My garden beds are looking wonderful right about now, and, not to toot my own horn, but nothing else in the neighborhood comes close. I was pondering my success today, and decided that there was probably just a few key principles I follow in the design process to achieve the looks I’ve gotten. I know there are a lot of homeowners out there who probably do not want to think about garden design as much as I do, so I thought I’d share these three simple tips that anyone can follow to create a bed that looks like it was professionally designed and is visually appealing.
1. Avoid Straight Lines and Even Numbers
Your garden bed should avoid any and all straight lines. If your bed is a foundation planting the back of the bed may be straight because it borders the house, but the front better have a curve to it. Pickpockets and magicians move their hands in arcs to distract us because our eyes cannot follow curved lines as well as straight lines. So when you use a curved line in your garden design you’re forcing the eye to slow down and follow along it rather than skip to the end, you’re telling eyes to stop and smell the roses so to speak. It makes the garden more interesting. Long sweeping curves look far better than straight lines, one of the most boring garden beds you’ll ever see is a flat straight 3 foot wide section along the foundation of a house. In a formal geometic garden straight lines can work, but such gardens also tend to require fulltime staffs of landscapers to maintain their precision pruning, they aren’t the style most of us want or can afford.
Even numbers, or planting things in matching pairs, should also be avoided, as they are easier for our brain to add up and categorize. Instead plant things in odd groups such as 3 or 7, it feels more natural and is more visually interesting.
2. Plant in Many Colors
Flowers are transient, foliage is forever. Every garden bed should have atleast one plant that has foliage that is red or purple, one that has golden or yellow foliage, and one that has silver or blue foliage. The more shades you can add the better, bonus points for black foliage.
In the red/purple foliage category there is barberry (in the pictures), purple smoke bush, ‘forest pansy’ redbud (a wonderful purple leaved tree seen in a picture here), various heuchera or heucherella (in one of the pictures), red maples (in one of the pictures), some ornamental cherries, some sedums, and some types of hardy hibiscus.
In the yellow/gold category there is golden privet (which smells wonderful and honey bees love, in a picture), eunonymous, lots of hostas, some heucheras or heucherellas, golden barberry, some arborvitae, some other evergreen hybrids, some sedums, and lysimachia.
In the blue/silver category is the well known blue spruce, but there are many varieties that are bluer than what the average person is familiar with, really striking. All types of juniper (my favorite are upright narrow varieties, in pictures, or groundcover varieties), some irises, artemisia, various other conifer cultivars, some hostas, and blue fescue.
In the black category there is “Black Lace” Sambucus, and black mondo grass, as well as a type of bamboo.
3. Plant atleast one of each of the follow…
Follow those simple guidelines and you will create more visually interesting garden beds. One final fourth rule, if you can afford it, is something inorganic. A large boulder can be invaluable to a garden bed, or use stone or brick as your edging material. A scultural item can work as well, be it made of wood such as driftwood (technically organic I guess), stone, ceramic, bronze, glass, concrete, whatever. A large container works here as well, a container a 5 year old could hide in, that big.