Unique flowerbed ideas to make your home look great

Story and Photography by Susan Jasan

What’s your style? Traditionalist … Naturalist … Conservationist … Free spirited … Wild & Wonderful? Whatever your style, you can achieve fantastic flowerbeds to complement your home. It takes some thorough planning, proper ground preparation, some good old-fashioned hard work, followed by proper watering, and of course the final touch: maintenance throughout the growing season. The results: rewarding!

Black sedge (Carex nigra ‘Variegata’) creates a soft edge along this pathway, with perennials and shrubbery beyond.

Some key components to planning is the tried and true approach of right plant, right place. Be sure you know the cultural requirements of your plants. Be sure you study the environment you’ve selected for your garden. Is it in shade or sun? Wet or dry? Fertile soil or rocky? What unforeseen challenges might you encounter: buried utilities, tree roots, drainage easement? Are there microclimates where a primarily sunny area has a pocket of shade?

Have fun and create a great garden to add pop to your home landscape.

As you select your garden location, consider the views. Do you want to see it only from the street, upon approach to the house, or do you want to enjoy your garden from inside your home? 

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) combine for a great statement in the fall garden.

When you design your planting bed, you’ll find large sweeping curves are easier to maintain, as well as easy on the eyes. Tight curves or corners make maintenance a bit trickier.

Decide whether your bed will be all annuals or a combination of annuals and perennials. Do you want to include any woody ornamental shrubbery or trees in the mix? Consider all seasons: What will your garden look like in the fall and winter? 

If you have a large slope and are comfortable with random plantings, this may be the ticket for you. Some of the flowers include: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’, High Tide Blue floss flower (Ageratum houstonianum ‘PAS347557’), ‘Inca’ zinnia, Victoria Blue’ mealycup sage, ‘Gigantica Deep Red’ zinnia, and ‘Silky Deep Red’ bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Depp Red’).

How much money and time you’re willing to invest is an important consideration when planning any garden. The impulse is often to create a large instant garden, but at the same time beware that you not neglect or misjudge the maintenance commitment you are making. Start small. You can always grow your garden in size.

As long as you remember, “Right plant, right place,” and keep plants with similar cultural requirements together, that’s 90 percent of the battle. Mixing colors, heights, and textures is completely personal taste. Measure your space; draw it on a square grid piece of paper. Make notes of roots, shade areas, walkways, utilities, etc. anything that could impact your plan and plant selection.

Left to right: 1. For layers of fall color, consider this hillside combination: Blue Sunrise geranium (G. ‘Blogold’), birchleaf spirea (Spiraea betulifolia), juniper (Juniperus spp.), an upright arborvitae (Thuja spp. cv.), and ‘Budd’s Yellow’ dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Budd’s Yellow’). 2. In the spring, white tulips (Tulipa spp.) fill the garden space below the evergreen yaupon hollies (Ilex vomitoria). 3. An explosion of colors and blooms are massed together in this grouping with a pot in the middle and annuals below.

Generally speaking, you always want to have some type of evergreen anchor to the garden. It can be a unique single specimen plant, or maybe it’s a backdrop of evergreens. Consider any permanent features you might want to include such as a boulder, bench, or garden art that could be a focal point. Remember the scale in nature is much larger than indoors, so think BIG! You’ll be surprised how a pot that looks massive inside suddenly gets lost in your design in nature.

Then add your layers of colors. Create sweeps of colors for the greatest impact. This is especially true when using fall bulbs for spring bloom. Mass bulbs in large groups rather than scattering them across a large space. You’ll be much happier with the results. 

As you consider colors, don’t limit yourself to just blooming plants. Today, there are fantastic selections available of plants with dramatic textures or colorful foliage that should be utilized in creating a beautiful garden space. 

Are you one for symmetry? If so, don’t fight it. Embrace it. Build your garden around a symmetrical design. If you prefer asymmetry, which is still in balance, indeed this can be an equally fun approach in your design. 

Begonias frame the back entry to this home.

Simple? Use an evergreen backdrop with a single type of annual or perennial and make a statement. Love chaos? Then plant at will. One fun approach is a random selection of plants of the same color: monochromatic. Some of the most stunning gardens are random plantings of a variety of annuals and perennials, even shrubbery that all bloom the same color. Be sure to plan so that there’s something blooming all the time. Use a standard color wheel if you’re unsure about colors to use together. Complementary colors of a similar hue are very restful and calming to the spirit. Contrasting colors are bold and stimulating. Or go for it, and plant a full mix of colors, textures, heights, and blooms.

Speaking of colors, blue-blooming flowers are some of my favorites, but unless you are standing next to it, a blue bloom gets lost in a large landscape. In contrast, purple-blooming plants with a complementary yellow-blooming plant nearby can make a very striking statement. Yellow seems always to be the easiest to see from any distance, and pinks and coral blooms seem to hold the depth of their color the best in the heat of the summer sun.

Remember also the winter look for that same garden space. Evergreens are indeed anchors, but there are many plants with interesting bark that can provide great interest in the dead of winter when little else is in bloom. Exfoliating bark, berries, and unique forms – think weeping – all are great ways to add visual interest in winter.

The pinks of Splash Select Pink polka-dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya Splash Select ‘Pink’), and Sunpatiens Compact Blush impatiens (I. ‘SAKimp013’) make an inviting combination.

And lest one forget, the understated ground cover. Always be mindful of the growth rate of any ground cover you use, as it can be a frustrating experience if it grows slower than you desire, and equally overwhelming if the ground cover proves more aggressive than you anticipated. Ground covers can help provide evergreen coverage in the winter as well as bloom color in season. 

Have fun and create a great garden to add pop to your home landscape.




Take care with any streetside planting to not block any pedestrian or vehicular intersections with plants over 18 inches in height. 

Gardeners often want to screen something, and quite often it’s the utility boxes. A word of caution: There may be codes or covenants that preclude a planting around the utilities or may specify what is acceptable. 

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to want to plant around fire hydrants. DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HIDE THE FIRE HYDRANT in case your home is on fire or threatened by an approaching fire? NEVER EVER plant anything around a fire hydrant so that it hides the hydrant!!!

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