For hundreds of years people have been tending flower gardens. It could be the allure of the colors, it could be the challenge of creating the perfect bloom, or maybe it’s just about the comfort of greenery around the home. Whatever your motivation, flower beds are a perfect addition to your landscape.

The variety of flowers available can make selecting the plants, the shape, the style, and the placement of your flower garden can be a daunting task. The best flower garden designs incorporate perennials, annuals, bulbs and companion plants, all tied together by a strong color scheme or design style.

flower bed with tulips and short flowers in front

Choosing a flower garden design for your property should start by determining what flowers will grow well on your property. There are several factors to consider such as light, temperatures, soil quality and more will impact how well the flowers perform.

Beds and Borders:

There are two basic types of garden beds; island beds and borders.

·     Borders 

A border is anchored by a backdrop. The backdrop can be the house, a hedge row, a fence, anything that gives you a fairly solid background. The backdrop obviously helps to define the size of the garden bed. Borders are generally, but not always, long and narrow. The proportions of border beds are important, if the proportions are off it can look odd. How deep your bed needs to be depends on how long the bed is. A short bed doesn’t need to be as deep, a 3-foot by 8-foot bed will look right at home. A longer bed will need more depth, if possible.

front yard with tiered hedges

·       Island Beds

Island beds are not anchored by a backdrop. They can be viewed from all sides and often have a center anchor which may be a tree, shrub, fountain, bench, etc. Island beds tend to be more round, square, rectangular or irregular shapes. As with borders, their length and width needs to be somewhat proportional, so longer beds need to also be wider. Island beds can be tiny such as a small ring around a mailbox or tree, but can be as large as 6 to 8 feet across.

dwarf tree with tight bushes

In general, plants in borders are arranged with tall plants (taller than 2 to 3 feet) placed in the back, mid-size plants (10 inches to 2 to 3 feet tall) in the middle, and short plants (less than 10 inches) in the front of the bed. In islands, the tallest plants are often in the middle with shorter plants towards the edges.

Formal vs. Informal

Most experts agree gardens fall into two styles: formal, or informal. Formal gardens use distinct geometric shapes. They may be in circles, rectangles, triangles or long straight lines. The plants, spacing, color, and layout are all very precise and kept tidy.

On the other hand, informal gardens tend to use curves and free flowing forms. In an informal garden the color combinations are more relaxed and all sorts of different plants will mingle together to create a more wildflower, natural look.

flower garden lining sidewalk to front door

Garden Bed Shapes:

Whether you choose to plant in a more formal or informal style, there are five main planting bed shapes. These shapes can be used for gardens planted directly in the ground, for raised beds, or even for grouping large containers together in a beautiful style.

flower pots hanging from fence posts

1.     Rectangle: A rectangle garden bed works great for both formal and informal spaces. It always looks tidy and organized. It works great for lining paths, but doesn’t always work well for a sloping site.

2.     L-shaped: This can either formal or informal, depending on the setting. A L-shaped garden bed easily divides the garden into distinct areas or zones. This is perfect if you want to plant two different types of scenes. It is also easily adaptable to many lot shapes and sizes.

hosta plants in a flower bed

3.     Triangle: A triangle shape is a rare garden bed shape, but looks beautiful. Generally a triangle shape is informal, but it can quickly elevate to an elegant scene when used in a series. It’s perfect for a corner or a sloped lot.

4.     Round: The circle is a formal shape but very popular across a wide variety of properties. It’s common to see a round garden bed divided by a cross axis path and/or accented with a sculpture or urn in the center. This creates an instant focal point in any property.

bench along edge of flower garden

5.     Irregular: Anything other than the four distinct garden bed shape qualifies as irregular. It is, by nature, informal and works great on flat or sloped areas. Irregular beds can be used as a border with a wide variety of plants. Where beds are deep, paths should echo the shape. If used as a border, consider planting with a mixture of perennials and edibles.

How to Choose the Best Shape

The most important factor in determining the best shape for your lawn is the way you plan to use your space. If you want to use your lawn for recreation and entertaining, you want to have a large open area, and keep your garden to clearly defined circular and rectangular shapes. You might choose a geometric shape to project a strong sense of order, control, and formality. Open or free-flowing shapes are more playful, relaxed, and natural.

brick pathway with green bushes planted along

The landscape of your property also plays a role in the shape of the lawn. If you have a sloping space, large front area, or rolling landscape in the backyard, it lends itself to certain shapes of garden beds. Some interesting lawn designs trace the shadow patterns of the house and trees during the growing season.

lavender bushes along a fence line

You may also need to consider the conditions of your soil and environment. If you live in boggy or rocky areas, you may want to put your garden bed in an area that is easily dug out to fill with adequate soil.

Maintenance is also worthy of consideration. Think about the total number square feet to mow, whether you are able (and willing) to mow on a slope, and how garden lines may increase the amount of edging and trimming that is required.

flower bed with grass walkway to a wood gate

Learning the types and styles and shapes of gardens can help you design gardens for your own home. It is important to remember that gardens have no rules, you are free to create the space you want in the land you love.

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DIY Flower bed and flower garden designs that will help you plan your outdoor project!
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