Flower beds and borders can be located in many parts of the landscape. In most cases, flowers look best when they have some kind of background, such as shrubs, a fence or a building. Green grass or groundcover in the foreground also helps to set flowers off. However, a flower bed in the middle of a large expanse of lawn often looks out of place unless there are also some shrubs or trees to give some height.

One of my favorite locations for a flower border is in front of a shrub planting. I prefer to have some green shrubs next to a building with flowers in front. The width of the border will determine how many rows or layers of flowers can be planted. If the border is less than two feet wide, there is probably only room for one (or perhaps a double row of a small flower). It is important to visualize how wide the flower plants will grow when mature. If flowers are planted too close to the edge of a border, they will soon grow out over the lawn or walk. Then they make mowing difficult, obstruct traffic or must be trimmed.

A flower border on one side of a walkway can be attractive if planned so that the flowers do not grow over the walk. However, planting flower borders on both sides of a narrow walkway can create a confining situation.

Flower Height in Mixed Borders

I have found that flower borders are best if no more than three layers are used. When I have used four or more, I have usually found that one of the middle ones was hidden or overgrown by something taller or more vigorous in front of it. If the border is wide enough for more than three rows, plant double or triple rows of the same variety. Another good approach is to plant in pockets or clusters. Instead of just matching the curve or angle of the border, try planting in irregular swales or patterns which contrast with the edge of the border.

Flower beds and borders are more attractive if they are elevated some above the foreground. This is especially desirable next to a building. When flower beds are elevated and tilted a little, they show off more of their color to the viewer’s eye. If mulch or organic soil amendments are added regularly to flower beds and borders, they will soon be raised above the surrounding area. Plastic, metal or wood bender board edging will help keep the grass from growing into flower borders.

Another attractive way to organize flowers in large beds which can be seen from several viewpoints is to place the tallest flowers in the center of the bed with shorter varieties both in front and back. This type of arrangement requires some experience to achieve maximum effectiveness. The simplest version of this method is to plant one taller variety in the middle with a low ground cover in front, back and between the taller plants. The tall plants can be planted in a straight row or staggered irregularly, preferably in an S shaped curve.

When several varieties are combined, the tallest and brightest colored flowers are planted first in an S shaped curve through the center of the bed. The curved line does not necessarily have to be continuous. Normally the tall flowers (one or two varieties) occupy about 10 to 30 percent of the bed area.

Medium size flowers (one to three varieties) can then be planted on either side of the tall ones with some planted in curved lines radiating away from the main curved line. Normally the medium size flowers occupy about 20 to 30 percent of the bed area.

The balance of the bed is then filled with dwarf flowers (one to several varieties) occupying 40 to 60 percent of the bed area. Dwarf flowers fill in the outer edges of the bed plus pockets extending in between groups of medium and tall plants. Colors of the small flowers are best chosen from lighter, pastel colors.