shrub varieties. It's possible to prune trees, but why select a variety that grows to 40 feet tall when there are varieties that would be a better fit at 15 feet tall. Keep the blooming times of perennials in mind so that there are flowers in the garden from early spring to late fall. Decide on a color palette so the garden looks coordinated.
Preparation is critical. Don't rush into planting without amending the soil, breaking up dirt clods, removing rocks and weeds. If you're unsure of your soil's condition have it tested at your local University's agriculture program. Add compost, soil amendments, and organic matter to the soil. The plants will thrive and the garden look lovely.