Before and after: Easy-care color

A Los Altos flower bed, before and after the remodel

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  • After: 'Flower Carpet' roses create a ribbon of pink blooms through silvery gray lamb's ears, society garlic, and artemisia.

    Before and after: Easy-care color

    Thomas J. Story

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DESIGNER STRATEGIES

Gay Bonorden Gray suggests the following techniques to enliven garden beds:

Remove harsh angles. Replace straight edges with soft curves to create a meandering effect.

Layer plants by height. Place the shortest growers in front and the tallest ones in the back.

Limit the color palette. For color impact without a confetti look, Gray mainly stuck to two flower colors. Vivid pink roses lead the eye through the border, while butterfly bush, Mexican sage, and penstemon add bursts of soft purple blooms here and there. Silvery gray foliage plants knit the composition together.

Add accent plants. Single specimens of blue hibiscus, bougainvillea, and multicolored phormium punctuate the sweeps of color.

Choose plants that look good all year. From spring through fall, silvery artemisia, lamb's ears, and society garlic act as a backdrop for flowering plants. In winter, these evergreens become the main attraction and give form to the bed.

Include surprises. Thoughtfully placed dahlia and gladiolus ― hidden belowground much of the year ― pop up in late spring and summer.

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