Image Gallery: Annual Flowers An annuals garden fills your landscape withblooms throughout the growing season. See more pictures of annual flowers.

When designing an annuals garden, you'll need to consider factors such as color, shape, scope, and texture, as well as whether to intermingle your annuals with other types of plants. In this article, we'll discuss laying out an annuals garden, mingling annuals with other plantings, beginning annuals design, advanced annuals design, other design uses for annuals, and annuals design tips.

Designing your garden with annuals gives lots of importance to flower color. Annuals offer flower color for a longer period of time than other plant types, for they are constantly in bloom. They are often used in complex plans. Clumps look better than rows or thin lines. Arrange tall types toward the back and shorter types in front. In island beds, taller types go in the center because the beds are seen from all sides. Random mixtures of like plants in different colors are usually less successful than clumps of one color contrasted with clumps of another, in the color scheme you have chosen.

Keep design factors such as color, form, texture, and scale in mind with the assurance that annuals will perform their role in the design in a stable fashion, not changing that much from week to week. Whatever your style, whether casual or formal, annuals are excellent sources of accents and colors for great garden effects.

Now that you've settled on annuals for your garden, you're ready to get started with your design. On the next page, learn about laying out an annuals garden.

Want more information about gardening with annuals? Try these:

  • Annual Flowers: Plant these beauties for flowers all summer long.
  • Annuals: Learn about all the different types of annual plants.
  • Garden Care: Annuals: Find out how to care for the annuals in your garden.
  • Gardening: Learn the basics of successful gardening.

Laying out an Annuals Garden

Laying out an Annuals Garden
This massed layout uses all varieties of geraniums.

Before you plant your annuals garden, you'll want to actually sketch out your garden plan. It is seldom possible to create an attractive annuals garden simply by planting out boxed plants or flower seeds without any plan. More often than not, this approach will produce unsatisfactory results. You need advance planning. Without it, it's easy to slip up and be disappointed.

Draw a quick outline of your garden bed, noting down its approximate dimensions and the amount of sun the area receives each day. Also list the names of your favorite annuals so you'll be sure to include most, if not all, of them in your plan.

The next step is to look up your favorites and to note the colors they come in and their growth habits. Mark down whether they prefer full sun, partial shade, or full shade. Also specify how tall they grow (T=tall, I=intermediate, L=low, V=vining).

Check to see if any of your favorites prefer a different amount of sun than your site has available; cross out those that aren't suitable. In other words, if you love impatiens, but your bed is in full sun, only New Guinea impatiens will succeed there. (Since other varieties of impatiens do not tolerate full sun, you may want to see if there's a shady location elsewhere in the yard or on a covered porch where you can enjoy a few instead.)

If you have very few favorites and a large space to fill, add a second list of annuals that you find attractive and that fit the light and color limitations of your site. Use seed catalogs to help choose the variety of petunia, marigold, snapdragon, or whatever, with the color and height you want. Be sure to note down several variety names and sources if a plant comes in more than one desirable color.

Use colored pencils to color in planting sections within your bed outline. A more informal and interesting design will result if you vary the size and shape of these sections. Then decide which plants should go into what sections of your plan. Remember to keep tall plants in the back and low plants up front, filling in with intermediate heights. That way none of the plants will be blocked from view. If a bed is going to be in an area where it will be seen from all sides, the tallest plants should be in the center of the bed with low ones around the outer edges.

As you plan, be sure flower colors in adjacent sections vary but don't clash. Maintain a balance of color in the bed -- avoid placing all the same-colored flowered plants on one side. In large beds, repeat the same variety in several sections, making the sections much larger than you would in smaller beds.

Once you've decided what will go in each section, double-check to be sure you haven't inadvertently made a mistake -- such as putting a tall plant up front or all the marigolds in one area. If you have, it's easy to change on paper.

Once the plan is in its final form, you can then figure out approximately how many plants you'll need of each kind to fill the allotted space. This will help in ordering seeds for sowing or starting and in buying boxed bedding plants.

Caution: If you plan to buy bedding plants rather than grow your own, remember that the variety of plants available will be limited. It might be best to visit suppliers and make a list of what colors and kinds of plants they have available before making your garden plan. That way you won't have to settle for substitutions or totally redo your garden plan.

Some gardeners like to mix their annuals with perennials, shrubs, or trees. If that's your plan, keep reading to learn about mingling annuals with other plantings.

Want more information about gardening with annuals? Try these:

  • Annual Flowers: Plant these beauties for flowers all summer long.
  • Annuals: Learn about all the different types of annual plants.
  • Garden Care: Annuals: Find out how to care for the annuals in your garden.
  • Gardening: Learn the basics of successful gardening.

Mingling Annuals with Other Plantings

Marigolds can provide a boost of color to any garden.
Marigolds can provide a boost of color to any garden.

Although annuals make a splendid display on their own in an annuals garden, they also combine effectively with other plants. Any dull spot can be brightened almost immediately with the addition of a few colorful annuals.

If, as you look at your garden, you feel something is lacking, see if you can identify one or more areas where accents of color would improve it. For example, although shrub borders are flower-filled in spring and early summer, they often provide only a few blooms the rest of the season.

In many gardens, shrub plantings provide no summer color at all. It's amazing how much more attractive such an area becomes when just a few groupings of annuals are inserted. It's not necessary to plant a large bed in front of the entire length of the shrub border. Several strategically located accent clumps are usually all that is needed.

Annuals can also provide the perfect midsummer boost a perennial border may need. Plant them in the spaces where spring bulbs and some perennials are dying back, or where early flowering biennials such as foxgloves and English daisies have been removed -- anyplace an empty spot occurs.

If a perennial bed is so packed that there is no free space in which to plant annuals, consider another approach: Place pots or boxes of annuals on small outdoor tables or stools. Tuck these display stands here and there in the border. Or, if there is a fence or wall behind the border, use it as a support from which to hang half-baskets or window boxes full of flowering annuals.

Another good place to add annuals is in the vegetable patch. Not only will they enliven an area not normally expected to be colorful, they'll also provide an excellent source of cut flowers to bring indoors. Because the vegetable garden is not usually a display area, every flower can be picked if desired.

Plantings combining annuals with vegetables can be laid out in various ways. One approach would be to plant annuals around the outer edges of the garden, hiding or disguising the vegetable patch. Another alternative would be to plant rows of annuals here and there among the vegetables. Finally, a handsome combination design, especially where the total garden space is limited, would be a very formal geometric garden, laid out with some of the beds planted with annuals and others with vegetables. The final choice, of course, depends on your personal preferences as well as on the dictates of your garden site.

When designing an annuals garden, you'll want to consider the effects of color and texture on your garden's final appearance. To learn about beginning annuals design, keep reading.

Want more information about gardening with annuals? Try these:

  • Annual Flowers: Plant these beauties for flowers all summer long.
  • Annuals: Learn about all the different types of annual plants.
  • Garden Care: Annuals: Find out how to care for the annuals in your garden.
  • Gardening: Learn the basics of successful gardening.

Beginning Annuals Design

Gardens don't have to be rectangular -- use your imagination to come up with a creative pattern.
Gardens don't have to be rectangular -- use your imagination to come up with a creative pattern.

There are several factors to consider when designing your annuals garden, such as the color and texture of the flowers you want to plant. Use the following guidelines to help you with the design process.

Color

Designing with annuals puts a lot of emphasis on flower color. Annuals offer flower color for a longer period of time than other plant types, for they are constantly in bloom. They are often used in complex plans.

Flowers are not the only source of color in annual gardens. Many plants, such as the dramatic purple orach and more muted silver-gray dusty miller, are treasured for their foliage alone. Others (such as cockscombs) have both colorful foliage and flowers. And still others -- ornamental peppers, eggplants, and dolichos, for instance -- provide garden color with their attractive fruits. Here are some color tips:

Re-create a favorite pattern from a family crest, piece of fabric, or needlepoint with annuals in your flower garden. You've seen similar patterns at amusement parks and public gardens. Why not do the same with a pattern that is meaningful to you?

For something simple and different, consider the massed approach: Select one favorite plant, and flood the entire planting area with it. This approach eliminates deciding where to plant a particular variety, selecting which colors and textures blend together well, or learning the cultural requirements for more than one kind of plant. It can be a money-saving solution as well: You only need to purchase one or two packets of seed to obtain enough plants to fill an entire planting area.

Variations of this approach are also possible. For those who prefer variety of color, but all the same kind of plant, a checkerboard design would allow the use of large clumps of several different colors in a single species. The lipstick shades of impatiens work well in this kind of massing.

Alternatively, some species come in an abundant variety of flower and plant sizes. A bed filled with zinnias, for example, could include everything from dwarf 10- to 12-inch mounds in front to giant 3- to 4-foot tall background clumps, with a wide range of flower colors and sizes in double, single, and spider forms. Marigolds are another species that grow in great variety, all of which are extremely vigorous and foolproof.

Another way to mass annuals is to keep to a single color but use several different plant varieties. The resulting garden would contain plants of different forms and heights with a variety of different flower shapes, all in varying shades of one color. A unique option for this style of massing would be a silver-gray garden!

Whichever design option is selected, massed plantings are generally rather formal looking -- bold and dramatic rather than homey or quaint. They're the perfect complement to a large or formal house. Massing can also provide a clean, uncluttered look where garden space is severely limited.

Texture

Another decorative aspect of plants is their texture or surface. Compare the large, coarse texture of the sunflower to the fine, soft bachelor's button. Fill masses with fine-textured plants, and reserve heavier-textured annuals for contrast or accent. Most often, we think of foliage as the sole textural source, when texture can be added equally often by flowers.

If you're comfortable with the basics of designing with annuals, you're ready to kick things up a notch. Keep reading to learn about advanced annuals design techniques.

Want more information about gardening with annuals? Try these:

  • Annual Flowers: Plant these beauties for flowers all summer long.
  • Annuals: Learn about all the different types of annual plants.
  • Garden Care: Annuals: Find out how to care for the annuals in your garden.
  • Gardening: Learn the basics of successful gardening.

Advanced Annuals Design

A very dramatic effect can be created by combining different-colored flowers in various forms with foliage of varied texture.
A very dramatic effect can be created by combining different-colored flowers in various forms with foliage of varied texture.

Once you've addressed color and texture in your annuals garden design, you're ready for some more complex design techniques. Understanding form and scale can help you upgrade your garden from merely pretty to downright stunning.

Form

Consider the overall growth habit of each annual plant. Flower forms include tall spikes, round globes, sprays, and clusters. Plant forms range from tall and skinny to low and ranging. Try interplanting tall, open annuals with a spreading carpet of contrasting form. A garden is more visually stimulating when a variety of forms is used.

Scale

When planning your annual garden, it's important to keep in mind scale (the size of the plant). Miniature plants are great to use in small spaces and where people are close enough to see them, but in a large area, they can become completely lost.

On the other hand, large-growing plants such as spider plants, cosmos, and nasturtiums may dominate and even smother out smaller neighbors when space is limited. In general, plant tall, spikelike annuals in the background of mixed beds, while reserving closer foreground seats for smaller, delicate beauties.

Plant staggered rows of annuals to create a fuller look. A single marching line of annuals such as French marigolds set side by side can look weak in a bigger garden. You can beef up their impact by planting a second row behind the first, with the rear plants centered on the openings between the front-row plants.

Staggered rows are also nice for showcasing taller annuals, such as blue salvia or snapdragons, set in the rear of a garden. A double row of spider plants can become so full and bushy it resembles a flowering hedge.

Annuals have many uses outside an annuals garden -- for example, you can use them as placeholders while waiting for perennial plants to grow and mature. Keep reading to learn about other uses for annuals.

Want more information about gardening with annuals? Try these:

  • Annual Flowers: Plant these beauties for flowers all summer long.
  • Annuals: Learn about all the different types of annual plants.
  • Garden Care: Annuals: Find out how to care for the annuals in your garden.
  • Gardening: Learn the basics of successful gardening.

Other Design Uses for Annuals

Annual flowers bloom all summer long, giving constant color where perennials bloom once and then fade away.
Annual flowers bloom all summer long, giving constant color where perennials bloom once and then fade away.

Since annuals are plants that grow fast, they have many practical uses in and out of the garden.

  • Use annuals to fill gardens that will later be used for perennial borders when the budget permits or the plants have multiplied enough to fill the space. Because annuals stay in bloom for several months at a time, they are used for constancy in gardens where other plants come in and go out of bloom.
  • Grow some annuals with everlasting flowers to dry for winter arrangements. There are many wonderful annuals to choose from. Those listed in the sidebar on the right are easily dried if spread out in a warm, dark, airy place. Grow a few for yourself and some extras to give away as gifts.
  • If seedlings of everlasting annuals are not available at your local garden center, consider starting your own seedlings indoors.

These popular everlasting annuals are sure to please:

  • Cockscomb: These plume or comb-shape flowers blossom in bright red, orange, or yellow.
  • Annual baby's breath: These are cloudlike drifts of small white flowers.
  • Bells of Ireland: They are notable for their spikes of green trumpet-shape flowers.
  • Globe amaranth: These ball-shape flowers decorate the garden with white, pink, purple, and orange blooms.
  • Love-in-a-mist: The maroon-striped seedpods of this flower stand out in any garden.
  • Statice: Choose this flower to decorate in bright sprays of pink, purple, yellow, white, and blue.
  • Strawflowers: Many enjoy these double daisylike flowers with straw-textured petals in red, pink, white, gold, and bronze.

On the next page, read our helpful tips for designing your annuals garden.

Want more information about gardening with annuals? Try these:

Annuals Design Tips

Beef up a line of weaker annuals by planting a second row behind the first.
Beef up a line of weaker annuals by planting a second row behind the first.

Use pale sand to outline the plant groupings before planting when laying out annual beds. This is like making a pencil sketch of a painting before stroking on the oil paints. Whether you're planning to put blue ageratums in edging rows, make a teardrop of red zinnias, or create a sweeping mass of pink impatiens, you can adjust and fine-tune the overall shapes before filling them in with colorful flowers. After making the sand outlines, stand back and look at the results objectively. If you don't like the first attempt, cover the sand with soil and try again.

Use a spacing aid to plant annual displays and cutting gardens in even rows. Even the most beautifully grown annuals can be distracting if they are spaced erratically. Fortunately, spacing is one element you can easily control. Here are some options:

  • Make a planting grid by stapling a large piece of wire mesh over a wooden frame. If the mesh openings are two inches square and you want to plant ageratums six inches apart, you can put one seedling in every third hole.
  • Make a spacing rope. Tie knots in the rope to mark specific measurements, for instance, noting every four or six inches. You can stretch the rope between two stakes to make even measurements along a straight line.
  • Take a yardstick with you when you go to plant. Measure the distance between each plant in a row and between rows rather than simply eyeballing it.

Want more information about gardening with annuals? Try these: