We have talked a little before in this blog about vegetable garden planning and the considerations one makes while choosing what to grow. A lot of the same ideas can be applied to planning a flower focused garden. Considerations of available space, desires, the limitations or boons of the land you grow on ect.
A great way to start is to imagine your intentions for the space. Are you looking to create a hot spot for pollinators in your neighborhood, are you hoping to have endless cut flower bouquets to grace your table throughout the year? Or maybe you want to create a relaxing retreat from the hectic world. For me it's generally all of the above!
After you have determined what your goals might be, take stock of the space that you have. If you have limited space you might want to forgo large flowers like sunflowers or plant sunflowers that have multiple blooms so you can get the most flowers out of the same space. Another way to deal with a small space is to layer plants, grow long tall flowers like larkspur and hollyhocks with shorter more compact plants like ‘Signet’ marigolds at the base. You can make use of the vertical space in your garden by growing sweet peas on a trellis and then plant ground covers below in the horizontal space. One limitation we come up against in southern Oregon is access to water. It does not rain in the summer here so I like to grow things that are more drought tolerant. There are plenty of flowers that survive in water tight situations.
Another thing to consider when you are planning a flower garden is how much time and energy you have for it. You might want to grow perennials so that you do not have to go through the work of starting seeds every year. You could also choose varieties that can be direct seeded and which do not require the coddling of a greenhouse. A lot of different flower species can be direct seeded into the garden depending on the soil temperature. Some that are commonly direct seeded are sunflowers, poppies and phacelia.
The best gardens in my opinion have a mixture of perennial and annual plants. Perennials help pull the garden together at all times of year, providing foliage for bouquets and increasing fertility throughout the depths of winter. Perennials continue to photosynthesize all year and help sequester carbon in the soil while preventing topsoil erosion. I like to plant perennial medicinal and culinary herbs as they have multiple uses. Perennial herbs often have beautiful flowers as well! Echinacea is a great example of this.
My goal is to have as much blooming at a time as possible. The more that is blooming the more pollinators you will have in your garden. It's important to pay attention to the bloom time of the flowers you choose. Some of the earliest blooming flowers are poppies, sweet peas and larkspur. Look at the date to maturity for each plant to help figure out when it will bloom. Asters and rudbeckia are beautiful in the garden but they take a long time to mature. If you want to have continual blooms of a certain flower you can plant multiple sowings of it like you would a salad mix, planting every two weeks or so.
As far as the design of your garden, the world is your oyster. I have had the luck to plant many different flower gardens. Right now the flower garden I tend is a long spiral. The center is planted with perennial herbs and the annuals are planted on the outside of the spiral. Now that all the annuals have died back the spiral still has a bright green center filled with herbs.
If your intention is for cut flowers, plant a wide array of focal flowers as well as airy light plants like cress and baby’s breath to help fill out your arrangements.
I generally try to plant a wide variety of colors because each flower attracts different types of pollinators but flowers come in all shapes, sizes and colors so you can really design your garden in any way that you fancy. If you have trouble choosing, we have some lovely flower collections thoughtfully arranged by a local flower farmer and floral designer. Happy planting!