Perennial garden design is the ultimate skill in the magical world of gardening. While my garden isn’t bad, what I really have is politely called a “plantsman’s garden”. This is short form for a garden where a crazed plant collector lives who has one of everything and who makes absolutely no pretence of trying for any semblance of perennial garden design.
Having confessed to this – and note I’m changing this bit by bit – are things you want to consider to make your garden a great one.
Our front garden is now bordered on one side by a 10-foot wide stone pathway. Over the next few years, the 30-foot wide beds will be totally surrounded by a stone wall.
To begin with, ensure the flower beds are wide enough. This is critical to a good design because skimpy perennial beds are really tough to make look good.
The old Greeks had it right with their golden mean of design.
Figure on one foot of width for every three feet of length to a maximum of 12-15 feet
So, a fifteen foot long perennial bed should be at least five feet wide. The maximum width for a bed seems to be in the ten to fifteen foot width; anything wider and you can’t see the flowers at the back of the bed.
A great perennial flower design doesn’t have soil showing between the plants. Leaving bare spaces between plants simply leaves the garden looking young. Or, the gardener looking cheap.
An example of thick planting in the mixed border
Reflects Gardener’s Plant Preferences
A truly wonderful perennial garden design reflects the house and surroundings. There’s little sense trying to build perfectly square formal flower beds around an informal cottage type of house and equally out of place is the meandering cottage garden in a formalized setting.
But, having said that…
Grow what you like – it’s your garden. 🙂
The better parts of my garden have wonderful structure. And “structure” means the “big stuff” or “hardscape” (anything not plants)
Now, on my entranceway garden, this means that I managed to get the huge rocks situated properly to create a little bit of a hill-garden and it looks absolutely stunning completely covered with snow. With the evergreens visible year round, the perennials only make their appearance to give me colour for the summer.
My .02. Avoid the dreadful line of evergreens along the front of the house; foundation plantings are well-named – they grow up to cover the foundation.
Think of taking away all the flowers; what you have left is the structure of the garden.
If it’s simply flat with nothing there to interest visitors in non-blooming times of year, well you don’t have much structure in your garden.
Because that’s really the last point in talking about perennial garden design. A garden is an individual thing and if you like your garden (I like mine) then that’s all the really counts.
We may disagree over what makes a garden great (narrow garden beds however never make a good garden) but we’ll never disagree over the joy we get from going out in them and knowing that, however humble, it is our own garden.
You’re right, this isn’t a perennial garden but the point I wanted to make is that flowers are the accents to the garden rather than the garden. Get your garden “bones” right (the basic layout, hardscape and “big stuff”) and the flowers can then be planted as accent points.