There can’t be many gardens in Britain that don’t contain flowerbeds or borders. Sadly, an awful lot of them are far duller than they need to be. Perhaps the plants are past their best. Or maybe they were never conceived properly in the first place. So, if you want beds and borders with a wow factor, check out the design principles we’ve assembled here.
- Don’t place plants with widely differing growth rates in the same bed. The faster-growing plants may smother their slower neighbours.
- Raised beds edged with old railway sleepers or retaining walls give you greater control over the soil and involve a lot less bending.
Back to Basics
It seems obvious, but no plant will prosper in conditions it isn’t suited to. The first step to designing a successful flower bed is to establish how much sun the location gets and what sort of soil it has. You can buy soil-testing kits from garden centres. Once you know how well your soil drains and whether it’s neutral, alkaline or acid, you can choose plants to suit the conditions.
If you’re reviving an existing bed, only hang on to plants that are in good condition and that can be incorporated into your new design. Take advantage of the space you’ve created to work plenty of well-rotted compost into the soil. If you’re creating a bed from scratch, use a length of hosepipe to mark out the shape. Smooth, flowing curves give a more natural look – and they’re easier to mow round than tight angles.
Now comes the fun part! Once you’ve hunted down the plants that will give your new flowerbed some zing, lay them out in their pots to help you decide on their final positions. The labels ought to give you an indication of how high and wide they will eventually grow. Take care that larger plants don’t obscure their smaller neighbours. In a border, it makes sense to place taller plants at the back. In an island bed, taller plants can form a “backbone” to the arrangement.
Spice of Life
Variety is the key to most planting schemes. Choose plants with different shapes. Use complementary and contrasting colours. Think about the foliage of a taller plant in terms of the backdrop it might provide for smaller plants in front. One final tip: try not to fill your bed with plants that all flower at the same time. Unless you’re intending to create a specific effect, aim for a bed that will provide interest all year round.