Individual tastes play a huge role in designing any flower bed that lines a fence. Basic design principles apply; however the likes and dislikes of the homeowner primarily guide what goes into any flower bed. Knowing basic design principles for flower beds that are tried and true will help you design a flower bed along your fence line that is pleasing to you as well as friends and family.
Formal or Informal
A formal garden bed is symmetrical with straight lines and a very orderly pattern of neat, equally spaced rows. An informal garden bed is asymmetrical and much more natural, reflecting curves within the design and irregular groupings of plants. The irregular groups are place in circular clumps or drifts which are elongated groupings. The most aesthetic flower beds along fences have plants placed in odd numbers---like three holly shrubs, five rose bushes, and seven perennial Shasta daisies.
To provide variety and balance, most flower beds along fences are 5 to 6 feet deep, unlike island gardens which typically measure 8 to 10 feet deep. If a yard has limited space, there may only be enough room for a 2 to 3 foot border to maintain good proportion within the yard.
Flowers show up best against a background of green foliage and evergreen shrubs. Old fashioned rose shrubs are a suggestion for a country cottage garden. Evergreen Euonymus that can be trained to grow vertically may be perfect for a contemporary garden. When space is limited, vines climbing a fence and ornamental grasses provide space saving solutions.
An easy way to approach flower bed design along a fence is to divide the depth into three different sections. Any plant that grows over 3 feet should be placed in the back one-third section; any plant that grows 1 to 3 feet tall belongs in the middle; and any plant 1 foot and under goes in the front according to Cornell University. When the bed is narrow due to limited space, the tallest plants should be no taller than two-thirds the height of the fence.
Color and Form
With the proper planning, a flower bed shows color and form from spring through fall. Most perennials have a 2- to 4-week bloom time and should be placed so that color and bloom is balanced. Bulbs are perfect for providing early season color. Annuals can be incorporated to guarantee color spring through fall. At the same time, plants that put on a color show in the fall should never be overlooked.
A Japanese maple tree or miniature crabapple tree are good examples of single specimens that add interest all year long when placed in an outcurve of the flower bed. In the winter, its bare branches provide landscape interest.
Flower beds are frequently designed with plants and shrubs that attract butterflies or hummingbirds. Some gardeners pay particular attention to fragrance. Still others make sure a border holds herbs like chives, basil, rosemary and parsley that do double duty by providing culinary additions.