Flower Garden Design – The #1 Mistake

perennial garden

A perennial bed between my vegetable garden and the street adds color and interest to my overall landscape.

When you think about your perennial flower garden design, are you happy with how it looks?  Do you have continuous color, interesting texture and foliage, and a method to your design? When looking out your window or sitting in your yard does your garden bring you joy?

If your perennial garden leaves a bit to be desired or doesn’t quite match your vision, consider the most common mistake of creating a garden…lack of editing!  We gardeners love plants — that’s part of why we garden.

And when we go to the farmers market, the garden store, or the nursery we often find ourselves buying much more than what was on our list.

flower garden in spring

My perennial garden in spring.

We see a flower in a particular shade of pink that would fit perfectly into one of our garden beds or we find a new variety of a favorite plant.  We buy one, bring it home, and then try to figure out where to fit it into our garden.

This pattern repeats itself each season, and after awhile we end up with a jumble of plants and a flower garden design with no rhyme or reason and no overall plan.  Our garden feels crowded, it doesn’t have a rhythm to its blooming color, it doesn’t keep us interested, and it doesn’t sing.

We have become a victim of the onesies!

flower garden in spring

The onesies are when we keep buying one or two plants every time we go shopping and then end up with only a few of each plant. It often leaves our gardens looking disjointed and messy.

If you take a look at professionally designed gardens around your town you’ll notice that the plants are arranged in blocks and drifts.  This points to a fundamental concept of flower garden design – plants look better and create more visual impact in groups.  A garden of singles and doubles will most likely look cluttered and jumbled.

Tips for Garden Design

One of my favorite flowers for the garden – Purple Sensation Allium

Take some time to go out into your garden this week and take a closer look.  Have you planted in drifts and groupings or do you have more of a onesie garden?

If your flower garden design has more of a onesie feeling, see if you can move some things around or divide plants this fall to create more groupings.

This summer when you’re at a nursery (there are great sales in summer!), buy some duplicate plants to fill out some of the drifts you’ve started. I often say to myself when browsing at a store, “I can’t buy any plant that I don’t already have somewhere in my landscape.” And if I do decide to buy a plant I don’t already have, I buy at least three, never just one.

Designing a knockout perennial garden isn’t easy – it takes practice and a familiarity with design. I’ve been learning for 11 years and I’m still a better vegetable gardener than flower gardener! But, if you’d like to spend some time and energy building your skills and improving your garden, here are some of my favorite resources.

Garden Design Tips

Your vegetable garden in spring can be pretty flat and boring. Why not add a perennial border for some pops of early color?

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  • If you live near a botanical or other public garden, try to make a trip there once a month to take a look around. Bring your phone or camera and snap photos of what you like. I’ve found a lot of new plants and interesting combinations this way.
  • Many cities and towns have gardening clubs that offer regular garden tours. Spend a few days this season being inspired by gardens in your local area.
  • If you have a Pinterest account start a board of plants you like and want to grow. You can check out mine here.
  • Nan Ondra’s book, The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer, is the best book I’ve found on garden design. I secretly consider her the queen of garden design because her combinations are often jaw-droppingly gorgeous and she loves unique plants. She has a great blog and website with tons of photos. I bet you’ll find lots of plants you want to grow in your own garden!
  • Fellow garden blogger, Lisa Orgler, teaches landscape architecture in Iowa and shares lots of garden design tips and tricks on her blog.

Read more about how to create a beautiful garden:

Gorgeous Summer Blooming Perennials

Design a Decorative Garden with a Rainbow of Colorful Plants

Adding Beauty to Your Garden with Flowers




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