Flower beds and borders make for a good part of many residential gardens. Unfortunately many are not given the kind of forethought and attention that they deserve.
Whether you are creating a flower bed or border from scratch or updating an existing one, there are a number of important factors that you have to consider before you start planting.
Begin with a little bit of site study. Carefully consider the existing site conditions. The sun and shade patters are particularly important as are the soils and the microclimates. These preliminary studies will determine the suitability of the plants you choose and ultimately if they will thrive at all.
Planning and siting
Ideally, flowering beds and border should be positioned in a sunny site away from shade casting trees and buildings. If however your site is all covered up in shade, there are a number of shade-loving plants you can choose from. Find out which ones you might like from a reputable nursery.
A sheltered site next to a hedge, wall or fence is ideal as well. These structures often create a warm and sheltered microclimate for more tender plants to thrive. They may also provide a backdrop for climbers and vines to rumble over.
Right from the beginning, it is important to try and picture as clearly as possible how you wish your beds and borders to appear at the end. Beds that are to be viewed from a distance for instance will benefit from larger plants or larger groupings of plants.
Themes and colours
Beds and borders should be designed to follow particular themes or create a certain desired look and feel. A bed devoid of any guiding theme or principle often looks jumbled up even though the individual plants may be some of your favourites. Fortunately there are many themes to choose from.
For instance you can create a bed predominated with palms, palm-like species and large-leaved fruiting shrubs to create a tropical theme. Alternatively you can plant lavenders, rosemary and other fragrant plants to produce scents reminiscent of Mediterranean herb gardens.
Colour combination is another important consideration. Right from the start, decide what colours schemes you wish to achieve. Complementary colour schemes for instance contrast cool colours with warm colours. Monochromatic schemes on another hand use tints and shades of the same colour for a clean and sophisticated look.
Year round interest
Consider the flowering seasons of each of the plants you intend to use and how they will look at every point of their growth. The best beds are those that provide year-round interest. Select perennials and annuals with staggered flowering seasons so that you have flowers all year round.
Also include plants with interesting foliage and textures to make up for flower colour during those low flower months. Many species of shrubs feature interesting coloured and variegated leaves that can rival any flowering plants.
You can also create additional interest by placing plants with contrasting textures next to each other in the beds and borders. Textural contrasts can actually be quite striking. For example, the bold leaf forms of plants such as the monstera contrast well with the more feathery forms of pampas or fountain grass.
-The writer is a landscape architect