12 Flower Garden Design Tips That Will Help You Plan a Stunning Landscape
Research Flower Characteristics
The best flower garden designs incorporate several types of flowering plants, including long-living perennials, short-term (but long-blooming) annuals, seasonal bulbs, ornamental grasses, and vines. Before you officially get started on your flower garden design, do a little research on what types of plants will grow best in your area, what colors and textures they offer, and any limitations or special care they might need.
Choose Your Flower Garden Design Style
Your personal preferences (or your home's architectural style) can help dictate your garden design and set parameters for its size. Different flower garden design ideas and styles lend themselves to different types of plants. For example, a contemporary-leaning landscape might take a minimalist approach and clearly define flower beds with hard lines; a cottage-style garden encourages a mix-and-match approach and whimsical paths and flower beds. If you enjoy bringing flowers indoors, consider a perennial cutting garden.
Determine the Garden's Shape and Size
Flowering plants can be arranged in beds of almost any shape and size, from expansive rectangles to petite corner beds. To get an idea of how your flower garden will fit into the rest of your landscape, use a garden hose to outline the edges before you start digging. Walk around the bed; look at the proposed garden bed from every viewpoint. Test if you'll be able to access plants in the middle or if you'll need to include a path. If you're specifically looking for flower garden ideas for beginners, start small: You can always expand your plan if you want, or go bigger next year.
Select Flowering Plants
Once you've decided on your flower garden's design, shape, and size, it's time to put your plant research into action. Consider show-stopper plants you want to use as a focal point, flower sizes, year-round interest, bloom time, and color combinations.
Supply a Focal Point
Every garden bed, no matter how big or small, needs a focal point that gives the eye a place to start before moving on to the rest of the flowerbed. That could mean anchoring a large bed with boxwood shrubs in the corners and a flowering shrub in the middle or planting a mass of a single flower type in the center of a skinny border. You can also add an interesting piece of garden art.
Evaluate Plant Height
You'll also have to consider a plant’s height when making your selections. For example, if your garden is a border along the house, the tallest plants will need to go in the back but shouldn't be so tall that they block windows or doors. If your flower garden design is an island, the tallest plants should go in the center. Some short plants suffer when shaded by tall plants, so take individual flowers' needs into consideration.
Review Bloom Times
Well-designed flower gardens have plants with year-round interest and staggered bloom times. Evaluate both factors before selecting plants. You don't want to create a garden that's full of color in the summertime but bare in autumn. That's another reason it's important to combine different types of plants—shrubs that provide spring bloom and winter structure, fall-blooming bulbs, and summertime perennials, for example—in your flower garden design.
Select Complementary Flowers and Foliage
Creating the best color combinations in your flower garden design can be tricky. A good place to start is the color wheel. For example, gardens planted in shades of the same hue, like pink, are pleasing to the eye. Colors next to each other on the color wheel, like purple and red, look good together, as do colors across from each other—purple and yellow. Foliage can also provide much-needed texture and color for visual interest when blooms have wilted away.
Rely on Odd Numbers
When laying out your flower garden design, plant at least three (or any odd number) of the same kind of plant, either together or spaced apart. It's a visual design trick that creates cohesiveness so flowerbeds feel less jumbled than a one-of-each-kind collection of plants.
Prep, Edge, Purchase, and Plant
Once your research is done and you've decided on all the elements and the garden size, it's time to prep the bed by removing any old plant material (including grass). You may also want to add edging, such as pavers or another material.
Now, it’s time to go get your plants! Shop early in the morning to avoid crowds so you have plenty of time to make your purchase. If you’re shopping in a greenhouse on a sunny day, wear layers because it can get hot (and bring a bottle of water, too). Do your best to stick to your list—it’s easy to get carried away when you're face-to-face with all the beautiful plant options.
Mulch, Water, and Enjoy the Show
Any newly planted flowers should be well-mulched then watered regularly until the plants are established. Monitor your rainfall and water as needed, ensuring that your plants receive about an inch of water a week.
Once your new garden is in the ground, place a chair or two close enough to admire it. Enjoy watching the plants grow and bloom, and take in the view.
In the fall, you’ll want to assess your garden. What did you like? What grew well? Think about what you’d change next spring. Consider whether you want to build a no-dig flowerbed. And do what gardeners do in the off-season: Dream of the next garden.