Essentials of Flower Garden Design * 15 Top Design Tips to help you create your garden style,
* Start here before you design or develop a new flower garden,
* Home-grown principles of flower garden design explained here.

The most essential flower garden design guidelines are introduced on this page. You’ll also find side panel links > to additional information on specialised gardening methods, including patio gardens, organic flower garden style, plus ten themes for your flower borders. Knowing the growing needs of disirable plants is vital for success too - a page on this is coming soon.

But start right here to improve and develop your flower garden designs. A lifetime of keen observation and practical experience has inspired these 15 methods. Use them as guidelines to your unique garden challenge and your task will be simplified. They will help you avoid mistakes and improve your flower garden design. You are welcome to add your own design ideas and comments at the end of this page.

Specimen plant garden

Large area of aggregate in between plants


Creative flower garden design requires a sense of natural proportion, shape, style and color-blend as well as planting know-how. Modern efforts to garden with junk: bottles, drain pipes, murals... may be perculiar art, but they are not gardening.

Yet when you are looking for a new flower garden design, three things can bewilder:- the need to fill a blank space - restrictions imposed by an existing garden - and horticultural convention. So free your spirit, take a fresh look, and learn from the following.

1 - Set Your Garden Style With A Unifying Theme

Top priority - you need to establish a unifying look and feel for your garden. So be inspired by the shapes and textures of plants or try to capture the essence of a favourite natural landscape such as wood, scrub, meadow, bog, mountains... ... Harmony abounds in nature. What are your favourite shapes and textures?

Below, you'll find 10 ideas for flower garden designs that illustrate unifying themes. They are merely examples, so do check through all the headings below, to get a fuller grasp of garden design possibilities.

Your garden may already be influenced by prevailing natural features: wind blown hill slopes or big trees and deep shade for example; or dominated by constructions such walls and buildings. Try to make your unifying theme take advantage of prevailing conditions. Then...

Choose plants and materials that embody the characteristics of your chosen theme. Then do repeat planting to emphasise.

Comparing Formal and Informal

  • Provides clear lines and direction to visitors at the entry points,
  • Appeals to the orderly, routine, busy life,
  • Can add functionality to gardens used for activities and social gatherings,
  • Aims to provide the 'perfect' show,
  • Often includes artificially created shapes - examples include neatly clipped and shaped hedges (topiary), straight edged fine lawns, regular planting in rows and circles... and manufactured objects: obelisks, arches, benches,
  • Provides clear wide spaces around top class horticultural specimens so they can grow to their fullest potential.

  • Don't fit into surroundings that are largely natural, such as around country houses,
  • More vulnerable to natural spoilers,
  • Relies far more on labour intensive and artificial methods of gardening from clipping hedges to mulching with stones,
  • From gravel and containers, to lawns and uniform hedges, I'm afraid to say that formal styles are somewhat sterile, boring and less lively. See below...

Your garden could have many different elements:- paths, seats, mounds, slopes, steps, pergola's, lawns, borders, hedges... These all need to work in harmony so they belong to each other. Consider how these individual elements can reinforce the look and feel of your prevailing theme. Do avoid anything that is discordant.

Hard Landscape

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My main interest is in getting the planting right. But let's start with an illustration of unifying hard landscape materials. Consider a choice between stone blocks or logs, stone chippings or wood chippings; what about seats of timber, iron work, or rope...?

Most designers would agree that rope and timber work well together - their fibres seem natural. But will earthy rough logs blend well with machined and varnished wood, or with a top quality fine lawn, or with enamel painted iron work?

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Manufactured finishes - from finely clipped topiary hedging to ornate iron work - can blend together. But these artificially refined features don't blend so well with those in their natural state. Long grass or meadow is not so well seen near to modern garden furniture made of metal or polished wood for example.

The Living Landscape

When choosing plants do consider how their shape, size, structure, texture, shade and colour contribute to the overall qualities you require. All these properties influence the look and feel of your garden. They give you reference points to objectively assess how plants will blend into your theme.

You will be on the look out for plants that fit with your chosen style of garden. Let’s illustrate a few examples of gardening themes that you could use.
Scroll down to find Eleven Unifying Garden Themes - Formal to Informal >> - OR read on for the essential background to flower garden design.

Whatever your theme, it should be consistent within each planting area. This decision will help you choose the most suitable looking plants and accompanying features. Then, emphasise your chosen style over and over again.

2 - Grow strong feature plants to outline the shape of your garden

Outline and divide your garden space with strong feature plants. They give shape and style to the garden space. Pyramidal conifers, tall arching grassy plumes, weeping or drooping branches, vivid golden, bronze or variagated leaves... These are just some examples of striking plant features that help to give style and structure to a garden. Feature plants can be repeated to punctuate the distant view along paths and vistas. They can also be positioned in juxtaposition to lead the eye to an impression of greater depth - more below...

3 - Plant more and do repeat planting

You will choose plants that embody the look and feel of your flower garden design. Plant them in groups to fill the areas between feature plants. Repeat plant as many times as possible. This will emphasise your chosen theme. I suggest that you keep contrasting forms in seperate blocks. Do avoid weak and lonely, straggler plants. RED STAR

4 - Focus on plant shape and texture as well as color

The shape and texture of plants is perhaps more important than their flowers. Flowers are often short lived and cannot influence the look and feel of the garden in a lasting way. So it is the permanent shapes and textures of leaves and branches that contribute most to the look and feel. Consider how these characteristics will blend together.

5 - Choose plant shapes that mould to the shape of your garden flower beds

Globe headed flowers, rounded shrubs and large round leaves complement curved spaces. Upright shrubs, flowering spikes and sword shaped leaves complement straight edges. You should also consider this when blending plants together.

6 - Balance similar areas for height, width, and colour right across your garden

Look from left to right and front to back. Which direction draws most attention? Is there a focal point? To avoid equal symmetry divide space into thirds. You might for example, balance a more tall narrow planting opposite a high and wide area with low planting between them. Equally a tall planting can balance two wide areas around it. Positioning a fine lawn down one side only, somehow, demotes the lawn from an attraction to a mere utility.

7 - Balance brighter, bolder features with uniform restful spaces

Colorful flowers may grab attention, but don't overlook the value of a restful lawn in your design. Indeed the green uniformity of the lawn sets off your bright flowers. You might describe it as a foil. However, wood chip and aggregate are overused for this purpose nowadays and the latter makes gardens sterile, cold and uninteresting.

Try low spreading plants instead to give rest and calm within a flower or shrub border. Have you seen those tight knit, fine textured and rounded shrubs, such as Hebes or ground hugging Junipers? They too can provide a restful foil and solid structure between actively growing and merry looking groups of flowers.
Plants in scale

8 - Consider the scale and texture of your plants against available space

A fine texture is created by well-branched plants with small leaves. The opposite occurs with large open branching plants that carry big bold leaves. Small spaces will seem overcrowded by large plants. But small fine textured plants can be grown in numbers to provide a uniform spacious background. As individuals however, they are lost between the large course textured plants.

Take an example of scale in the hard landscape. Consider the visual affect of pea sized gravel compared to large pebbles. The course texture looks nearer, the fine texture adds Depth and Space. Nearby elements of your garden need to be of a similar scale so as to blend together, or of a different scale to provide contrast and relief.

9 - Consider contrast, depth and perspective

A mass of same plants can look like a two dimensional barrier or monotone block. Try to open out the garden and lead the eye through to focal points beyond. Create false horizons to diminish the impact of fences and hedges.

In nature, fine fuzzy textures, muted grey or light pastel shades, make up the distant view. The foreground is always bright, sharp and bold. Imagine the impression of depth created by placing bright course textured plants in front of fine texture plants, for example.

Yet the order and distance of these different qualities is perhaps less important than their placing in a contrasting juxtaposition (i.e. apparent proximity) that emphasises these different qualities.

Be careful that contrasting features are not actually clashing features. Pick out a minor shade in your background or foreground colour-mix, for the major shade of a bold contrasting feature.

10 - Use shrubs to form a permanent structure around flower beds

Use fine textured evergreen shrubs to form a permanent structure to your garden. This lasts through the winter. Try dwarf or tightly clipped plants of: Conifers, Hebes, Azaleas, Box, Hedera, Hypericum, Berberis... and others.

11 - Use spring flowering and autumn coloured shrubs to extend the season

Some shrubs flower in spring before perennials and then berry and change color in the fall. Shrubs can turn a seasonal garden into one that feels warm and friendly all year.

12 - Aim for a richly diverse organic garden that's interesting all-year around

With this approach you will have a garden that changes slowly, and although it may look more lively in summer it never really dies away. By moving your garden away from the showcase or decorative approach (described here) you can have a garden with year around interest. With your knowledge and love of plants you can focus on the interesting and remarkable, rather than on the popular, commonplace, perfect or dazzling.

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13 - Aim to always have some plants in flower or fruit

From early flowering bulbs to ornate seed heads and rich fall colour, your plants are amazing. Especially important for success in organic gardening is the natural provision of resources for wild animals like bees, humming birds, bats, hedgehogs and so on. Look after 'mother nature' and she rewards you by looking after your organic garden. And you'll get your share of the fruit and herb pickings too.

14 - Consider how your garden will change as the season and the years progress

You have to plan your garden in time as well as in space. Consider your plants annual growth cycle. Will your flowers compete with each other all at one time, or will they come into flower in sequence? How will they blend together at any particular time? Stretch your flower garden design ideas to the seasons and years ahead.

15 - Leave room for plants to grow and fill spaces

The change from early low growth to robust plants can create an exciting dynamic landscape. But there has to be enough room for growth. I don't favour the extensive use of aggregate and wood chip that make so many gardens look sterile and uninteresing. But a young garden may begin with small saplings. Later these will become significant trees, hedges, and shrubs that take up considerable space and cast significant shade. Individual perennial plants may become sizeable clumps.


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So in the early years the space left for growth could be planted temporarily with annuals or small perennials. But later these will have to be replaced or downsized. Try to ensure that your plants always remain in harmony and balanced over time.

* There's more further below on utilitarian flower garden design & features...

Eleven Flower Garden Design Ideas to Help Create Your Theme
Formal to Informal >>

  • Horticultural show case:   provides the space to display individual prize winning plants in all their glory. But this is not organic gardening - find more here...
  • Lawns, topiary and parterre:   Like the gardens of stately homes and manors this style is neat and manicured. It requires constant maintenance and natural planting would be seen as discordant - find more here...
  • Decorative flower themes:   attractive, formal, bedding plants are useful near an entrance to property. Requires regular attention and re-planting - find more here...
  • Favourite plant family dominates:   Examples of plant families include stars of the Aster family, Azaleas and Rhododendrons, Conifers, Roses... Can look impressive and highly specialised. The show season may be limited - find more here...

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  • Floral grandstand along paths and walls:   This one sided garden theme fills narrow strips viewed from one side - find more here...
  • Curves, domes, islands and arches:   Neat gardens that lead the eye into interesting spaces. Choose plants for shape, with repeat planting and lots more to choose from - find more here...
  • Stars with flowers:   Here's an example of how flower shape can harmonise your garden - find more here...
  • Luxuriant, bold and vibrant:   When you like to be big with plants this may be your natural garden style - find more here...
  • Carpets and mounds:   Fine textured, and can fit small spaces. You can make a natural looking creation from small shrubs and low growing and carpeting perennials - find more here...
  • Sparse, dry and grassy:   The natural look and feel of harsh dry climates. But if you like to see long course grass leaves then damp and reedy is another alternative - find more here...
  • Ferny, Woody & Gnarled:   Uses the natural texture of wood and fibre combined with divided leaves of fern like plants - find more here...
  • Creative Flower Garden Designs:   From the enchanting to the practical, here are five more flower garden themes to inspire you. You'll have fun creating your own versions of these 5 garden ideas - find more here...
  • Wild Flower Meadows:   Give something back to nature with the natural beauty of wild flowers. These are not weeds but most of them are the parents of well known flowers of horticulture - more here...

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Utilitarian Flower Garden Design & Features

Pure landscape design is rarely possible in domestic gardens. Many other considerations can take priority over the purely aesthetic flower garden designs. They include the need for privacy, security, access, and specialised constructions for growing your favourite fruit and vegetables.

Garden Privacy

Screening can look natural with the help of dense hedges, trellis work and climbing plants. However, tall screens on the sunny side of the garden can be a major limitation to growing some nice plants.

Garden for home security

Thorn hedges and groups of thorny shrubs are a significant deterrant. Crunchy gravel or shells also deter intruders, but is it necessary to fill large areas with these relatively uninteresting materials?

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Access to your garden by paths and drives etc...

Flower garden designs for accessing your plants include brick or block paths, stepping stones, erosion resistant matting sown with lawn seed, as well as the usual gravel, concrete, and tough utility lawn paths. For the flower garden, Chamomile will give you a unique scented path that's lovely to walk on and to mow - although it hardly needs mowing.

Raised beds

Raised beds are especially useful for disabled people. They help to bring the garden within reach. The materials that are used to construct raised beds can also be used for terracing sloping ground or for building tiered water features. You'll find much more about raised bed gardening on this link.

Very Brief Summary For Creating Your Flower Garden Design - see details above.

  • Decide on your garden look and feel
  • Select the main plants and materials that embody your theme,
  • Make repeat and impressive plantings of your main theme plants,
  • Consider the seasonal changes throughout the whole year, and in the coming years,
  • Consider shape and texture, space, scale and perspective, color and season of interest,

  • Tell us about your own flower garden design ideas and garden plans?
  • Would you like to send me pictures of your flower garden designs?
  • Share your pictures with visitors to

Please Write About Your Flower Garden & Send Pictures

I want my visitors to read about Your flower garden ideas and how you manage your flower garden.

  • There are many styles of flower gardening - what is your favourite?
  • There are many gardening challenges to contend with - how do you grow your flowers?
  • I'll do my best to answer any queries that you include but then please include all relevant details about your garden and plants.
  • Whatever your story is, we all have lots to learn from gardeners like you.
  • So please make your story around 300 words or more. You can also upload up to 4 pictures of your flowering plants, flower garden and, why not include one of you.
  • Make your pictures no larger than 800x600 pixels - whow!!! that big!! ? If needed you can resize any oversized pictures with the help of this link -

I look foward to reading your story and viewing your pictures.

Find more links about Flower Gardening below:

At Home with Flower Gardens

Flowers For
More Help On
Flower Garden Design
Grow Your
Own Flowers

Flowers & vases


Display Organic Flowers


Patio & Social Gardening


Container Gardening


Winter Flower Gardens


10 Themed Flower Borders 


Natural Flowers


At Home with Flower Gardens


Buy Flower Plants


Flowers from Seed


Growing Flowers

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