Forum home Garden design

How to design a flower bed for all seasons?

Forgive the newbie for the super obvious beginner question, but it's something I haven't been able to get right in my previous small garden. Now I've moved house and have a big untouched garden and I'm planning my new flower beds and want to get it right! 

I've previously seemed to buy plants which flower at one time (eg May/June) and then was left with nothing for the rest of the summer or year. I want to avoid making the same mistake in my new garden but I'm not sure how. I know a lovely flower/colour combination of plants I want but they all flower in July-August which means I'd have no colour until then. If I spread them out with enough space for other (earlier flowering plants) (and their roots) then I lose the impact of the colours altogether as there will be gaps and fading/dying flowers in between them when they start to flower. It's such an obvious question but I don't know how to get it right!


  • chickychicky SurreyPosts: 9,752
    Bulbs are good for spring/ early summer interest, and they have the advantage of disappearing back underground when they have done their thing.  I also use oriental poppies for a good show in May/June - they can also be cut back to form a neat mound of leaves for the rest of the year - you can use the same trick with hardy geraniums.  And some of the geraniums (eg Rozanne) and geums (eg totally tangerine) will flower right through from June to September.  Hope this helps
    We did not inherit the earth from our grandparents.  We’re borrowing it from our children.
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 8,235
    One tip is to visit garden centres/nurseries throughout the year. This will give you the opportunity to see what's in flower at that time, and how the plants would fit into your design and colour scheme, and also if the soil and location would be right for them.
    You don't necessarily have to buy a whole load of plants each time, just take photos and make a note of the variety. 
  • @AnniD good idea - and funnily enough I have oodles of plant photos that I've taken at both garden centres and the GW live events so I should dig those out and look at when they were taken and how I can incorporate them.

    @chicky thank you - I had a few Totally Tangerine Geum in my last garden, I'm very fond of them. Might try some of the other new varieties too as I'm very into the orange/red and blue/purple colour scheme combination of flowers.

    It sounds like I just need to plan a bit more carefully - I really struggle with visualising how something will look before it's there and it often turns out to look completely different to how I'd envisaged it!
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 8,235
    I know what you mean :) . It's something that comes over time, and one thing l learnt is that the thing with those show gardens is that they are obviously designed for instant impact, and everything is crammed in for effect. Sometimes the planting in them wouldn't always be in flower at the same time.
    The times l've planted something,  only to find it's too tall, the wrong colour, etc. Mind you that's part of the fun, moving things about !
    Shows like GW Live are great for finding plants that are more unusual,  and the exhibitors are usually only too happy to give advice. If you can plan to get there at the beginning or towards the end of the day when things are a little less frantic they have a bit more time to spare.
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,386
    A border does not have to be just flowers.
    Think about shrubs which can be of interest all year round,these could be flowering ones or ones grown for their foliage.
    I love Spirea japonica
     and Ceratostigma willmotianum
    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 16,773
    You can always use annuals eg Salvia Farinacea, Rudbeckias, Cosmos or biennials, such as Sweet Williams, to fill in gaps and provide colour while you are still planning or waiting to find a plant.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • Papi JoPapi Jo Brittany, France Posts: 3,133
    I find it strange that you never mention if you are planning to use herbaceous perennials OR annuals in your new garden (or both). And what about shrubs? Also you mention "colours", I hope you include white in your colour scheme!
    A careful selection of perennials & shrubs (plus a few bulbs) should ensure a colourful display for most of the year. Do make a plan of your garden to scale and populate it with potential plants. 
    You may find some useful ideas on my garden site at
    You can browse the plants by type, season, colour, etc. at
    Looking forward to news of your progress, with pics!
    You are invited to a virtual visit of my garden (in English or in French).
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,023
    It does take time and experimentation to get the succession of flowering throughout the season, I’m not there yet, after 3 years there are still gaps. The more repeat or long-flowering season plants you can include the easier it is to achieve. Oranges/reds with purple is my favourite combination too. I have lots of salvias and agastaches for purple, roses, heleniums, echinaceas and achilleas for orange/red. 
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,769
    I have tried to do this, gilla, but I'm not sure whether it has worked or not. What I LIKE about it is that I can go into the garden on any day of the year and find something at its best. My garden is quite big so I can walk around and surprise myself by finding things that have come up and flowered and look lovely.
    The down side is that there are always gaps. For example, I too have oriental poppies, which make a beautiful show. Then they go brown and shrivelled and die away, leaving bare earth where they were.You can't underplant because they smother anything close. However, if you have money and time enough, it is possible to fill in most gaps. Monty Don is brilliant at this, but I have to add that his budget per programme usually exceeds my annual spend.
    In the end, it will come down to what you like: one glorious show, soon over, or a more gentle progression throughout the season.
  • KiliKili Posts: 715
    Try some daffodil bulbs for spring colour. There relatively cheap and can fill out a border quite well. I plant about a hundred daffodil bulbs every year in my border, then pull them all up come the summer and stick em in the garage until next December. You can also use Tulip bulbs but there more expensive than daffodil in my experience.
    Plant between the daffodil, viola, pansy and primrose this gives you colour mostly through to April. may.


    'The power of accurate observation .... is commonly called cynicism by those that have not got it.

    George Bernard Shaw'

Sign In or Register to comment.