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Annuals Garden Design

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.


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.


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.