You will want flowers for cutting and flowers for contributing gaiety and charm to your grounds. The aim of the successful gardener is to have a succession of flowers from early spring to late fall.
You can plan from the beginning to have perennials which bloom at different seasons, (for example, iris, which has the peak of its bloom just as the peony season begins).
Know accurately when the perennials bloom and then plan to fill in the gaps left by their passing with prolific and quick-growing annuals. You can plan to have a potting bed, perhaps in your vegetable garden or in a sheltered spot behind your tool house or garage, where you can grow extra annuals as well as those perennials which do not mind being transplanted. Then when the tulip season passes, for example, you can fill in with another tall bulb, a summer-flowering one, such as, perhaps, the canna lily.
Your plan should be made on paper, with the shape of the bed or border sketched in, and the position of the plants indicated. Perhaps one of the most common and feasible design for the average 60 x 100 foot lot, or even the half-acre lot is a border running the length and rear wall of the back yard. This can be a mixed border of summer-flowering bulbs, perennials and annuals, backed by shrubs.
Other designs can be planned for the center of the lawn, for the foundation planting, for the pathways to the house and for the sides of the house. Semi-formal or formal gardens can have borders or beds laid out alongside of and divided by walks.
In planning your border, provide for tall screening plants that will form a background for the shorter plants. The screening plants may need staking but they should be sturdy. If you have a wide border, over 6 feet, you will need a narrow path in front of the screening plants for cultivating and tending. The centre border plants are of medium height, and can be chosen for vivid colour. If you are planning a wide border, relatively tall plants such as iris go here. In the foreground is your edging, composed of such neat and plainly visible flowers as: clipped green perennials, or low-growing petunia, ageratum, pansies, dwarf marigolds or sweet alyssum.
It is wise in planning to have beds or borders that are visible from your windows and close to your terraces and gathering places outdoors.
The special planting set close to the house is called foundation planting and has great importance since it improves and enhances the proportions of your house as well as relates the house to the grounds.
Evergreens are widely used for foundation planting not only because they can thrive in the shade of the house, but because of their year-round good looks.
If you have not used evergreens elsewhere, though, it is a mistake to suddenly use them at the foundation. The contrast will be too sharp; the evergreens are apt to look forbidding. There remains a wide choice of flowering shrubs, dwarf fruit trees, roses and cushion chrysanthemums that will lend colour to your foundation design in spring, summer and fall. Japanese red leaf barberry, floribunda roses, flowering quince and forsythia are among the bushes and plants that can be used.
While it is tempting to try one of each of the nursery's evergreen specimens in your foundation planting, this should, of course, be avoided. On the other hand, contrast tall and low-growing types: use stiff-needled pines with feathery juniper with broadleaved laurel and rhododendron.
In your preliminary planning, draw to scale the relationship between your house elevation and the foundation shrubs and trees as they will look at mature height. Perhaps some of those you've selected will be too tall for your house, obscuring your windows and making the house gloomy inside. In that case, you don't want them.
In general, because your entrance is the most important feature of your house facade, you start your planning with it in mind, using shrubs that direct the eye toward the door. The planting in front of the house is usually bowl-shaped in its overall outline. This gives the impression of a broad base to the house. In some places, let the wall show to the foundation. Put the tallest shrubbery at the corners of your house.