How to Design a Garden Border

Updated February 21, 2017

First popularised during Victorian times, according to the University of Illinois, garden borders are essentially a mixed bouquet of flowers planted in the ground. Ornamental grasses, annual flowers and small shrubbery are often included to round out the garden and provide interest during times when the perennial flowers that make up the bulk of the garden border are not in bloom. Designing a garden border from scratch gives a gardener the opportunity to plant and grow a large variety of perennials. One caveat of flower garden borders is they are ever-changing. Inevitably you will find a plant or two that will not grow well in your locale, or perhaps some that grow too well and take over the garden. In such cases, make adjustments by planting other perennial flower varieties or dedicating the resulting space to colourful and easily changed annual flowers.

Determine the location of your garden border. They are most often set along the boundary of the property against a fence or row of shrubbery. So-called "island" garden borders are set in the centre of the yard and are viewable from all sides. Ensure that there is enough room around the island garden border so people can move around it easily. For best results, situate your garden border in a spot that receives at least six to eight hours of sun a day.

Draw a scale drawing of your garden border on graph paper. Indicate the compass directions and also any existing structures or vegetation that ares significant enough to have an impact on the growing conditions in your garden border, such as casting shade.

Determine the types and quantities of plants you wish to plant in the border. Consult seed catalogues to determine the mature size and shape of the plant, its blooming season, and whether it can be grown successfully in your hardiness zone (see Resources).

Consider the mature size of the plants when deciding where to situate them within the garden border. Taller plants should go in the back of a one-sided border and in the centre of an island border, with successively shorter plants toward the edges.

Choose perennials that bloom at different times of the growing season for a continuous succession of flowers, as most perennials do not bloom throughout the entire growing season. Plan to include a few annual flowers among the perennials in your garden border to provide colour when the perennials are not in bloom.

Include several varieties of small shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen, to provide structure and interest during the winter months.

Lay out your planned garden border on the scale drawing you prepared in Step 2. Be sure to leave enough space between the plants to accommodate their mature size without crowding.

Things You'll Need

  • Graph paper
  • Seed catalogues
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About the Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a professional writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.