Flowers in a garden

Imagine a gorgeous flower garden drenched with color from early spring to the first frost of autumn.

A daydream, you say? Not anymore! This flower garden design fills the wish list of amateur and expert gardeners alike with …

  • Constant color: Spring flowers and foliage in burgundy, pink, and blue give way to yellow, orange, blue, and ebony for summer and autumn.
  • Effortless impact: This plot is almost maintenance-free. For at least five years, it will need no staking, dividing, or pruning—only fertilizing, feeding, and maybe a bit of weeding.
  • Easy adaptability: The plot size can be reduced or expanded to suit your space (and time), and these plants tolerate most climates, whether the first freeze occurs on September 10 or November 15. (Because most of these perennials need winter chill, this garden is not appropriate for subtropical climates such as southern Florida and southern California.)

Three Seasons of Color

Spring Color

  • ‘Black Lace’ elderberry
  • Rozanne geranium
  • ‘Foxtrot’ tulip
  • ‘King of Hearts’ dicentra
  • ‘Obsidian’ heuchera
  • Wine & Roses weigela


Tulips

Summer Color

  • ‘Connecticut Yankee’ delphinium
  • ‘Goldsturm’ rudbeckia
  • ‘Mardi Gras’ helenium
  • ‘May Night’ salvia
  • ‘Mönch’ aster
  • ‘Summer Sun’ heliopsis

(‘Black Lace’ elderberry, Rozanne geranium, ‘Obsidian’ heuchera, and Wine & Roses weigela will still bloom.)


Heliopsis

Fall Color

  • ‘Arendsii’ monkshood
  • ‘Mönch’ hardy aster

(‘Black Lace’ elderberry, Rozanne geranium, ‘Goldsturm’ rudbeckia, Mardi Gras helenium, ‘May Night’ salvia, ‘Obsidian’ heuchera, ‘Summer Sun’ heliopsis, and Wine & Roses weigela will still bloom.)

Garden Ground Rules

  • The bed is 16 feet long and 6 feet wide.
  • The garden requires at least six hours of sunlight a day.
  • The 13 plant varieties are massed in numbers of each for maximum color and instant curb appeal. The plan is customizable to your best advantage, as a border or an island.
  • To create larger beds, double or triple the number of plants
  • If space (or time) is at a premium, cut the length of the bed to 8 feet, reduce the number of plants accordingly, and forgo the large ‘Black Lace’ elderberry shrub.
  • For a centerpiece in the middle of a lawn, place the elderberry and taller perennials in the middle and surround them with plants of shorter stature, ending with Rozanne geranium and ‘Obsidian’ heuchera at the edge of the bed.

Best Three-Season Plants List

A three-season garden requires three essential ingredients:

  1. Perennials that bloom copiously year after year
  2. Small shrubs with color-saturated foliage all season long
  3. Plants that do not spread aggressively

These characteristics are found in all of the following:

  1. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’)
    1 plant
  2. Weigela (Weigela Wine & Roses)
    2 plants
  3. Bleeding heart (Dicentra ‘King of Hearts’)
    4 plants
  4. Heuchera (Heuchera ‘Obsidian’)
    2 plants
  5. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’)
    2 plants
  6. Ox eye (Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra ‘Sommersonne’, aka ‘Summer Sun’)
    2 plants
  7. Sneezeweed (Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’)
    2 plants
  8. Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’, aka ‘May Night’)
    4 plants
  9. Cranesbill (Geranium ‘Gerwat’, aka Rozanne)
    8 plants
  10. Aster (Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’)
    3 plants
  11. Tulip (Tulipa ‘Foxtrot’)
    40 bulbs
  12. Monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelli ‘Arendsii’)
    6 plants
  13. Delphinium (Delphinium ‘Connecticut Yankee’ series)
    6 plants


Helenium

Tips for Success Every Season

  • Before you start digging, arrange the potted plants on the bed so that you can get a general idea of what the garden will look like. Remember to leave space between the plants to allow them to grow wider.
  • Plant from the back of the bed to the front. Set shrubs and perennials at the same depth as they are in containers.
  • For a lush look, plant tulip bulbs thickly (about 5 per square foot of bed). After they bloom, remove the dead flowers so that the bulbs put their energy into storing nutrients for the next season rather than into setting seeds. Remove tulip leaves after they brown. Don’t worry about appearances; nearby perennials will cover up the aging leaves.
  • Fertilize if you want these plants to thrive. Scrape away any mulch from the base of each plant in the early spring and spread an inch of compost around the plants. In July, lightly mix bonemeal or a slow-release fertilizer into the surface of the soil above the bulbs. (Note: Bonemeal may attract rodents that will dig for bones.) Learn more about organic soil amendments.
  • Spread 3 inches of mulch over the bed. It will help to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Use an organic material (such as shredded bark or leaf mold), which adds nutrients to the soil as it decays. Cedar bark mulch is an excellent choice as well, because the resins in it repel many insects and prevent fungal diseases. Learn more about mulch.
  • Remove fading flowers to increase perennials’ bloom production. Shrubs drop their old flowers and will bloom again if conditions are right.
  • Do not remove brown foliage on perennials until early spring when new green growth appears. The dead material insulates plant roots from the temperature extremes of winter.
  • If you must prune your shrubs, do so after the shrubs flower, not in early spring.

Once your three-season plot is planted, be patient. Perennials reach their full size and beauty by the second season. Shrubs grow more slowly, reaching their mature size 3 to 5 years after planting.

Do you have a perennial garden? What’s your favorite perennial flower? Let us know in the comments below!

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Designing a flower Garden

Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas- Elizabeth Murray

Flower garden designing need not be the domain of designers and landscapers. Anyone gifted with a little patience and imagination can create a flower garden, which will be a source of perpetual joy.

Flowers are not only for special occasions but we can incorporate their warmth and beauty in our daily life by planting them in our own gardens.while designing your flower garden, you can experiment with different types of flowers, colors and seasons.

While designing your flower garden, your only limit is your imagination.

How To Design a Flower Garden

While designing a flower garden, you must follow a basic plan. The following factors must be kept in mind while designing your garden:

  • Sunlight: Different plants require different amounts of light. Most plants prefer full sun (6 or more hours of direct sun each day). Others need full- or part-shade. Some plants may grow perfectly in the shade but flower better in full sun.
  • Soil:You should avoid locating flower gardens where there is standing water after heavy rains or during the spring. Prepare soil well in advance of planting — preferably in fall for planting the following spring.
  • Where to plant? :Design your flower garden considering the views from private outdoor spaces such as patios, decks, and terraces. Don’t forget about how the garden will look when viewed through windows from inside the house. They should look pleasant to neighbours and passersby also.
  • Tough places: One of the most difficult places for growing flowers is the base of a tough, mature tree because of the competition for nutrients and moisture.
  • Start a sketch: You can start by sketching a draft of your proposed flower garden design on paper. First lay down the basic plan of your house, considering other buildings and the already existing plants. You can plant them according to their individual requirement of sunlight. For example, areas close to the north sides of buildings get little direct sun.
  • Slope: Flower gardens thrive on level or slightly sloping grounds. Steep slopes lead to erosion and terracing must be done to check the soil erosion. Steep slopes are good for rock gardens.
  • Borders and islands: You must look for spaces for creating new flowerbeds in your flower garden. These may be border beds, tied along one edge to a building, fence, or walkway. Or they may be island beds, carved out of the middle of the lawn.
  • Background: You must consider the background in your flower garden before creating a flowerbed to provide pleasant visual contrast. Buildings, fences, hedges, or a row of evergreen trees can keep the plants from just becoming one with the existing landscape. Growing vines on a fence can give that background an interesting texture. But solid background may restrict the air circulation and cause diseases if the plants are grown too close.
  • Width: In a small floower garden with limited space, 2- to 3-foot-wide borders may make the most sense. The standard for traditional English perennial borders is that they need to be at least 6 to 8 feet wide to accommodate the range of plants needed to provide varying heights and continuous bloom. But you are free to experiment with options that fall between these two.
  • Shape: Formal flower gardens usually have straight edges that are easier to maintain. Gently curving edges provide a less formal look and give the bed the illusion that it is longer than it really is.
  • Edging: Use a garden hose to mark the edge of your flower bed before creating one in your flower garden.You can use flour, lime, or landscape paint to mark the edge. Products made from metal or plastic, bricks, field stones, or pavers are some edging materials you can use.
  • Plant height: Plants of different heights should be arranged in your flower garden according to from where you want to view them. Generally, short plants are grown in the front and the taller ones behind, but if you want to view them from the window of your house, then it should be the other way round. To create a smooth gradation of heights in your flower garden, the tallest plants should be no taller than about two-thirds the width of the bed, or half the width of the bed in the case of island beds.
  • Plan for constant color and interest: Choose plants that thrive and bloom throughout the year and even in winter. Spring-flowering bulbs are good for early color. Herbaceous perennials have specific times during the growing season. Many annuals, once they start flowering, continue to bloom until fall frost.
  • Foliage and form: Though spectacular blooms always captivate us, we should not ignore the rest of the plant that can add color and interesting background to the flower garden. Different plants grow into different shapes. Some plants grow into cushions, mounds, or clumps. Others are upright and spiky. Still others are round and bushy. You can mix these shapes for a different effect in your flower garden.
  • Arrangement: Plants are grown in regular patterns in formal gardens and in informal gardens, they are either grown in clumps or drifts to give a more natural look.Planting the same kind of plant in clumps or drifts produces more visual impact than planting a single plant.Alternating two different colors in a rigid pattern (red, yellow, red, yellow … ) in close proximity produces a jarring effect. Repeating a plant or color in several places along a border brings about cohesiveness to a seemingly random planting.
  • Specialty gardens: You can specialize in a particular type of gardening. For example, rock gardens have plants that thrive in gravelly, well-drained soils. Other gardeners have particular interest in growing plants that attract butterflies or hummingbirds. You may create water gardens, bog gardens, prairie gardens, or woodland gardens. You can use your creativity to incorporate them in your own flower garden and create your own style.
  • Color: Cool colors, such as blues, soft pinks, and violets, are known to produce a relaxing effect. Use them around decks and patios where you want to create a tranquil atmosphere in your flower garden.Cool colors do not show up well from a distance, and have the most color impact when viewed from close. They create an illusion of depth.Warm colors, such as reds, oranges, and yellows, are bold and stimulating. Warm colors are visible from farther distances, such as across a yard or from the street. Use hot colors moderately or the mind and eyes may grow tired of the visual stimulation. They can be mixed with cool colors to create a balancing effect.
  • Texture: Texture refers to the tactile and visual surface of all elements used in the garden. Texture may refer to the amount of light reflected from plant foliage. Glossy-leafed plants attract the eye, while dull-leafed plants appear flat and tend to recede. Texture also includes leaf size. Generally, coarse textures are suitable for large landscapes, and finer textures for smaller spaces. However, coarse textures can be used as accents in small landscapes.Grow plants that match the size of your flower garden.
  • Form: Form refers to the three dimensional shape of plants, individual flowers, or space. Herbaceous plants have many different forms, including upright, vase-shaped, oval, pyramidal, spreading, etc. These forms can give a different look to the garden, though too much variety can create commotion. Mix and match these forms to bring out the best effect in your flower garden.
  • Plant Dimension: Plant dimension refers to the height and width of plants. You can create different levels or stories in your flower garden by an interesting mix of different plant dimensions.

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Types of Flower Garden Design

You can design your garden acccording to the kind of flowers you desire to grow.There are two such major types:

Annual Flower Garden

An annual is a plant that grows, flowers, sets seed and dies the same season. The term “annual” is also applied to tender perennial that survive the winter only in the mildest of climates. Annuals enhance the beauty of your garden by their bold colors creating a cheerful mood. The real advantage of annuals is that they break the monotony and you can give a new and refreshing look to your garden every year. Geraniums, dahlias, celosias, cockscomb, and plume celosias are some of the favorite annual plants.

Perennial Flower Garden

Perennials are plants that do not die after one season of growth. They form the backbone of the garden as they have the staying power. They come back year after year and require relatively less maintenance. Though some are short-lived, favorites like daylilies, hostas and peonies are known to survive year after year.A biennial is a kind of perennial plant that requires two growing seasons to complete its life cycle. During the first growing season it produces mainly foliage. In its second year it will flower and set seed, often early in the season. Parsley and hollyhock are some examples.You can design your own perennial flower garden and see it thriving for years.

Using the tips above, its time to turn your dream flower garden into reality.

How to Plant Flowers in 5 Easy Steps

Flowering plants are as much fun to grow as they are to enjoy. But before you dig, read the tag that comes with the flowering plants or flower seeds you buy and proceed to Step 1.

Step 1: Right Place, Right Plant

Does the particular annual flower or perennial flower that you want to grow prefer sun, shade, or a combination of both? Start by placing a sun plant in the sun, and a shade plant in the shade. Full sun is six hours or more of direct sun per day, not necessarily continuously. Partial sun or partial shade is four to six hours of sun per day, with partial sun closer to six, partial shade closer to four. Shade definitions vary, depending on how deep the shade really is. Dappled shade gives a lot more light than deep shade, with virtually no sunlight.

These perennials will look wonderful in your garden.

Step 2: Dig

Beautiful flower gardens start with good soil. In general, most flowers do best in garden soil that is loose and well drained with a lot of organic material as part of the soil composition.

You don’t need to dig a large area to plant flowers, but you should dig enough soil that you can add some compost in to improve the soil structure. Work the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches.

How to Compost

Avoid digging or handling soil when it’s wet to prevent compaction. Plants need a certain amount of space between soil particles for roots to grow. One test to see if soil can be worked is to dig a small sample of soil from a 3-inch hole. Squeeze it in your hand, then toss the soil onto a hard surface such as a rock or pavement. If the soil stays in a ball, it’s too wet for planting. If it shatters, it’s time to plant.

If you like, work a bit of time-release all-purpose balanced granular fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 into the soil before planting.

Step 3: Plant

If you are planting seeds, follow the directions on the seed packet to know how deep to plant each seed and how far apart. With potted garden plants, generally you should plant with the soil at the same level as the soil in the pot. Read the plant tag to be sure. Some flowering plants, such as irises and peonies, prefer their rhizomes and roots to be planted very shallow.

When removing the plant from the pot, gently tease some or all of the soil from the roots and place the plant into the hole you’ve prepared. Push the soil back into the hole, using a gentle firming so you put the soil back but don’t compact it entirely.

Step 4: Water

Thoroughly soak the soil around your newly planted flowers. Garden flowers generally need 1 to 2 inches of moisture every week to perform well, so water if you don’t receive enough rain. It’s best to water deeply and less frequently than shallowly and more often so the roots of the plants grow deeper. Potted flowers need water more frequently as they have less soil around them to hold moisture.

Avoid keeping soil waterlogged so the roots of the flowering plants don’t rot.

Step 5: Deadhead and Groom

As your flowering plants begin blooming, feel free to cut them for bouquets. Clip off the spent flower heads to encourage the plant to put more energy into its foliage and winter survival. Some flowers, including zinnias, dahlias, and others, bloom again when you remove the blooms.

Clip or pull any brown foliage for a cleaner look. Daylilies in particular benefit from the removal of old leaves.

The Best Annuals for Cutting

  • By Deb Wiley

Starting a Flower Garden

Learn how to start a flower garden with advice from top pros on soil testing, color choices, and planting flowers for cutting

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  • This terraced flower garden features layers of vibrant color.
  • A splash of bright orange poppies brightens up a flower border.
  • Color, size and shape variations work together to enliven a flower bed without being overwhelming.
  • The repetition of purple throughout this flower garden brings unity to the design.
  • Subtly layering flowers from low-growers to tall spires keeps sight lines intact and creates a more natural look.

5 Tips for When You Create A New Flowerbed

Discover five considerations when planning a new flowerbed in your landscape.

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If you’ve always dreamed of having a gorgeous flower garden, now is the time to make it happen. Starting a flower garden is both fun and rewarding. Follow these guidelines for beginners and you’ll be off to a great start.

Step 1 – Know Your Garden

  • Know your site: The first step in creating the perfect flower garden is to familiarize yourself with the area you want to plant. Landscape architect, Mary Ellen Cowan suggests, “Really know your site. Listen to Mother Nature to learn about your land’s traits. Be honest with light, moisture conditions, and the topography.”
  • Know your soil: An important tip to ensure a successful flower garden is to do a soil test. Erin Benzakein, owner of Floret Flower Farm, explains, “To collect soil samples, dig a hole 1 foot deep, gather a few tablespoons, then repeat throughout your garden until a quart-sized jar is full. You can send your soil to a testing lab like the UMass Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory (soiltest.umass.edu) and use the result to amend your soil before planting.”
  • Know your flowers: Cowan also says, “Learn what plants grow well in your soil. From there, you can figure out what to do design-wise.” Carol Bornstein, horticulturist at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, recommends “visiting nearby natural areas that mimic your conditions in the wild to discover the flowers that you like.” Not sure where to start? Check out this list: 21 Easiest Flowers for Beginners.
  • Know your frost cycle: To make sure your newly planted garden will survive the seasons, you will need to know your area’s average last and first frost dates. Benzakein notes this will affect when you start seeds and will allow you to plant varieties that will grow into autumn. Starting your seeds about 4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date will give your plants a jump start. The plants will fill in faster and cut down on weeds. If you don’t have a greenhouse to start your seeds in, a covered seed tray indoors under growing lights will work.

Step 2 – Create Your Color Palette

  • Create unity: When choosing a color scheme, Bornstein suggests picking one that will “help unify the landscape.” Using variations and different tones of the same color can make an impact without dominating.
  • Create excitement: While sticking to a few similar hues can create a feeling of harmony, complimentary colors — opposites on the color wheel — create juxtaposition. For example, the combination of blue and yellow is fresh, lively, and summery. “In a sunny spot, warm tones like yellows, oranges, and reds make the most of the light, especially during the ‘golden hours,’ when the sun rises or sets. However, on their own, hot colors can appear rather flat. Blues compliment the yellows, creating harmony and vibrancy. Occasional splashes of hot orange and red add a little thrill,” says Keith Wiley of Wildside, his garden in Devon, England.
  • Create peaceful areas: Wiley adds that it is prudent to practice restraint, as too much variety can feel tiring. “You can’t have everything screaming at you in the garden. Separate areas with intense color or high drama with neutrals,” says Bill Thomas of Chanticleer. Above all, landscape designer and author of Heaven is a Garden, Jan Johnsen encourages the use of colors you personally enjoy in your garden.

Step 3 – Design Like a Pro

  • Design with shape: When designing a flower garden, world-renowned Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf suggests that shape is a good place to start. Perennials have several basic shapes: spires, plumes, daisies, buttons, globes, umbels, and screens. Try putting different shapes together and see if they spark off each other. Some combinations will be vibrant and dynamic, others may clash. Planting similar flower shapes together can reinforce an idea.
  • Design with repetition: The repetition of key shapes or colors provides a sense of calm and visual unity. Ideally, advises Wiley, plants you repeat should have a long season, not look untidy after flowering, and flourish in the garden’s conditions. Strategic repetition of flowers offers continuity when moving from one area of the garden to another.
  • Design in layers: Matt James, in his book, How to Plant a Garden, states, “When planting, try to pull one layer subtly into another — and vice versa — to create a more natural look, rather than simply arrange the layers like a staircase.” Oudolf warns that you can “lose plants in the back,” so it is important to make sure sight lines remain to see flowers at the rear of a border.
  • Design in combinations: “Think in terms of plant combinations rather than individual species,” suggests Sean Hogan of Cistus Nursery near Portland, Oregon. Mixing plant heights, sizes, colors, scale, and textures keeps the garden engaging in all seasons. Relaxed plantings will provide color, movement and a meadow-like feel.
  • Design with fragrance and movement: Dan Hinkley, plant hunter and author, has discovered what he enjoys most in his garden — fragrance and movement. “These elements of a garden aren’t included in the design often enough.” He advises to take advantage of natural breeze patterns to allow the scents of flowers to waft toward your home or patio areas.

Bonus Flower Garden Tips

  • For a more productive flower garden and to encourage longer stems (better for cut flowers and floral design), Benzakein advises to plant flowers close together. “This will reduce weeds and increase the number of flowers you produce.”
  • If you are growing flowers for cutting, “Don’t forget to grow foliage and filler plants for arrangements,” says Benzakein.
  • Donna Hackman, retired garden designer, recommends that if you want your flowers to spill over in a natural way, but don’t want them within reach of the mower’s blades, install rectangles of flagstone around the beds. Also, keep paths between flower beds wide, so flowers won’t be trampled underfoot when walking through the garden.
  • Hackman also suggests choosing smaller cultivars to reduce pruning work and planting shrubs at the center of your flower beds to provide year-round structure and height.

With seemingly endless design options, these tips will guide you in making the best choices when starting a flower garden, allowing you to sit back on a nice afternoon and enjoy the fruits — or blossoms — of your labor.

Related:
Tools for the Beginner Gardener
Starting a Kitchen Garden

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