Starting a colorful flower border from scratch
When you’re starting from scratch, it can be hard to know where to begin. That’s where Cynthia Libby found herself after adding a stone retaining wall and a small pond for water lilies in a portion of her zone 4 Maine backyard. She wasn’t sure what to put where in the 47-by-19-foot space in the photo below. She wanted something colorful and casual, but not too casual.
Plant long-lasting flowers
You can see the design below. It fills one end of the yard and can be repeated on the other. Long-lasting flowers keep the garden colorful from early summer until fall, and pops of red and gold add life to the quieter color palette of pink, lavender and white. Deer haven’t been a problem in the past, but to be safe, this group of plants isn’t at the top of their dining list.
Add larger plants for structure
There are lots of trees around the yard, but it’s actually pretty bright here, so full sun plants should be fine. To connect the garden with the surrounding woodland and add structure to the back of the border, there’s a 6- to 10-foot-tall Eastern hemlock and a few ‘Phantom’ panicle hydrangeas that get up to 8 feet tall. ‘Phantom’ produces some of the largest hydrangea flowers, and the 15-inch blooms hang on through winter.
Golden Duke Eastern hemlock practically glows as the light fades in the afternoon. It naturally grows into a pyramidal shape so there’s no need for pruning. The astilbes flower just once, but as they fade they dry and keep their shape for quite a while. Give these perennials regular water to keep them healthy. Take a look at the maintenance and design tips below for more on what makes this garden work.
- To tidy up the hydrangea, prune stems back to 1 to 3 feet in late winter to early spring. For a shorter plant, cut the stems back to the ground. Panicle hydrangeas bloom on new wood, so ‘Phantom’ will still flower after a spring pruning.
- Hardy hibiscus should have the dead stems cut back to the ground in early spring. New growth will take off from the crown in late spring.
- Deadheading spent blooms on the garden phlox helps plants rebloom more quickly.
Backyard border design tips
Create a stable base
Using stone pavers beneath the seating provides an even surface so the furniture doesn’t wobble.
Add clean edges to garden beds
Creating a crisp curved edge gives the yard a tidy look and echos the shape of the pond.
Multiple seating areas give you a new perspective on the garden whenever you like. Take a seat on the bench to watch the water lilies on the pond or sit on a folding chair tucked into the garden to see blooms up close. Taller plants all around create a little hideaway out of sight from the rest of the yard.
Leave some room around seating
Leave plenty of room between the bench and the pond — 4 ft. — to stretch your legs out while seated or get from one side of the yard to the other.
Meet the plants in this colorful backyard flower border
Click through the slideshow to learn about the plants in this beautiful garden plan.