Growing Beautiful Borders

Creating a beautiful flower border takes careful planning and forethought. You want to blend plants for the longest season of color, artfully mix in different plant textures, shapes and sizes, and all the while working within a well-established color theme. And it's not always about plants that bloom. Dramatic foliage, bright berries or fruit, and even colorful branches can all contribute dramatic hues.

Here's a checklist of plants to consider when planning a colorful garden bed:

Annuals. Quick-blooming annuals are the all-important fillers in the flower bed. Use them wherever there's room. Plant Pansies, Violas, Calendulas and Primroses for spring and fall color (even winter in mild climates), then follow up with heat lovers like Zinnias, Marigolds and Vinca.

Bulbs. Spring bulbs like Tulips and Daffodils provide carefree color year after year but don't forget the summer bloomers like Dahlias and Canna. Also consider planting low growing annuals and perennials on top of the bulbs. They'll create a colorful carpet which the bulbs will push through and bloom above.

Perennials. Count on these to be the workhorse of your bed. There's some many to choose from: Campanula, Dianthus, Geranium and Phlox for spring and early summer; Yarrow, Coreopsis, Daylilies and Rudbeckia for midsummer; and Asters, Pennstemon and Mums for fall. And don't forget the great foliage plants like ornamental grasses, hostas and Artemisia.

Shrubs. Shrubs are both the backbone and backdrop of the flower border. As the backbone, plants like Shrub Roses, Viburnum and Dwarf Crepe Myrtles provide structure and organization but also can contribute long season of color and interest. As background, their foliage makes everything else standout and look more dramatic. Look for plants that bring long seasons of color beyond bloom. There are colorful foliaged Barberries, bright-fruited plants such as Rugosa Roses and Viburnums, and shrubs like Crepe Myrtles and Serviceberry with stunning fall foliage color. Even plants with showy branches like the Red-Twigged Dogwood can provide color in winter.