Having a theme in mind when you place plants in the ground provides some unity to your garden. It can be as simple as planting flowers of all one color, such as an all-white moonlight garden, or as elaborate as a garden that is planted around your hobby, such as a model railroad. The best thing about a theme garden is that it expresses you and your interests.
An herb garden is practical as well as beautiful, because the plants can be used for teas and seasoning. Some gardeners choose to grow herbs for their fragrance, drying them for sachets or potpourri. Because many herbs are native to hot, dry areas around the Mediterranean, they do best when they are provided with full sun and excellent drainage. Herbs are excellent choices for container gardening and may be grown separately or together. A beginner’s herb garden might include parsley, rosemary, basil, dill, chamomile, marjoram, spearmint and chives. Scented geranium and lavender are two herbs grown specifically for their lovely fragrance. Herbs are rarely bothered by pests or disease.
A butterfly garden should be located in full sun and feature flowers rich in nectar. Butterflies are attracted to highly scented flowers in bright colors of red, yellow, orange, purple and dark pink. Among the butterfly-attracting plants recommended by the Missouri Botanical Garden are black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush, Joe-Pye weed, lantana, French marigold, aster, coneflower and zinnia. Don’t forget to provide some host plants--these are plants butterflies choose for egg-laying, because the leaves will provide sustenance for the developing caterpillars. Each species of butterfly prefers a specific host plant--for example, Monarchs require milkweed, and Black Swallowtails look for fennel. Pesticides should never be used in a butterfly garden.
Famous English playwright William Shakespeare frequently referred to plants and flowers in his plays and even set important scenes in gardens. The Garden Club of Evanston, Illinois, maintains a Shakespeare garden, with more than 50 varieties of flowers and shrubs mentioned in the plays, including aconite, carnation, columbine, iris, peony and sweet pea. Shakespeare frequently mentioned roses and lilies, so include at least a few in your Shakespeare-themed garden. Look for varieties that will do well in your particular climate. Adding some walkways around the flowers will give the garden an Old World feel.
Plant a love of gardening in your children or grandchildren by creating a kid-themed garden. A children’s garden should include things they can plant and harvest themselves. Becky Russell, Colorado Master Gardener, recommends bean seeds, because they are big enough for a child to easily handle. Small fruits, such as from a cherry tomato plant, are just the right size for a youngster to pop into his mouth right in the garden. Miniature pumpkins are a crop that children enjoy growing and harvesting, and the seeds are easy to plant. Include some of children’s favorite flowers--sunflowers for their impressive size and edible seeds and colorful snapdragons, for their flowers that can be squeezed open. Tactile plants, such as the woolly lamb’s ears, and spiky hen and chicks, are sure to be enjoyed by all ages.