A Rookies Guide to Designing Beds and Borders

Welcome to the wonderful world of ornamental plants. In this eBook, we will try to help you begin to understand the process of arranging these plants for their best effects in your home landscape. As the title implies, this is aimed at the “Rookie” or novice gardener who wants to understand the basics of the landscape design process.

Anyone who visits a landscape garden can form an opinion about what they like or dislike about it. This eBook will teach you concepts and terminology so you can describe WHY you find a garden or grouping of plants either pleasing or not so pleasing. That way, you can reproduce the “good” and avoid the “bad” in your own beds and borders.

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A Rookies Guide to Installing Beds and Borders

Landscape design is both an “Art” and a “Science”. The Art part deals with factors that influence how the human eye will perceive the elements in your garden. It is the subjective side of the design process based on how “most people” will respond to the way you arrange the softscape (living things, primarily plants) and hardscape (non-living elements) in your beds and borders. This process was discussed in detail in the first eBook in this series, “A Rookie’s Guide to Designing Beds and Borders

For purposes of this eBook we will assume that you have gone through a planning process and have either designed or have had someone else design your new beds and borders. You should have either meticulous drawings or at least a rough sketch of your new landscape on hand. This should, of course, include a detailed list of plants and hardscape features that will be included in your new or revised landscape.

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Hostas and Light

Hostas are often called “shade loving” plants. For the average gardening public, this helps Hosta-shade-lovingthem to understand that these plants are adapted to growing in the shade. However, for more advanced hobbyists or professionals, this is a misnomer.

All vascular plants live by a process called photosynthesis. They capture the energy from the sun and, unlike animals, they make their own food. For photosynthesis to work, a plant must have five things including light, water, nutrients from the soil and the air, chlorophyll and suitable temperature. The minimum levels of each of these factors required may vary from species to species but they all must be present in certain amounts for photosynthesis to take place in that plant.

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Long Tall Perennials

Design criteria such as plant form, texture and height are important considerations for any landscape. The ideal situation is to have a nice balance of such traits so the garden does not become monotonous. Too often, perennial gardens are dominated by rounded or mounded forms and daisy-like flowers. Here are a few tall, upright perennials that will provide contrast and variation in form, texture and height to the other plants in a bed or border.


Delphinium – This majestic beauty is most associated with the magnificent gardens of England or the Pacific Northwest. They will grow in more temperate areas too but they may require a little extra care. Plant them in a site protected from the wind for best results. They emerge early in the spring, so be prepared to cover them if frost threatens. During the growing season, the very tall types such as the Pacific Giant hybrids may need staking and a shot of extra fertilizer if their leaves begin to turn yellow during the growing season. Finally, individual plants tend to be short lived and may need to be replaced after four or five years. Continue reading

Green Thumb Resolutions for 2013

Wow! Another year has spun by and we are heading into 2013. The older I get, the faster the planet seems to spin. Anyone else feel that way? It is always important to take a look into the future this time of year and make some more resolutions (which we can look back on next year and wonder why we did not do any them).

In 2013, I (or we) resolve:

- To always remember that gardening is supposed to be fun. When it becomes a chore, I will figure out why and make a change in the way I do things. I will slow down this year and take it easy in my garden for once. I spend too much time working in it and not enough time just enjoying it. Continue reading

General Garden Styles

In a broad sense, there are two types of gardens commonly found in home landscapes. One is called a “collection garden” which is the type grown by people who are dedicated to one genus or category of plant.

Hosta Collector’s Garden

For instance, there are said to be over 60,000 named cultivars of daylilies (Hemerocallis). There are over 8,000 named cultivars of Hosta. For each of these and other species such as iris (Iris), peonies (Paeonia) or roses (Rosa) with large numbers, there are gardeners whose primary goal is to accumulate as many specimens as they can. These gardens tend to prominently display all the most recent, “cutting edge” cultivars in addition to the old classics. Often there are few, if any, other species of plants included in collection gardens.

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