Garden Design (by Trial and Error)

I've been spending a lot of time this spring pondering the two major perennial beds in my garden.    The one at the back, the one I call my back border, is my pride and joy.    It looks like this in July.

back border with phlox, rudbeckia, perennial lobelia in bloom

It started small in 2008 and got bigger every year.  The only 'planning' principle I used here was to try to put the tall things at the back and the short things at the front.  Somehow it all worked out - all the plants worked together, always some things in bloom and it all looked wonderful together.

My side border is a different story.   It didn't start out small at all.  In fact, we had landscapers put it in (well, put the soil in) when they rebuilt our retaining wall in 2011.  When I planted the side border, I think I thought too much about it.  I tried to put in different plants - different than the ones that were so successful in the back border and somehow I was never really happy with it.   Half the border would look nice and the other half would look empty.

side border looking a bit crowded with green

Yesterday, I just decided to go with my instincts and look objectively at the side border, thinking about where things were, what worked, what didn't work and why.  Then I 'went to town' rearranging things.    I pulled a few things out and moved other things around.   I divided things from the back border and moved them to the side border.   And I had fun doing it.

Both gardens won't have exactly the same perennials in them, but the ones that do really well for me (perennial phlox, rudbeckia, and daylilies).    It probably isn't a bad idea to have some continuity between the two beds anyway.

I'm curious to know what other gardeners do for 'planning'.   Go with gut instincts, plan from good books for their zones, or trial and error?

The great thing about flower gardening, is if things don't work, we can always move them to where they look or work better.

And a quick look at what's blooming now:


  1. Chionodoxa 'Glory of the Snow'

'Tete-aTete' daffs with large daffs in the background

Muscari 'Grape Hyacinths'

Cheers everyone and Happy Gardening!


  1. I wish my borders looked as well planned as yours do - they look lovely - mine are a bit of a mish-mash planted with what ever is available no real planning involved. Your spring bulbs look lovely I am missing the daffodils already.

  2. Hi, Diane

    I've been much too slow in returning your visit but am very glad that I have. Your garden photos are beautiful and I hope the bed in the first shot grows as beautifully this year. My garden could use some more careful planning!


  3. What lovely photos. Your pride and joy is that for a reason, it is exceptionally lovely.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  4. Nice blooms! My approach runs the gamut - sometimes lots of planning, sometimes ad hoc. Either way, I always change things around afterwards.

  5. Love your back border, Diane! Stunning!


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Happy Gardening!