A design theme for garden planting can make a big difference. If you feel your garden is a bit of a hotch-potch, or you can’t decide what to plant, or you’re not sure what would work, a garden design style helps bring it all together. These are a few popular garden planting ideas that can easily provide affordable, low-maintenance, wildlife friendly gardens.

Cottage garden ideas

The classic English garden look.

There are a wealth of pollinator-friendly plants to choose from, for flowers from early spring right through to late autumn: foxgloxes, geraniums (cransesbill), hollyhocks, roses, lavender, echinacea, rudbeckia, yarrow, wallflower and many more.

Courtyard garden planting ideasCourtyard garden planting ideas

In small paved gardens, use walls and trellises with climbers to grow vertically and make the most of limited space: jasmine and honeysuckle are popular pollinator-friendly choices. Use a combination of evergreens, shrubs and small trees to provide structure and year-round interest, for example hebe, black elder and pyracanthus, Then add some seasonal colour with geraniums, penstemon, poppies, verbena, erigeron, astrantia, alliums, spring bulbs, ajuga, rudbeckia, ecinacea, agastache, and many more. And maybe some raised beds for herbs and edibles.

Japanese garden ideasJapanese garden ideas

Acers are a must-have for the Japanese look, but beautiful though they are, they provide little for wildlife. So add hellebores, snowdrops and crocuses for winter early spring; cherry or other spring blossom; Japanese quince, and that essential Japanese element – a pond: the most wildlife-friendly element you can add to your garden.

Shady gardens are suitable for Japanese style planting.

Gravel garden ideasGravel garden ideas

If you don’t want or can’t have a lawn, gravel is an excellent ultra low-maintenance alternative for a small garden.

Plants can go direct in the ground or in half-buried pots, then add some containers, small trees, raised beds or trellises for height. Erigeron, sea holly, grasses, verbena, gernaium, hebe, persicaria, perovskia and ajuga will bring the bees to your yard. Some stylish garden furniture and attractive planters will complete the chic contemporary look.

Shady garden ideasShady garden ideas

Small gardens often get less light, but plenty of plants are happier in shadier gardens.

The good news is that foxgloves, hellebores, geraniums, pulmonaria are low-maintenance bee-friendly plants that don’t need full sun.

Ferns, evergreen shrubs and euphorbia can elegantly fill dark corners.

Scented garden ideasScented garden ideas

Fragrant plants and flowers can transform small gardens and front gardens – and indeed any garden.

Create a symphony for the senses from early spring to late autumn with viburnum, roses, lavender, salvia, jasmine, honeysuckle, perovskia, wallflowers, phlox and herbs.

Tropical garden ideasTropical garden ideas

Create an exotic mini-jungle with dramatic foliage plants: fatsia, hostas, phormiums and heucheras.

Splash some vivid colours around for a taste of the tropics, with lillies, passion flowers, crocosmia, sedum, alliums, and agastache.

Tropical gardens can work surprisingly well in small spaces, and can be a good low-maintenance option.

Mediterranean garden ideasCoastal garden ideas

A coastal garden is a good setting for Mediterranean garden style planting. Herbs such as rosemary, rosemary, sage, thyme and lavender do well in coastal locations. Striking plants like sea holly and euphorbia can add a dramatic touch, especially combined with ornamental grasses.

Add some evergreens for winter interest, and enjoy a riot of colour in summer by the sea

(Also a good choice if you can be a bit forgetful about watering, as these are generally tolerant of dry conditions.)