I took this photo in Canada last October near Niagara Falls. The fall colors this year are pretty sparse by us in Oak Lawn, IL

Fall is a beautiful time of year. If you have a vegetable garden, you’re pretty much done with the harvest, unless you’re the one with the cold frame.  If you’re a flower gardener, you’re also pretty much done with your harvest.  Now that you have time to take a breather, you may be looking at your yard and thinking about what you would like to do next year.
Whether you’re starting with a blank slate or just have a spot along the fence that you want to fill, there are a few simple design techniques that will help make your planning easier.


Plant your largest plants in the back of the garden bed, then the mid-size plants next, and the smaller plants in the front of the bed. Here are examples from public garden spots in Niagara Falls, Canada, where I was last year at this time with my mom and sis.

Hostas in the front, perennial grasses behind them.

Heuchera in the front, with Boxwoods behind them.

If your garden bed is not along the side of, well, anything, then apply the layering principle by starting with your largest plants in the middle of the bed. Here is a photo of our community garden butterfly bed.
And to bring it all home – here is a photo of the layering in a neighborhood front yard garden .


Repeating the same bushes, trees, perennials or annuals in a garden bed is mass planting. This creates a visual impact and harmony in your garden beds.  It can also accentuate a “Specimen” plant, such as a prized Japanese Maple, or soften a large scale garden bed.

Also taken in Niagara Falls, Canada. If you were wondering, these are not specimen Japanese Maples.

Mass plantings of perennials along a walkway in Lake Katherine, Palos Heights, IL. You can see elements of layering in this photo also.

For a perspective, look at these two photos also taken in Niagara Falls, Canada.  One garden bed has the benefit of not only mass planting of colorful annuals, but is layered with perennials between the outcroppings and the annuals. The other garden bed has similar outcroppings with perennial grasses, but not the benefit of either layering of additional plants in the bed, or mass plantings of color.

Personally, I think the second photo needs not only some spark of color, but looks sooooo much better with . . .
MOM in it.  🙂
On a side note, Canada – we love you! We ate your addictive Poutine, drank your wonderful wine (who knew Canada was good at the wine thing?), were impressed with your art, and fell in love with the never ending beautiful view and the warm, welcoming Canadians.  If you’re looking for a road trip, consider Canada.  I’ve been there twice now and it’s been just as wonderful both times, 30 years apart.

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