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Perennials Part 2: Landscaping Basics for Perennial Beds

Adding thoughtful landscape to your yard creates coziness. The yard is transformed into a retreat that you & others enjoy spending time in. Today we are picking up from where we ended with last week's post where we talked about amazing sun & shade perennials, to talk today about landscaping with perennials. We will mostly focus on perennial beds, but many of these tips can be utilized to integrate perennials into existing beds you already have that may also have shrubs & trees in them.

There is no perfect recipe for a well-planned garden; it is actually the uniqueness expressed through the gardener's design, in many cases, that makes a garden special. Remember as we share these tips & layouts that above all, your garden should reflect you & your family & suit your all's needs.

Perennial Beds

These are gardening beds that are comprised mostly of perennials. These can be the most common ways you see perennials used, and they make quite a statement due to their color & interest. When planning out a perennial bed, think about what colors you want to use. Examples of questions you should ask yourself are:

1. How large will this bed be?

2. What is the style of my house- will that style be reflected in this design or is it not necessary that it does (example- a cottage style house benefiting from cottage style, informal landscaping)? A big house (as another example) does best with wider beds & taller plants to balance out the size of the house. "Statelier" homes typically looks best with more formal type landscapes, whereas bungalow style homes can have wavy- edged boundaries & look so charming with a less polished look.

3. What kind of sun will this landscape bed receive? (Full sun is 6+ hours a day of direct sun or full afternoon sun, part sun is morning sun/ afternoon shade).

4. What colors do I already have in my landscape? Sticking to a similar color palette can provide unity to a design- if you do not have any colors in your landscape or it is brand new landscape, look to your house. For example, do you have a red front door? If this bed is in the front of your house, you might want to incorporate reds in your landscape to pop & mimic your front door, etc. Or, what color is your brick? If you have reds or pinks in your brick, you may want to choose colors that will pop off that. If you want a classic color combo, you can always go monochromatic. Green leaves & white blooms always looks beautiful.

5. In the last post, we laid out many perennials that were gorgeous & also pretty easy to maintain. Be honest with yourself- will this gardening bed be somewhere you can devote some time to tending or does it need to be pretty much maintenance free? Use that to help you decide plants & perhaps the size of the bed.

Once you've answered these questions or any others you feel important, you're ready to go to the next step!

Designing Your Perennial Bed

Before you run out & buy plants (the fun part!), lay out your new bed using a garden hose or drawing it out on the grass using spray paint. Then you can step back & make sure the size is proportionate to what you're needing. Measure the space once you've decided on a size & take a picture of it to show us at the Nursery just in case you have some questions! We are always the most helpful when we can see the space, know dimensions, & know the sunlight the area receives.

We already mentioned that you need to look at the style of your house to help with your landscape design. Here are other valuable tips when designing your beds:

1. Don't be short-sighted. Know & plan for your plants to be their mature size- that small perennial you love will grow to be three times its size? Plan for it so your gardening bed next year won't look overly crowded.

2. Don't think straight every time. Having curves in your landscape design is pleasing to the eye. .Curves also soften corners or other straight lines, such as the straight lines of your house or of a fence you may be landscaping in front of. Some straight lines are line of course! Just having it mixed up a bit can add a lot of interest.

3. Don't forget your other family members. Each family will have different needs & some aspects may benefit other family members thru your landscape design. An example- do you have a child that loves to read? What if you could design a special "secret garden" type nook in your garden with a comfortable chair or bench for the child to enjoy reading in? Get creative!

4. Don't forget lighting. If you entertain outdoors in the evening, think about what kind of solar powered lights you could incorporate to accent plants & beds or just illuminate a path for better sight.

5. Think height as well as width. Trellises, taller plants & shorter plants- differing heights add interest to your garden.

6. Cluster plants of the same color for the biggest effect. Don't scatter blooms across an entire yard in hopes to pull together a design.

7. If you can only budget to do a portion at a time, it is always better to focus in one area & work on that gardening bed before moving on to another to avoid having thinly planted plants all over the yard.

It can be tempting to go straight to the Nursery to get your inspiration & skip the designing aspect. But once you're at the Nursery, it can then be tempting to just purchase all the pretties that are blooming. Resist the urge by spending just a bit of time researching & designing. We are always happy to help.

Prepping Your Beds

We talk about it a lot, just because it is so prevalent in Middle Tennessee. If you have a lot of clay soil in your yard, plan to amend your new bed. Ask us at the Nursery about your specific space, but you will probably only need a couple bags of soil conditioner that you will mix in with the broken up clay at the bottom of each hole you dig. We are happy to help answer any questions you have about amending your soil. Taking the extra time to do this step helps ensure your plants will grow strong, healthy roots (clay & roots don't usually mix without just a little bit of help!).

Picking Plants

We are big proponents of purchasing plants that will bring a wealth of color in many different seasons. If you go out now in the middle of Summer, you may be tempted to only buy all the gorgeous perennials blooming now (& there are a lot of beautiful ones- we know the temptation!). But if you go now with the idea that you will buy some for each season, you will really appreciate that when Fall & Winter roll around- you'll still have interest in your gardening beds!

Make sure to consider height & width. At Riverbend, we have sizes on our signs in front of each plant so you know how big it will mature to be. Some plants grow a bit larger if they're super duper happy! Keep that in mind so you give ample space for your plants & also so that you don't overbuy. Also know that many perennials can be dug up & divided a year or two after being planted- so you can have double or triple your plants if you choose to add to your beds later on! I always love it when I can do that!

This is kind of obvious, but plan to plant your tallest perennials in the back of your gardening bed with shorter, wider ones up front. Also, always pick plants that are appropriate for your sun conditions. You can know you're buying plants perfect for your sun conditions by looking at the accompanying info by each plant at our Nursery.

Mix your new gardening bed up with many textures & variety. You can keep a theme of unity going with specific colors or keep it monochromatic, but just like in Interior Design where your eyes see texture & love the interest from seeing several ones in a space, textures in your gardening spaces will make for a better look & feel.


We hope this helps layout some of the basics of landscaping for you! What questions do you have for us- please feel free to ask them below!

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