Peg Aloi is a gardening expert and former garden designer with 13 years experience working as a professional gardener in the Boston and upstate New York areas. She received her certificate in horticulture from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in 2018.
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Published on 03/07/23
Reviewed byKathleen Miller
Kathleen Miller is a highly-regarded Master Gardener and horticulturist with over 30 years of experience in organic gardening, farming, and landscape design. She founded Gaia's Farm and Gardens,aworking sustainable permaculture farm, and writes for Gaia Grows, a local newspaper column.
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The backbone of the garden is the flower bed. Whether full of annuals or perennials, all in shades of blue and white or a glorious rainbow of colors, flowers delight the senses and add beauty to any yard, big or small.
We've gathered a lot of different ideas flower bed to inspire you in creating or sprucing up your own flower beds, along with a few tips for easy design, planting and maintenance.
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Three Seasons of Flowering Perennials
Flowering perennials are the backbone of the flower bed. Ideally you want three seasons of blooms as some perennials fade. This approach also allows lots of color variation throughout the season. This autumnal view of a New England botanical garden has blue caryopteris, pink anemones and purple verbena.
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A Flowering Walkway
If your garden has lots of lawn, your flower beds can be designed to add drama in high-traffic areas like walkways or paths. This lush garden bed alongside the walk provides a thrilling sight for visitors and residents, as well as delicious fragrance from roses.
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It's Easy Being Green
Green really is one of the most beautiful colors, isn't it? This stunning bed features an eclectic display of plants all with different shades of green foliage, with distinctly different shapes and textures.
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This cottage style flower bed has large drifts of color. These blue-violet spires of flowering catmint (Nepeta 'Blue Hills Giant') attract all kinds of beneficial pollinators including hummingbirds. The color and spiky texture pairs well with the fluffy lime green euphorbia growing behind it.
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Background and Foreground
This Swedish garden displays a stunning example of gradually increasing heights of plants, with a low boxwood hedge in front (which doubles as edging) and perennials and shrubs of varying heights with a tall blooming rhododendron in back. The color scheme also draws the eye from back to front with the rosy and pink b=hued flowers and yellow-green foliage repeating throughout.
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Opposing Colors Pop
Purple and yellow, orange and blue, red and green: opposing color palettes can be used to bring real drama to the flower garden. These bright yellow kniphofia and deep purple delphiniums immediately attract attention.
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This simple bed of shrubs, grasses and perennials is made distinct with its silvery foliage that accents the yellow-green of the grasses and leaves.
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The Importance of Placement
Cottage style usually means lots of plants close together to create a look of abundance and fullness. When planting in a small area, placement is important to create a variety of heights and textures, and also to make sure plants don't crowd each other out. Looking at size and spread details, as well as bloom time, helps planning, as does observing the growth habits of perennials in your garden. This garden has a wonderful sense of design where all these layers of colorful blooming perennials, including a rose bush and spirea shrub, are planted in close proximity and work well together.
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Gentle Late Spring Colors
While early spring can bring dramatic color to the garden (bright yellow daffodils, red tulips, purple hyacinths), there's something to be said for a softer palette. The whisper of lavender in these 'Camelot' foxgloves, the pale pink peonies, the pale blue hosta and silvery-green ferns, and the light purples in the alliums and delphiniums create a very pleasing array of light shades perfect for transitioning from late spring to summer.
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Pastels Lighten Up Shade Beds
One trick for brightening up shady areas is to plant flowers with light colored foliage or flowers. White, silver and pastel colors can help define the area and draw the eye to shady spots. The creamy white hydrangea blooms here bounce off the white caladiums, the silvery lamb's ear reflects light, while the pink echinacea adds a spot of color. Other silver-leafed plants include lamium, artemisia, brunnera and a number of different ferns.
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The summer blooming flowers in this garden provide wonderful height for the structure that incorporates hedges and trellises. The climbing pink roses create a tall wall of fragrant blooms, while the tall purple alliums stand several feet high in their beds.
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There's a reason traffic signs are often red and orange: these bright colors are noticeable from a distance. These vivid spring blooms in shades of burgundy, red, vermilion and hot pink create a warm, rich tapestry that would light up any garden.
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The soft colors and contrasting airy textures of this cottage style flower bed create a dreamy, romantic look. These plants are also relatively drought-tolerant, including yarrow, echinacea, sedum and grasses.
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Planting bulbs in the fall yields a satisfying show in spring. Some bulbs increase in size/spread each year (like daffodils and grape hyacinths) so you'll get more over time. Some tulips are also perennial. These curving beds planted with white 'Thalia' daffodils, pink tulips and blue grape hyacinths are a cheery sight every spring.
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Large shady areas are a perfect setting for creating flower beds full of hostas and other shade-loving perennials. This stunning garden features large clumps of variegated hostas, ferns, grasses and astilbes. Easily divided and moved, hostas are very low maintenance, vigorous perennials, and they flower in late summer in shades of purple, white and pink.
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They Might Be Giants
These huge umbrella plants (Gunnera manicata) create a dramatic display in this flower bed, especially with tall mature trees in the distance.
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Blue flowers, though common, lend a touch of elegance and mystery to the garden. These vivid pale and dark blue delphiniums provide a striking contrast to the bright yellow flowers in this garden. Other bright blue flowers include anemones, cornflowers, flax, peacock plumbago, monkshood, and spring flowering bulbs like hyacinths, windflowers and crocuses.
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Cottage garden style has very few rules or limits. Basically cottage gardens are full of plants with differing sizes, textures and colors, and there's always something blooming. Planting large clumps of perennials and spacing them out gives a sense of continuity and fullness. This English cottage style garden features herbaceous borders in front of taller shrubs and fruit trees inside its brick walls.
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Color All Day Long
Sometimes choosing flowers can be inspired by favorite moments in the garden: sunrise, sunset, a rainy summer day, an autumn afternoon. The vivid colors throughout this lush flower bed (orange and yellow lilies, red kniphofia, blue agapanthus) are magical at sunset against a coral pink and lilac sky.
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Romantic Getaway Garden
This romantic enclosed garden in Spain offers some inspiration for planting easy flower beds. Separated by gravel walkways, the beds have a pleasing, easy-care design, balancing the shapes of round boxwood shrubs and spiky flowers, with plenty of green in climbing vines, fruit trees and container plantings.
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Lead the Eye
With a large garden, arranging plants so that they repeat or form a pattern in the landscape draws the eye and provides a sense of movement and rhythm. Here in this lush shady bed, the large plantings (famed English gardener Gertrude Jekyll called them "drifts") of 'Peach Blossom' astilbes lead the eye through the garden. With their tall, fluffy spikes of pale pink flowers, they stand out mightily amidst the dark green foliage.
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Plant Those Mums
Many people buy mums in containers and then toss them out at the end of the season. But perennial mums are a delight! They poke up their leaves in late spring and, if the emerging leaves are pinched back every couple of weeks (until midsummer), more buds will appear come fall. This garden has multiple colors of cushion and daisy mums that have perennialized nicely.
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Some gardeners are very particular about color schemes or "what color goes where" in the garden. Some gardeners just enjoy playing with color and seeing what happens. This jubilant combo of different colored anemones in rich shades of blue, pink, and magenta creates a magical focal point in this flower bed, blooming in late spring.
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Dusk and Moonlight
White flowers catch the fading sunlight and moonlight to impart a soft glow in the garden, lighting up dark corners. This garden in England was inspired by English author and garden designer Vita Sackville-West, who designed a garden with all-white flowers to be enjoyed by moonlight.
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Textures and Shapes
Choosing perennials for their varied shapes and textures will create a visually dynamic design. The varied textures of these perennials (airy catmint, solid spiky irises) look lively and artful next to this squared off boxwood hedge in an English garden.
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On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink
Few sights are as pleasing as an abundance of pink roses. These David Austin 'Ancient Mariner' roses are the star of this flower bed, charming everyone who walks by.
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Containers for Added Color
This shady perennial bed has plenty of color variety from these silvery purple heucheras and pale green lamium. But the added bright blue ceramic pot with blue flowering hydrangea makes this little vista into a work of art. Containers provide great flexibility for design but also for the plants, which can be moved for better sunlight or protection from weather.
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It Starts with Daffodils
For an effortlessly beautiful early spring flower bed, plant daffodil bulbs. They increase every year (and be divided and share or planted elsewhere), and bloom reliably for several weeks. When the flowers and foliage die back, perennials can take their place. Planting day lilies and/or hostas near daffodils is a popular pairing.
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Respect the Unexpected
This colorful perennial bed adds an unexpected dash of whimsy with these large-leafed tropicals. Their size and color also echoes the tall mature trees seen in the distance, a clever design choice that gives a sense of perspective and scale.
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Near and Far
With a large landscape, separate planting beds can have their own separate themes and looks. But planting in a way that links the different beds together creates a sense of unity and overall design harmony. The bright yellow and red lilies here go well with the orange butterfly weed nearby, but also lead the eye towards the yellow-green foliage in the bed across the lawn. These color connections can shift as different blooming perennials come into season.
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This bungalow in New Mexico has plentiful sun. But plants needs water, too, and drought-tolerant plants are a good idea for desert climate gardening. These voluminous lavender plants, which also like sandy soil, fit the bill. When flowering, they emit a lovely floral, herby fragrance, and also attract pollinators.
How Do You Make a Flower Bed Look Good?
Start with the basics: good healthy soil. Deadheading and trimming faded growth keeps the flower bed looking fresh and vibrant. Water regularly. Use a nice natural mulch to give the flower bed a finished look and reduce weed growth. Plant so that you have something in bloom all season long.
How Do You Make a Low Maintenance Flower Bed?
Weeding and deadheading are the most time consuming maintenance tasks for flower beds. Some perennials need only one round of deadheading (like day lilies, dianthus, roses, bee balm, Asiatic lilies, delphiniums, daisies) . Mulching helps preserve moisture and also keeps weeds down. Flowers that don't need a lot of water helps reduce time and effort spent watering.
How Do You Lay Out a Flower Bed?
Design elements can be learned from books and websites, but there are some basic tips to remember. These include planting taller plants in back of the bed, planting multiple clumps for a balanced look, and considering color palettes that incorporate bloom times as the season changes Paying attention to how plants look as they grow helps a gardener make choices about where to plant things.
I'm a gardening enthusiast with a deep understanding of horticulture and garden design. I've spent years cultivating my own gardens and have also worked with professional gardeners to gain practical experience. My knowledge extends to various aspects of gardening, including plant selection, landscape design, and maintenance techniques. I stay updated with the latest trends and best practices in gardening through continuous learning and engagement with gardening communities.
Gardening basics involve understanding the fundamental principles of cultivating plants, maintaining soil health, and creating aesthetically pleasing outdoor spaces. It encompasses a wide range of topics, from selecting the right plants for specific environments to implementing sustainable gardening practices.
Garden tasks refer to the various activities involved in maintaining a garden, such as planting, watering, pruning, and fertilizing. These tasks are essential for promoting plant growth, controlling pests, and ensuring the overall health and vitality of the garden.
Flower Bed Design
Designing a flower bed involves careful consideration of plant selection, color schemes, and spatial arrangement. It's important to create a balanced and visually appealing composition that complements the surrounding landscape.
Flowering perennials are a key component of any garden, providing long-lasting blooms and adding seasonal variety to the outdoor space. Understanding the characteristics and care requirements of different perennial species is crucial for successful garden design.
Maintaining a garden involves tasks such as deadheading, trimming, weeding, and mulching. These techniques are essential for preserving the health and beauty of the garden throughout the growing season.
Selecting the right plants for a garden involves considering factors such as climate, soil type, and sunlight exposure. It's important to choose plants that are well-suited to the specific environmental conditions of the garden.
Landscape design encompasses the overall layout and organization of outdoor spaces, including the integration of various elements such as flower beds, pathways, and hardscape features.
Maintaining soil health is crucial for promoting plant growth and vitality. This involves practices such as soil testing, amendment application, and erosion control to ensure optimal growing conditions for plants.
Sustainable gardening practices focus on minimizing environmental impact and promoting biodiversity. This includes water conservation, organic pest control, and the use of native plants to support local ecosystems.
Creating harmonious color schemes in a garden involves understanding the principles of color theory and applying them to plant selection and arrangement. This contributes to the overall visual impact of the garden.
I hope this overview provides a comprehensive understanding of the concepts related to gardening and flower bed design. If you have specific questions or need further details on any of these topics, feel free to ask!