Arranging a garden is a delicate balancing act. You have to account for your own aesthetic judgments, the shape and size of your garden, hardscape and softscape obstacles, such as walls, trees and garden fountains, and the needs of each plant. Transplanting plants is often difficult for the gardener and stressful for the plants, so take your time and get it right the first time. Not only will your garden look better, but it will be easier to keep plants healthy.
Draw a map of your garden on graph paper. Label areas of high and low ground and high and low sunlight.
Make a list of the types of plants you want to grow in your garden. Do you wish to grow flowers, vegetables, herbs, bushes, grasses or a combination of plants? If you want to grow a combination, decide if you want to mingle your plants or divide your garden into multiple mini gardens such as a flower garden and a vegetable garden.
Pick plants based on the sun and water conditions of your garden. Put high water plants on lower ground where they will receive runoff. Use shade-loving or shade-tolerant plants in the darker areas of your garden and save the brightest spots for Coleus, Sunflower, succulents and other plants that crave lots of light. Plant heat-loving plants near driveways, walkways and other paved structures.
Plant taller plants to the north of shorter ones. This will keep them from overshadowing the other plants.
Place plants that need different soil conditions than the soil in your garden and plants that are not cold-hardy in planters with their ideal type of soil. This will allow exotic plants to thrive despite your garden's soil condition and will let you take tender plants inside for the winter. Place plants that spread aggressively, such as running bamboo, in planters or surround them with root barriers to stop them from taking over your garden.