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Beginners Gardening

Flower Bed Basics



A flower garden is a simple and rewarding way to add color to your landscape, as well as create an eye-catching backdrop for outdoor entertaining or quiet relaxation. However, it takes some planning to build a successful flower bed.

The first step is to identify a site that will be best for your garden. Consider the available sunlight and the type of soil you have.

You’ll also need to plan for water, weeds and maintenance. The best time to plant a flower bed is spring or summer, but many flowers bloom year-round.

Choose a design that reflects your personal style and taste. Whether you like a garden of single colors or an array of pastel blooms, a patriotic mix of red, white and blue or a moon garden with white blooms, there are plenty of ideas to choose from.

Think about texture:

Texture can include plants with foliage, as well as flower shapes (see below). Adding different textures to your garden can make it more interesting and provide a more varied look than a garden of just one type of bloom.

Use a sketch:

A good sketch can help you visualize your flower beds and guide you as you plan planting areas. A sketch can also show you how to divide your beds into a variety of sizes, heights and colors.

Plan in layers:

A garden with a gradual gradation of heights will give a more natural look to your flower beds. To achieve this look, plan your plantings by locating taller plants in the back and shorter ones in the front.

Avoid tall flower beds that block views of the rest of your garden. Rather, plan for a garden with a stepped or sloping landscape that will allow for a smooth gradation of heights.

When designing a flower bed, Piet Oudolf recommends thinking about shape as a means of creating balance and unity. He suggests planting perennials with shapes that spark off each other — spires, plumes, daisies, buttons and globes.

Try combining these shapes together for more visual interest, or group them in close proximity to produce an even more varied effect.

Remember that flowers come in many different heights, so you’ll want to plant them at varying intervals, especially if you have multiple plant families or species in your garden.

Place a planter or other decorative container in the center of your flower bed to add depth and interest to the plantings. Or you may choose to use shrubs or trees to anchor the bed and provide a frame for your plants.

You’ll need to decide on a plant palette that works for your location and climate. For example, if you live in an area with hot temperatures and dry air, you’ll want to plant with cool-season blooming flowers. Or, if you have lots of shade in your region, you’ll want to choose flowers that prefer more sun.

Select a variety of blooms that work together and complement each other, as well as the existing garden’s architecture.

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