Island Bed Garden Design

island-bed
Image by peganum

By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)

An island bed can put pizzazz into a landscape by adding color, texture, and height to the area. Let’s take a look at how to design an island bed in the landscape.

Island Bed Garden Design

Choose an area of the landscape that is easily viewed from all sides. Shape the island bed, marking it of with paint or flour. Dig out the grass within the perimeter and line the bed with attractive edging, such as stones. Add about four to six inches (more if you have it) of topsoil, amended with compost, to the island bed, spreading it evenly or for additional interest, add hills or mounds. Bring the island bed to life with an assortment of plants and accessories.

An island bed can take on nearly any shape – round, square, or rectangular to kidney or crescent-shaped. Size is also variable. However, since island beds are viewed from all directions, it usually better to make them half as wide as the distance from where they will be viewed. For instance, if an island bed is situated ten feet away from the home, make it at least five feet wide for greater impact. Size, however, is strictly up to the individual gardener and is also dependent on available space.

Island beds are generally easier to maintain since they are accessible from all sides; however, if you don’t have time to maintain one, keep it small and closer to the home. Wherever you put it, an island bed should be large enough to create an impact. If it’s too small, the island bed will look and feel out of sorts. Remember, the goal is to add interest, not take away from it.

Island beds are not placed against the home or any type of structure. Instead, they float alone in the landscape, oftentimes surrounded by lawn where they can be viewed from all sides. Island beds can be placed near a corner, by the driveway or by an entrance walk as well.

For those wishing to get creative, island beds can also be strategically placed in other areas of the landscape. For instance, when we had some excavation work done on our site, we took the extra dirt and placed it in the center of our circle drive. It took on a circular, mounded form with a beautiful maple tree placed in it for visual interest. Over time numerous flowering and non-flowering plants were added to provide year-round interest and variety. Not only could the island bed be viewed from the home and other areas of the landscape, but each side was easily seen as you drove around it.

Creating island beds can be challenging if careful planning is not performed ahead of time, as these types of beds are viewed from all sides, at all times of the year. Therefore, year-round interest plays a vital role in its design. Plants should be chosen to suit each season, mixing various plant types together. Select plants according to color, blooming cycle, growing characteristics, and requirements. Evergreen plantings are great for year-round color, especially during winter.

Garden accessories also take center stage during this time, so make sure you include an interesting focal point of some kind such as a birdbath, bench, trellis, fountain, or tree. When adding plants to the island bed, place the tallest plants in the center and work down in height, placing medium-sized plants on all sides and smaller ones along its edges.

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