Flower beds that turn neighbors heads with saying -Aaaah, aren’t born by accident. Creating a balanced scenery that plays with perfectly matching colors and pleases the eye year-round, requires a little bit of diving into basics of garden design. This article will help you to figure out how to plan a flower bed layout with confidence.

First, become familiar with growing conditions on your site.

How much sunlight your site gets daily? Choose plants that thrive in your light condition.

Soil quality? Do you have sweet or acidic soil? Is it clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky, loamy, or a mix of these? And if you don’t bother to find out, it’s never wrong to mix compost in it up to 30% of the top 8 inches of soil by volume.

Excessive moisture or drought on your landscape? Think also about the year around conditions. You can find suitable plants for both extreme conditions.

Strong winds? Tall plants can get damaged and suffer in strong winds and require staking.

Proper groundwork is going to make a difference if your flowerbed thrives or just survives, check out my a step-by-step guide on how to build a flower bed. And get some great tips!

flowerbed with a big urn planter in the middle

Choose a focal point for your flower bed

A focal point is something where the eyes are first drawn to and will anchor them. A big boulder or a tree can be as good as any water fountain or statue. You can buy one, or even better, be creative and do one by yourself. And I think self-made decorations give a lot more character for your garden.

Designing with plants which will thrive

If you’re at the beginning of your gardening journey, I recommend getting started with plants that are easy to grow. A thriving, happy plant is always better looking than struggling one, no matter how unique it’s. 

The good thing is that plants that are easy to grow are usually low-priced because they are cheap and fast to produce, and it’ll be more rewarding to see your flower bed thriving from the beginning.

Do some research on the internet in advance while you design the flowerbed to find out specific needs for every plant. Labels at the nursery give you often very little information and pick up only plants with proper labeling and suitability for your growing conditions.

I’ve seen plants for sale with very poor labeling, like Rhodos with a tag just saying “Rhododendron, mature size from 3 feet to 10 feet.” So basically, the retailer has no idea what the plant is, and you don’t know what to expect.

Visit your local garden center and ask what they recommend, or talk to your gardening neighbors and find out which plants thrive in their yards.

Planning by the need of care

How much time or resources you’re willing to invest for your flower beds care and upkeep? Even the best-designed flower bed never lives up to what it’s creator visualized if it’s poorly maintained.

If you’re looking for a low maintenance flower bed, pay attention to things like,

  • Cold hardiness
  • Heat, humidity and moisture tolerance
  • Not invasive
  • It doesn’t require numerous pruning to maintain acceptable foliage or habit.
  • It doesn’t require frequent division
  • It doesn’t require stalking
  • Insect and disease resistance or tolerance
  • Doesn’t require heavy fertilizing for growth
  • A lifespan of 5 or more years
  • Doesn’t seed around uncontrollably

Plan with gardening style

Are you in love with a particular style of gardening? If not yet, get familiar with different types of gardens. You can also get an idea for your flowerbed from the architecture of your house to complement it. Wikipedia has a full list of different types of gardens.

japanese garden by the body of water

Here are some examples of the most popular ones to mention.

  • Coastal Garden
  • Formal Garden
  • Gravel and Rock Garden
  • Informal and Cottage
  • Japanese Garden
  • Mediterranean Garden
  • Modern Garden

Planning with colors

Colors in your garden will significantly affect the ambiance in it. Too many different colors will give a busy, restless feeling, so usually, just picking one color is enough to get started. What is your favorite color?   

flowerbed with too many colors combined together.
Mixing too many colors can create a restless feeling.

Are you looking for a calm and relaxing feeling? 

Then you should pick cool colors and keep restrained contrast.

Do you want vivid and energetic vibes?

 Choose warm tones of colors and increase the contrast.

Explore different color combinations and find your favorite combos. Return to the color wheel from school years and bring back some basic combinations. In this video, you’ll see how to use a color wheel.

round-color-wheel

Analogous

 – Three colors next to each other on the color wheel

Complimentary 

-Two colors, opposite from each other on the color wheel.

Complex 

-Three colors next to each other, combined with an opposite complementary color on the color wheel.

You can get ideas from already existing colors, like from the color of your house. For your front yard flowerbed, you could select a complementary color of your home and create a mouth dropping scene for bypassing walkers.

Using layers

Is your project a border or an island? A border flowerbed will have the highest part at the edge close to the back, and an island will have the highest point in the middle.

Start by placing the shortest plants, called “borders” on the front, close to the front line. Place middle-sized plants called “fillers” in order by height so that the tallest ones will be as a backdrop.

To create a natural look and avoiding church choir kind of arrangement, you can break this rule by placing some airy and transparent plants like ornamental grasses somewhere in the middle ground.

Take into consideration that plant height is given with flower stalks, and it’s also good to know how the foliage will look like after flowering.

Plan with repetition

Repeating colors and shapes in different parts of a flowerbed will create balance, serenity, and bind it together.

Choose for repeating ones that look good and healthy through the whole growing season.

These good performers you can also use to bring together beddings next to each other for adding flow when your eyes move through the garden.

Planning by mixing different shapes and combinations

Perennials have many forms of blooms and leaves. You can create unity or contrast and layers with combinations of different textures, dimensions, and sizes.

green-foliage-with-different-shapes-of-leaves
Green foliage alone can turn fascinating with diverse

Planning with the ambiance

Both color and style play essential roles in designing a perennial garden that creates a particular mood.

What kind of mood do you want to experience in your garden?

For my sunny south side terrace, I was looking for a holiday resort kind of tropical feeling. I picked for the color scheme vibrant yellow, orange, and red.

I planted the surrounding flower beds with tropical plants like Banana Trees and Elephant Ears and flowers like Tropical Cannas, Hot Pokers, Asiatic Lily’s, just to name some. Can you already see me sipping a cocktail in a hammock?

Creating interest for every season

When do you spend the most time on your patio or deck? 

You can design surroundings with flowers which are at their best exactly when you can enjoy them the most.

Spice up your spring by planting spring bulbs in front of your kitchen window, where you often stop during the day. When you look outside, you can enjoy spring right away when it arrives. 

Mix flower beds with evergreens, grasses, and trees to add interest for all seasons. Trees and shrubs with attractive bark, trunk formation, or berries are an excellent addition to any garden.

Planning for wildlife

Do you love butterflies, hummingbirds, or bees? Invite them to your garden by adding flowers they favor the most.

Hummingbirds 

are attracted to bright colors, and they especially love red. And their long beak fits perfectly into tubular-shaped flowers that hold the most nectar to feast.

Flowers for attracting hummingbirds to your flower bed;

  • Daylilies
  • Foxglove
  • Lupine
  • Honey Suckle vine
  • Phlox
  • Petunia

Beautiful butterflies 

are drawn the most for colors orange, yellow, pink, and purple. If you wish to keep butterflies in your garden throughout the whole summer, make sure you have continuous blooms in your flower bed through the summer months.

Some fabulous flowers to invite butterflies in your garden;

  • Shasta Daisy
  • Dahlia
  • Aster
  • Candytuft
  • Dianthus
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Butterfly Bush

Buzzing bees 

in your flowerbed is a guaranteed way to add some life into it. Lure them with flowers of white, yellow, and blue and purple colors. Bees favor native flowers that they are familiar with, so simply add a native wildflower seed mix into your flower bed, and you’ll make them happy.

When selecting plants, keep in mind that bees are in a hunt for pollen, and flowers with a single row of petals have it little more than others. And If you plant them in mass, you’ll make collecting easier for them.

Seduce bees for instance with flowers like;

bee-sitting-on-a-flower
  • Roses
  • Sunflower
  • Lavender
  • Creeping Thyme
  • Rock Cress
  • Oriental Poppy
  • Zinnia
  • Allium

Draw a sketch

Begin your flower bed draft with “specials.”

 Choose a tree, boulder, or whatever you like for focal point to anchor the eyes.

Add the “bones” of the flower bed.

Use these evergreens or even a hedge to create year-round interest.

Keep filling with “decoratives,”

Flowering shrubs and tall grasses.

As the last thing, fill spaces in between with “pretties.” 

Spring and summer blooming perennial and fillers such as bulbs, annuals, and biennials.

happy-girl-in-a-sunflowerbed

The purpose of a flower bed is to spread joy.

Now we have come to the end of a long list of essential things to consider when designing a flower bed. You’re probably beginning to see, what will be the primary thing you will put the most value on.

For me, important are colors and balance. And I must confess, I might be even a little bit obsessed with colors, everything else comes after that.

Maybe you want your flower bed blooming all summer through.

Maybe for you, it’s about flowers with a lovely scent.

Maybe you’re ready to do whatever it takes to have the most stunning formal garden style flower bed, including all the work it requires.

Remember, it’s all about you! Listen to your heart, what brings you joy? Your flowerbed will be as unique and personal as you are.

How does your favorite flower bed look alike? I would love to hear it in the comments down below.

Let’s make our gardens bloom together 

~Mari

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