I suggest you do a little bit of research and make notes before you buy any plants. This is the best approach for gaining a clearer idea of what you need, so you don’t stand dumbfounded in the garden centre not knowing where to start – which I have done at times. I advise you to buy your containers first. This may seem a little odd, but it’s the best place to begin. Starting with the containers means that you can decide how much space you want to fill, where to put them and then how many plants you need to get. For advice on choosing containers, see pages 22–23. If you buy the containers before the plants, it’s a good idea to take them with you to the plant nursery or garden centre. If that’s not possible, make sure you at least take a picture of them on your phone. That way, you can match the containers to your selection of plants.
If you’re choosing plants for the first time, I suggest always going to the nursery or garden centre in person. Although you can buy plants online, for me one of the most enjoyable parts of gardening is looking at and choosing them. That aside, it’s imperative to see the array of colour in the shopping trolley so you can check you’re happy with the combinations. The plants are going to become part of your home, so you want to get this right. It’s also important to pick the healthiest plants in order to give your containers the best possible start, which sometimes doesn’t happen with online purchases, believe me.
Most plant nurseries and garden centres will have someone there who can help you out, so don’t be afraid to ask. Typically, the plants are organised and labelled according to how much sun they require and which plants like shade to give you a starting point and guide you if you’re unsure of what to get.