Everyone can create a summer garden with plenty of character and style. With the vast range of plants now available, there are enough bulbs, annuals and perennials to stock even the biggest beds with bright colors and heady fragrances. Mixing these with carefully chosen shrubs, climbers and garden accessories will allow you to experiment with structure, color and texture and produce superb visual effects in your summer garden.
Put the right plant in the right place. If you have an empty bed or border, plan your garden design by deciding upon overall effect you want to achieve. Do you want an area that is spare, shapely and contemporary, or packed with flowing color as in a cottage garden?
When you create a summer garden choose the style, and then list the best plants that will highlight and dramatize it. If you want a colorful summer display, try a traditional, beautifully free-flowing blend of three or four colors. If your bed or border is circular, place eye-catchingly tall and dramatic plants off-center towards the middle and then work out to the edge, planting right around it.
If your favored plant is small, place it near the edge or front of the area. Give each plant space to grow and fill out, even if that means leaving wide, irregular gaps between them in the first few years. The spaces can easily be filled with annuals, sown in the spring, and discarded in the fall.
Make sure that your preferred colors stand out by placing them next to colors that do not compete. For example, a beautiful, soft gentle lilac will immediately be upstaged if it is placed next to a lipstick red. It is better to use other quiet pastels or greens, making an unobtrusive background. And with a plant that shoots up tall stems or sprays, such as the grass Stipa gigantea, place it where it can be lit by the sun or stand out against a dark background.
Bedding schemes in the summer garden
Any scheme is a success if it makes you happy. Rules help, but they do not have to be adhered to rigidly. Experiment with bright-colored annuals, for example, you could design a flower bed with small plants to make a patchwork-quilt effect.
Within flower beds you can combine a wide range of colors and textures. Subtle one-color schemes can be charming. In your summer garden try combining leaves that are matt and shiny green, olive green and pale green, to form a beautiful mix of tones, and leaves that are feathery, stumpy and round.
You can inject variety and surprise into almost any summer garden. Place a low-growing bed near a fun, helter-skelter bed, and include plants such as a Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ (bronze fennel) and Helianthus annuus (sunflowers), with red and yellow Tropaeolum tuberosum ‘Ken Aslet’ climbing up them.
Plant yellow-stemmed bamboos with green stripes, such as Phyllostachys vivax aureocaulis, to make a startling contrast against dark flowers. Add flashes of color to any scheme by introducing hanging baskets and flower containers that give vitality and energy to the summer garden.