Designing a flower border is like decorating a room—start with the big things and the little decisions will become easier. A little bit of planning at the beginning will also put you on the path to success.
First, visualize the layout of your new flower bed. Using a garden hose to “draw” the outline of the border can be helpful—rearrange to your heart’s content until you’re pleased with the final shape. Next, create a sketch roughly to scale making sure to include any existing plants that are going to stay put. You may want to make several copies of this initial sketch before you begin to add plants to your outline—there will be much trial and error. Work in pencil!
Also observe how much sun your new bed is going to see. Full sun? Deep shade? Somewhere in-between? If you’re not sure of your hardiness zone, search by zip code using our Hardiness Zone Finder. You’ll then be ready for the fun part—choosing varieties to fill your new garden.
When designing your flower border, it’s sometimes helpful to work backwards. Work from tall to short; fall blooming to spring blooming. You’ll find that your planting choices are more limited for taller varieties with later bloom times, so why not make those choices first?
Using our Plant Finder, enter your hardiness zone and select the appropriate sun/shade condition for your growing site. Then search for plants with a tall height and fall bloom time. See what varieties catch your eye and start a list for reference. Continue your search for tall varieties, working your way through earlier bloom times. Repeat as needed for plants with medium and short heights—keeping your appropriate hardiness zone and sun/shade condition selected throughout your search. This will guarantee a list of choices that will be perfect for your new border.
Now comes the hard part—deciding! Take your list of possible varieties along with your initial rough sketch, and begin to narrow down your choices. Begin with tall varieties, working backwards from late to early bloomers (tall fall, tall summer, tall spring). Repeat with medium and short heights. Draw shapes for each plant roughly to scale, corresponding to the recommended plant spacing (for a variety with spacing listed as “Plant 3 apart”; draw a 3 circle). It’s helpful to label as you go, adding a letter next to the item on your list and in the center of the shapes on your outline. For an example of a finished layout, check out one of our Pre-Planned Garden Planting Guides
As you finalize your new flower border, don’t worry about making mistakes. Remember that gardening is all about the journey and learning along the way!