Jane Reed created a beautiful country-style garden behind her Colorado home. It's packed with a series of raised beds in a 14-x-24-foot area. She's chosen easy-growing plants that help keep her garden in bloom from May to October.
Test Garden Tip: Raised beds are a perfect way to make gardening easier -- especially if you have clay, sandy, or rocky soil. Just fill the beds with good-quality topsoil and you don't have to worry about digging compacted soil or running into rocks.
Choose Easy-Care Plants
Purple coneflower (Echinacea) is a perfect choice for high-altitude gardens. It blooms profusely all summer and doesn't mind tough weather conditions. Plus, it's a great cut flower.
Test Garden Tip: It's always best choosing plants native to your region. They'll not only be some of the lowest-maintenance choices, but they'll also attract native birds and butterflies.
Be Bold with Color
Jane uses lots of bold colors in her garden because she has to compete with the crystal-blue sky and gorgeous mountain scenery. The result is an eye-catching landscape that's every bit as beautiful as those mountain views.
Test Garden Tip: Don't be too concerned about color. We hear from lots of gardeners who want help knowing what colors look good together and we always remind them that a garden is a reflection of the gardener. Plant what you like best!
Mix It Up
Jane combines annuals, perennials, and even vegetables in her raised beds to fill them with color and texture. Here, tall pink cosmos combine beautifully with orange marigolds, purple veronica, cabbage, and flowering kale.
Test Garden Tip: Planting densely like this can help keep weeds down in your garden. It's best to plant densely in dry-summer climates where fungal diseases are less of a problem, though.
Raised beds like Jane's offer lots of advantages: They let you control the kind of soil you garden in, they warm up faster in the spring, and they prevent you from having to bend over as much. Plus, you can personalize their look to your landscape by using different materials to build them such as wood, stone, or brick.
Test Garden Tip: For ease of maintenance, keep your raised beds about 4 feet across. That allows you to reach the middle from both sides so you never have to walk through your raised-bed gardens.
Jane uses some tall plants, such as these pink cosmos and yellow black-eyed Susans, to help draw the eye up and dramatize the mountain views. It's a little garden-design strategy that adds a lot to her yard.
Test Garden Tip: Even if you don't have great mountain views, adding vertical accents with tall plants or structures (such as arbors or even free-standing columns) helps give your landscape an added dimension of interest.
Smart Plant Picks
Cosmos is a great plant for Jane's garden. It blooms throughout the summer with very little care and will often self-seed, meaning new seedlings grow and bloom each year on their own. Plus, cosmos is a top-notch cut flower.
Test Garden Tip: Here at the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden, we love pairing cosmos with blue salvia, purple angelonia, orange Mexican sunflower, and yellow zinnias.
Create Great Combinations
Jane's an artist and she loves combining plants to show off their best characteristics. Here, purple and pink petunias bloom all summer and make a great contrast to spiky blue-green iris foliage. The combo offers extended bloom as the petunias pick up after the iris finishes.
Test Garden Tip: If you're not sure about what plants to put together, try putting different varieties next to each other in your shopping cart at your local garden center. That gives you a chance to see if you'll like the combination before you have to plant them in the ground.
Jane's garden isn't all about good looks: She also grows plants with a pleasant scent, such as these sweet peas. Other fragrant bloomers include dianthus, lavender, lemon balm, lilacs, mint, oregano, peonies, Russian sage, sage, and shrub roses.
Test Garden Tip: Place fragrant plants where you'll enjoy them most. For example, site herbs like rosemary, lavender, and sage next to a pathway where you'll brush by them and release their scent as you walk. Or plant fragrant annuals in window boxes or at container gardens next to your front door.
Employ Beautiful Foliage
Flowering kale offers beautiful color to Jane's garden, especially at the end of the season. This beautiful plant is easy to grow and offers a range of colors of lavender to purple to white.
Test Garden Tip: Variegated plants are some of the best choices for adding interest to the garden because they look good from spring to fall, regardless of when they bloom.
Enjoy Your Garden
Jane's small-space, Zone 4 Colorado garden inspired us with its bountiful color. "There's absolutely no reason to sacrifice color for hardiness." We hope you got some great ideas from it, too!
Test Garden Tip: Don't be afraid to take chances. Sometimes plants do better than you think they will. We've often been surprised by some of the plants that survive in our Zone 5 Test Garden.