Although a level yard seemed like an asset when you bought the house, with time it becomes dull and uninteresting. Adding elevated beds to your landscaping increases area definition, visual variety and new planting opportunities. Beds can be practical: a foot-high vegetable bed eases back strain from weeding. Beds can add clarity: elevated beds around your patio can make it seem more room-like and possibly provide extra casual seating. Beds can highlight and enhance your landscape: a berm bed provides productive gardening space while also addressing a permanent wet spot. Elevated beds let you add trailing vines, dwarf fruit trees or bushes or generally shaded sun-lovers to your yard. A wealth of materials and ideas lets you build what you imagine.
Elevated Bed Locations and Uses
Consider a variety of locations and uses for elevated beds. Practical beds, such as those for herbs or vegetables, belong as close to the kitchen as possible to make using the produce you grow easy. Think about capturing the sunspots on your property: a tall elevated bed right next to your deck stairs serves as an outdoor planter for the deck and an accessible cutting garden for indoor flower arrangements. Elevated beds can turn a nondescript walkway into a welcoming path to your front door. Beds planted to attract birds and butterflies can be sited so they can be viewed from indoor windows; add feeders to these sites when flowers diminish. Take pictures and make sketches of your house and yard to try out ideas. You may be surprised at all the locations you find.
Look at your house and property carefully to strike a comfortable balance between standing out and blending in. The most successful beds tend to echo existing materials and style. Although outdoor-grade 4-by-4s or manufactured construction brick, easily assembled with rebar reinforcement, may provide just the look you want, you may prefer to customize materials to your existing architecture. This may be as easy as siding a wood-built elevated bed with cedar shakes, creating brick beds in the same weathered tones as your house or finding smaller cousins to distinctive large rocks on another part of your property. Your ultimate goal is an integrated landscape, in which people notice your plantings more than their containers and new features look as though they were part of the original plan.
Location, Location, Location
Use raised beds to define areas of your property and make them more welcoming. Wide-rimmed bench-style planters can be clustered around your patio or fire pit, making it feel more hospitable and adding seating. A rock-rimmed elevated bed can echo or create landscape curves by a pool or in a lounging/reading area. A berm, with a focal tree or shrub, can enhance your "curb appeal" while providing you with a view of something more interesting than the street--remember that point of view goes two ways. A retaining wall seems less a necessity and more a visual pleasure when it allows space for plantings.
Plan your whole bed as a mini-landscape with seasonal interest. Although creation of your bed was probably determined by major planting choices--a dwarf evergreen or flowering tree, herbs or roses--consider spring bulbs and late-season flowers to extend interesting display. Investigate trailing vines and creeping plants to add vertical interest as well.