An unplanned flower bed may well bloom, but it is not likely to fulfill it's potential as a season-long work of living art. A carefully pre-planned flower bed will ensure that smaller plants are not hidden behind larger ones, that colors and textures mix harmoniously and that different blooming times are balanced so that flowers blossom from earliest spring to the first winter frost. Flower bed planning takes time and attention but blossoms into beautiful results.
Peruse flower gardening books and catalogs to determine which flower bed styles and color patterns best suit your taste and landscaping needs. Jot down words along the longer edge of a piece of graph paper that best describe the desired style and color theme.
Write the words "tall," "medium" and "short" along the left-hand shorter edge of the graph paper. Read carefully through catalog and book descriptions of flower varieties that meet the desired style and color design criteria. Make a lit of the names of preferred varieties in the appropriate height row, at the left-hand side of the page for those that bloom early in the season, in the center of the page for those that bloom mid-season and to the right for those that bloom late in the late summer or autumn.
Mark the boundaries of the intended flower bed with a garden hose. The Arizona Master Gardener Manual recommends avoiding stick-straight flower bed edges. Ccreate a single curve or an undulating edge using a garden hose.
Measure the sides of the flower bed with a tape measure. Write these measurements on a fresh sheet of graph paper, then translate the measurements into a scaled sketch. Multiply the approximate lengths and widths to determine available planting area in square feet. Divide this area figure by two to obtain the approximate number of plants appropriate for space.
Select the resultant number of plants from the chart of potential plantings. Balance the selection between tall, medium and short varieties as well as early, mid-season, and late bloomers. Write the names of the selected plants onto the graph paper sketch, locating the tall plants at the rear of the bed, medium plants in the middle and short plants along the front border, while at the same time creating a balance of color and blooming times.
Make a list of final plant selections on a fresh sheet of graph paper. Circle any the varieties that you already own and can transplant; the remainder comprise a shopping list for the local nursery or mail-order catalogs.
Observe the flower bed plot to determine what additional supplies or soil amendments such as herbicides, edgings, compost, sand and mulch will be necessary. List the necessary items on the graph paper with the plant shopping list. Proceed from planning to producing a flower bed.