How to Design a Flowerbed Using the Garden Planner

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Beautiful flowers bring joy to a gardener’s life, whether your delight is watching bees and butterflies or filling vases with freshly cut blossoms. This is why the team just added a slew of flowers to the Garden Planner, making it easier than ever to design a beautiful flowerbed.

These additions are truly awesome, and incredibly interesting to use. Whether you are dreaming of a pollinator garden, eye-candy cut flowers, or a big-color curbside bed, the Garden Planner can help you take your vision to the ready-to-plant level.

A few weeks ago when Mexican sunflower and many other favorites were added to the Garden Planner, I played around designing flowerbeds, and then played some more! In addition to telling me how many plants I would need, the icons gave me a clear preview of how the different flowers would look when grouped together. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, it was like having a fully stocked garden center to myself, where I could try pairing up yarrow and black-eyed Susan without leaving my chair or getting in anyone’s way. To a gardener, this is hard core fun.

This annual flowerbed for a cool climate is nicely balanced, with interesting changes in size, texture, form and color

Annual Flowerbed Ideas

For your first adventure, I suggest following these six steps to design an annual flowerbed with the Garden Planner using inexpensive bedding plants. Stay with me here, because I’ve added a few tried-and-true design tips along the way.

1. Open the Garden Planner, and create a new garden twice the size of the one you want to plant, perhaps 30 feet (9 m) square, and give it a name. (You can resize the planning grid in your plan’s Settings later if you need to.) Open the plan, but don’t bother to lay out beds or shapes. Save those ideas for later.

2. In the plant selector, click on the Type drop-down menu then choose Flowers. Below this you also can choose to include or exclude perennials, which (theoretically) come back for years.

3. Click on various flowers you think you may want to grow, placing them in your new garden in no particular order. If you are not sure what a plant looks like in real life, click the “i” symbol to the left of the flower icon in the plant selector to learn more about it. Delete any plants you decide you don’t want.

Designing a flowerbed involves trying various plants in different positions, keeping what works and deleting what does not

4. Now things get interesting! Start moving flowers you know you want to grow into an imaginary bed, and pay special attention to flower form, an important aspect of flower garden design. Flower gardens naturally have plenty of flat daisy-type blossoms, so make sure you select some flowers that produce pointed spikes to improve visual dynamics, such as celosia, gladiolus, or various sages and salvias.

5. As you start slipping plants into place, consider the angles from which the garden will most often be viewed. Will it be seen from far away or up close? Is there a visual backdrop behind the bed, or is it wide open space? In general, it is best to layer plants, with the tallest in the back and the shortest in front. Tall flowers like sunflowers also need plenty of space, so you may have room for only one or two. Upright trellised sweet peas or other annual vines can provide vertical accents just as tall flowers do.

6. Finally, think about color. Light pastels are relaxing in small patio gardens, but brighter colors get more attention when viewed from afar. Factor in your interior décor when deciding which cut flowers to grow. Yellow and blue go with everything, and white can offset potential clashes between hot pinks and oranges. It’s your garden, so feel free to break some rules on color.

Plan out the position of perennials like this echinacea, then fill gaps with fast-growing annuals

Designing a Perennial Flowerbed

I was blown away when I used the Garden Planner to tweak my pollinator bed, a mixture of established perennials and seasonal annuals in a highly visible spot. Having recently removed several perennials the deer liked more than I did, the Planner helped me find the right spaces for new animal-resistant flowers I want to grow. Where I had a beloved perennial in place that is not (yet!) included in the Planner, I used a space-holder flower icon, which are available in various shapes and colors. Designing a perennial flowerbed with the Garden Planner was fast and easy, and gave me new confidence in my planting plans for the season ahead.

By providing an overhead view, the Garden Planner makes it easy to spot planting opportunities in a flowerbed comprised of deer-resistant annuals and perennials

Designing Containers Using the Garden Planner

The Garden Planner does a great job of helping bring compatible flowers together in planter boxes or containers, where the assemblage should resemble a small-scale border. The more you experiment with possibilities, the better your design becomes, with every flower having a visual role to play.

In the example below for a 2- by 4-foot (60 cm by 1.3 m) raised bed or planter box in shade, dusty miller and white nicotiana pick up light, making them welcome elements in partial sun. Shades of pink are echoed by begonias and impatiens, with a dark-leafed coleus added for contrast.

The Garden Objects selector in the Garden Planner includes pots and planters in various sizes that can be filled with flowers

In the sun example, butterfly and hummingbird favorites lantana and cuphea are balanced with heat tolerant convolvulus and petunia. It’s a promising plan, in which the most vigorous of the group will emerge as summer standouts, depending on what kind of weather summer brings.

On to the next! I’m using the Garden Planner to keep track of a new wildflower meadow being planted by volunteers. By publishing the plan, it becomes shareable (see this link to the simple designs shown above). This is an invaluable feature when you’re working with others to get something important done, like deepening the diversity of native wildflowers.

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Show Comments


"it would be nice if there was an option to actually plan out your flower bed as well as being told about the types of plants. I have the plants but wish to know as a beginner to gardening the way to plant out for best show"
ETH on Friday 31 May 2024

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