• Create a Strong Visual Impact in Your Landscape with Flower Beds

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    Schumacher Companies
    Schumachers have been working the soil for generations. The Schumacher family farm in Lexington inspired David’s father, John, to found a landscaping business in 1965 that eventually became one of the largest landscape companies in Massachusetts. David is proud to carry on that tradition with The Schumacher Companies.
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    One simple way to create a strong visual impact in your landscape is to incorporate flower beds.

    By D. Schumacher Landscaping

    Well-designed flower beds bloom year-round and can brighten a home’s façade, decorate a fence line, disguise an ugly wall, or ‘float’ in the middle of a large lawn. They can reflect the personality of the owner or accent the style of the home. They can be dramatic or whimsical, warm or cool, exciting or soothing. Flower beds can be newly created or, in most cases, they can replace existing shrub or plant beds that are tired or overgrown.

    Whether you design your own bed or hire a professional, there are a few considerations that can guide your through the design process.

    Location, location, location…

    You can put a flower bed just about anywhere – bordering fences or foundations, on slopes, or even in the middle of your lawn. Some homeowners with small backyards have even elected to turn the whole of those spaces into gardens with small stone paths meandering through them. No matter where you decide to place one, before you begin planting you should gather more information about the location.

    Observe the sun and shade. How much sun does the area get? Does it receive more sun in the morning than the afternoon? If the bed is near trees, does the proposed area receive shade evenly or is one area more shaded than another? This balance of sun and shade is an important consideration. Not all plants like equal amounts. Some plants like Coreopsis want lots of sun, whereas Astilbe prefers shaded moist areas.

    Are there trees in the chosen location? Trees are tough competitors for nutrients and water and leave little of both for any plantings under them. You should also observe the soil. Is the soil sandy, loamy, or more like clay?

    Does it drain well after it rains, or does it hold water for a long period of time? Some perennials and annuals, similar to interior plants, do not like a lot of water. For example, Purple Coneflower requires well-drained soils unlike Primrose which can tolerate moist soil.

    All of these observations should be recorded in a journal and will help shape your plant selections.

    You should also make decisions about the size and shape of the bed. Do you want your new bed to have a straight edge or a curving one? Straight edges are easier to maintain, but curving edges soften the flower bed’s presentation. If you are creating a flower bed as a border to a fence, wall, or walkway how far do you want the bed to extend out?

    A narrow bed will limit not only how many plants you can use but also restrict plant height. Two more important considerations are color and texture.


    A basic guide to follow when making color selections is to plant what you like. There is a lot of information discussing ways to mix and match colors and we’ll discuss a little of that here, but if you like a color scheme and find it pleasing – use it.

    photo 4-3A flower bed that brings no enjoyment to the viewer is not worth creating, so listen to your heart and plant what pleases you. If you are unsure of what you like or know what you like but still want some guidance, then the following discussion will be helpful to you.

    An easy way to select color in your garden is to use the color wheel that we all became familiar with in elementary school. The primary colors of red, blue, and yellow (which cannot be made by mixing colors) are mixed in equal amounts to make their complementary colors.

    Green, an equal mix of the primary colors of blue and yellow, is the complement to the remaining primary color red. Think of the red petals of a rose and how their impact is heightened by the green foliage that surrounds the rose bloom. Violet, an equal mix of primary colors red and blue, is the complement to the remaining primary color yellow.

    Purple bell-flowers or verbena and golden yarrow are often found together in gardens and you’ll often see the deep purple of a wave petunia planted in a flower container with the light bright green of a potato vine. Lastly orange, an equal mix of red and yellow, is the complement to the remaining primary color blue.

    Imagine Blue Salvia planted with Echinacea Julia. Using only complementary colors can be limiting, however, and can create discordant effects in flower beds, especially large ones. It’s often a good idea to use colors that are adjacent on the color wheel to soften transitions and create harmony. Differing shades of purple, blue and yellow are often planted in combinations for this reason.

    It’s also important to remember that color is found not only in the plant’s blooms but also in its foliage. Foliage color can have a strong visual impact when planted in groups. When planted singly, however, the effect is lessened to the point where the bed can look messy and disordered.



    Texture as it relates to plants refers to their look and appearance, not their feel. A thin and spiky-looking fern frond is very different in appearance from a broad smooth-edged hosta leaf. Plant texture is said to be fine, medium, or course. In the previous example, the fern is said to have a fine texture and the hosta a course one. Fine textures create an airy effect, present a relaxed atmosphere and have a tendency to make a small space feel big. Large-blossomed or -leaved plants, however, tend to be dramatic.

    When planted in groups, course plants can make a space feel smaller. Rhododendron and viburnum can have this effect. Leaf color can also have an impact on plant texture. Variegated leaves as found on coleus and some hostas can make a traditionally course-textured plant more medium or fine in texture by breaking up the broad look of the plant’s leaf.

    And remember that fine-textured plants lose their fine texture the farther away we stand when viewing them.

    Texture provides visual impact when they are mixed. Combining different textures creates contrast which allows the plants to differentiate themselves. A flower bed with too many course-textured plants looks large and plodding without any fine-textured plants for contrast.

    In addition, a bed with too many fine-textured plants looks messy and lacks focus. The goal is to combine textures so that you create contrast and focal points in the bed that draw the viewer’s attention.


    Another consideration to keep in mind is plant height. If you are creating a flower bed that borders a fence, wall, or foundation, think about placing the taller plants in the rear and gradually incorporating smaller plants toward the front. Be careful not to exceed the height of the wall or foundation, however.

    A bed that colorfully hides a home’s foundation creates a pleasing effect, but if the plants are too tall and cover the house and even windows, then a messy discordant effect is created.

    When planting along a walkway or fence and the border area is narrow, you must keep your plant heights in a pleasing ratio. Overly tall plants in the back will dwarf too small plants in front and reduce the symmetry of the design. If you are creating a floating bed in the middle of your lawn, place the taller plants in the middle and smaller on outside edges.

    Perennial or annual

    The advantage of planting perennials is that, with proper care, they will come back, making them very cost-effective over annuals. Most perennials, however, bloom at only one time of the year, so strong consideration has to be made in selecting material for your bed.

    You want a mix of perennials that will provide you with blooms during each season. Annuals, however, provide instant color because thir availability is based on their bloom season. The disadvantages to annuals are their fleeting nature (they will not grow back next season) and the high demands for water and fertilizer made by their blooms.

    One way to decide between perennials and annuals is to build a foundation of perennial material and create spaces for annual color to be planted during each season. This is a cost-effective way to enjoy a flower bed that provides a visual foundation to your landscape as well as new effects during each seasonal rotation

    March 22, 2014