An individual flower bed can only really be part of a larger garden design and has to blend in with the other elements. The flower bed may be an island bed in the middle of a green lawn, a bordering bed against a wall, a bed to attract bees in the middle of a vegetable garden, or a small bed in a corner of a tiny patio-style city garden. Whatever its place in the overall design and landscaping of the garden, however, the design of the bed itself needs care and attention to ensure that taller plants are not hiding shorter plants and that the bed has something to offer at more than one season of the year.
The flower bed which flowers from spring and throughout the summer to mid-autumn is the ideal. The
A bed which is against a wall has the taller plants at the back and lower plants along the front. Within this framework there are plants of varying heights and shapes so that the appearance is not too formal or regimented. In an island bed, that is, a bed which is surrounded by lawn or gravel so that it can be viewed from all sides, the taller plants are clumped in the middle of the bed and there is then a variety of heights and colours and shapes, gradually flowing down to some ground cover plants at the front edge of the bed.
Viburnum Rhytidophyllum is a good choice for the tallest point of the bed. This evergreen shrub has wrinkled leaves and hanging mauve flowers. Blue delphiniums and tall purple and white alliums are used for another tall area. In a straight bed there is a space between the two tall areas and this is filled with Thalictrum Hewitt's Double, iris germanica, and verbena bonariensis. These break up the tall line at the back of the bed and continue the blue and mauve colour in different shades. The planting is done in a zig-zag formation. As the plants grow, they fill the space available.
In the middle of the bed there is a rich profusion of flowers growing to between one and 3 feet tall. Salvia superba, Eryngium Alpinum (the blue sea holly), Phlox paniculata, and Campanula glomerata all grow to a height of between 2 and 3 feet and continue the scheme of compatible colours. These all give plants with a relatively rounded shape so a couple of clumps of blue lupins with their sharp spikes add to the architecture of the bed. (Lupins seed freely, so do not allow the seed heads to ripen.) In between them are planted a variety of geraniums, Johnson's Blue, Birch Double, which is pale pink, and Walgrave Pink to give a deeper shade.
Along the front of the bed Sedum Autumn Joy covers the ground with its succulent leaves and fat green buds, followed by pinks flowers throughout autumn. This is alternated with great mounds of the white flowered and deeply scented Gypsophila. Between them are some clove-scented pinks.
A few annual plants chosen only for their foliage break up the mass of flowers. Decorative vegetable plants, red cabbage (which is not red but blue or purple) and purple-leaved curly kale are in the middle area, purple kohl rabi closer to the front. These continue the colour motif.
This choice of perennials gives a flowering season from early summer to mid or late autumn. The flowering of the bed, however, is designed to begin as early as January.
In between all the perennial clumps, once they have died down in the winter, spring flowering bulbs are planted. Snowdrops and winter aconite are followed by a mass of crocuses and iris reticulata (the exquisite dwarf iris). By the time the crocuses are dying down, the first green shoots of the perennial flowers are appearing.