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Time for a Flower Garden Tune-Up

Creating a lush flower garden from scratch takes time - many perennial plants need a couple of years to grow to showy sizes. So don't worry if it takes several seasons to get your flower garden looking the way you'd want it to. That's perfectly normal.

This is a good time of year to take stock of your garden design. Ask yourself the following questions - the answers should give you some ideas on which projects to do this spring:

  • Are the flower beds too narrow? A narrow bed isn't wide enough to show off layers of plants. If you have a skinny bed that can't be widened, between a hedge and a walkway, for instance, fill it with low-growing ground cover plants of one or two kinds.

  • Are the planting areas all over the place? Look at the entire yard, not just the individual planting beds. Try to link beds, rather than having one here and another over there.

  • Have you crammed in too many types of plants? You'll get more impact from perennials if you put three of one type in a clump, rather than three different plants or three of the same plant in different locations. Repetition of key plant groups or a key color creates harmony and coherence. Add contrasts in texture and form - for example, bigger leaves next to fine ones, or spiky flowers next to rounded and mounded ones.

  • Have you screened eyesores? Treat the space around your house as a garden, not a yard. Your backdrop should complement your plants. Make storage sheds or garage walls into garden features (vine-covered trellises can hide ugly ones). Be sure to screen utilitarian necessities like the compost pile, air-conditioning units, heat pumps, and so on with attractive fences or evergreen shrubs.

  • Do the garden and house complement each other? Look out the windows to make sure the picture is pleasing from inside the house too.

  • Do you have a focal point? You could be asking plants to do all the work. Perhaps the missing element is what garden designers call a "focal point." Try adding a bird bath, a sundial, an arbor, or a trellis. And of course no garden is complete without an inviting bench, or two.

Yvonne Cunnington is an avid perennial gardener and the author of Clueless in the Garden: A Guide for the Horticulturally Helpless. For lots more perennial gardening tips, visit her website | For more garden design tips, see

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