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4 Ways to Add Vibrant, Year-Round Color to Your Landscape Design

Posted On: September 17,2018 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Patio and pavillion with planting and shrubsAdding color to your landscape with the use of various plants with colorful leaves, vibrant blooms, and other visual appeal can take your property to a whole new level of “wow.”

While most good landscape design has a nice mix of perennials and other shrubs which add some color, you might be looking for something truly spectacular. You’re thinking less about the standard plants you can pick up at your regional box store and more along the lines of your local botanical garden’s display. You want gorgeous, eye-catching color and you want it incorporated throughout your property.  

You’re just not sure how.

Adding color to your landscape design can be accomplished in four key ways: by planting annuals (both flowers and also annual plants with colorful foliage interest), adding container gardens, installing planters, and incorporating gardens for cut flowers. We’ll look at each and how you can incorporate vibrant, year-round color by employing some of these ideas as part of your overall landscape design.

 

1. Flower Planting Ideas for Seasonal Annuals

Seasonal annuals are a great way to add color and wow factor to your landscape design—if installed properly. However, poorly installed annuals can have just the opposite effect. Here are some tips for installing seasonal annuals for color.

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Spacing

Spreading annuals “here and there” all over the property is a common mistake that we often see with annual installation. A couple geraniums in between each of your shrubs are not going to have any significant impact on the overall enhancement of your property—and flowers should absolutely be an enhancement feature. But when they are scattered, you’ll hardly notice them or even worse, they will make your landscape look cluttered.

Seasonal flower planting on pool patio

Instead, annuals should be clustered in large groups where they can make a big and powerful impact. A big grouping of colorful flowers is going to dramatically brighten your yard in a way that looks professionally designed rather than random and scattered.

Color Selection

The color scheme is also important. You might choose a series of different colors but want to be sure they don’t clash in a way that detracts from the appeal. Choosing a color scheme can require an eye for design. This is why consulting with a landscape professional and creating a landscape design in advance of planting is key.

Location

Plant location is also critical. We like to install a lot of annuals close to a front door or near a gate where they offer maximum curb appeal. Annual installation can be an attention-grabbing detail of a front yard renovation.

backyard with beautiful flowers and shrubs

The same rules apply for the backyard, too. Cluster large groups of annuals together in your backyard plant beds near your patio or other areas where you and your guests spend the most time. Also, opt for maximum appeal by adding a lot of annuals—rather than just a few “here or there.” When it comes to annual installation that has the most impact, it should be a “go big or go home” mentality.

Strategic Bloom Timing

Finally, with any plant installations, you need to think about bloom time. A landscape designer who has a strong knowledge of plant material can ensure that there is always something colorful and blooming, no matter what the time of year.

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When attention to detail is not given to bloom time you can very easily wind up with “holes” in your landscape where nothing is blooming—or even worse, it could look totally barren. Different plants offer different forms of color at varying times of the year. As a result, you want the design to be strategically laid out with this in mind.

 

2. Container Garden Ideas that Wow

Similar rules to annual planting apply to container gardens. For example, you want to be sure to put them in special places where they’ll offer the most wow factor. Think on either side of a front porch, near a front gate, and in prominent places around your backyard.

Planter boxes on porch

You also want to make sure they look thoughtfully designed, not cluttered. One rule of thumb to follow for planting a spectacular container garden is to choose something that spills, something that fills, and something that thrills. For example, petunias make a nice filler, sweet potato vine or ivy makes a nice spiller, and something eye-catching and vertical makes a nice thriller like dracaena spikes.  

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You can also make a big impact with your container gardens by choosing a gorgeous urn or sculpture to plant in. We’re not talking cheap plastic planters from your big box store. Opt for something truly one-of-a-kind such as a tall stone urn or a gorgeous and oversized piece of pottery. The type of container that you choose will have a big impact on the overall look of your planter.

By following some of these ideas for container gardens, they can be a gorgeous addition to your outdoor living space or your front yard landscape design.

 

3. Permanent Flower Planter Ideas

Whereas a container garden is planted in a movable structure like a pot or an urn, a planter is built-in or permanent. Planters can be added on the property or even be constructed as part of another structure. For instance, built-in deck planters are a great way to add vibrant color all around a deck.

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Planters can even be built from stone or pavers in a totally custom design that best suits your property. The raised-up look of a custom-built planter draws even more attention to it, helping it to truly stand-out as part of your landscape design.

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While we generally recommend following some of the same rules of thumb as planting annuals or container gardens, at the end of the day, you should have what you want in your planters. For instance, in the raised stone circular planter shown, the homeowner did not desire a lot of plant variety—he just wanted some specific flowers (salvia and nepeta) in order to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to his property.

Permanent flower planters and lighting

That was a very specific “want” that we worked to fulfill. And although there isn’t a lot of variety in the plant material, the texture of the stone and the use of a tall urn container garden atop of the planter add their own interest to this design.

The built-in planters on this property are also irrigated to meet the plants’ water needs without the need for hand watering. They are also professionally lit so they can be enjoyed during the evening hours.

 

4. Ideas for Gorgeous Cut Flowers

If having fresh-cut flowers inside your home or on tables in your outdoor area is important to you, then you might also want to consider adding some plantings that can be regularly cut for their blooms. This includes annuals, perennials, and even flowering shrubs. The idea is to have a nice succession of flowering so that there is always something in bloom outside brightening up your exterior and available to be cut for added appeal in vases.

Pool patio with flowers and shrubs

There are a few things to consider if you’re adding plants for cutting. One is that you’ll want to have enough plantings that your periodic cuts don’t make your exterior look bare. For instance, if you have a few large hydrangea bushes, cutting off some blooms for vases isn’t going to negatively impact the outdoor appeal.

hydrangea

Another thought to keep in mind is the fact that certain plants which are nice for cutting can sometimes look slightly less manicured within the landscape. Zinnias, for instance, have a long stem and make a spectacular bouquet for a vase. However, they can look less neat and trim within the landscape than other plant varieties.

If we’re planning a landscape design for a homeowner who wants to make frequent arrangements for inside their home, we might hide the zinnias behind some other plants that look more manicured. These details require forethought and planning so that you can truly have the best of both worlds—flowers that look fantastic in your landscape and ones that will compose stunning arrangements.

Choosing a Landscape Contractor for Your One-of-a-Kind Design

Patio wall with shrubsWhile pretty much any landscape contractor under the sun offers color installations, the finished product that you’ll wind up with can really run the gamut. An average landscape contractor is going to create an average landscape design—a few shrubs, a few basic flowers in front of them, and maybe a couple boring planters. In other words, you’ll wind up with something run-of-the-mill.

But you want something extraordinary.

To achieve a landscape design with color that wows, you need to hire a landscape contractor in Lancaster, PA or its surrounding areas that has a Registered Landscape Architect who truly understands design and plant material choices.

By doing so, you’ll be able to see how thoughtfully planted beds, container gardens, planters, and even flowers for cutting help bring your entire landscape to life in a brilliant fashion. Your addition of color will be more than just the finishing touch on your complete outdoor space—it will be the wow factor that takes it to a whole new level of awesomeness.

If you’d like to start a conversation about how you can bring more color to your outdoor living project at your Reading, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, or Hershey, PA home, contact us for a free consultation or give us a call at (717) 276-9447.

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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