15 Summer Flower Garden Border Ideas

Oxford Botanic Garden

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They say more flowers bloom on the summer solstice than at any other time of the year. Make your summer garden dreams come true with a border packed with annual and perennial favorites.

Leave it to the experts at the Oxford Botanic Garden to create the perfect mixed summer border, brimming with a butterfly's buffet of aster, salvia, delphinium, and helenium flowers. Although saliva and aster flowers can tolerate dry conditions, delphinium flowers need consistently moist soil​ and the yellow helenium flowers like downright juicy conditions. Water your flowers wisely by using soaker hoses that you lay around the thirstiest flowers, or use a rain wand to hand water plants in the morning hours, reducing evaporation.

  • 01 of 15

    Serene Color Palettes for Large Spaces

    Purple and White Flower Border

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    Large flower gardens can get out of control without a clear design to unify the elements. Stick to a simple color palette of two contrasting colors or multiple shades of one color, and you can add more plant varieties without creating an incoherent landscape. Purple butterfly bush, purple salvia, and a white climbing rose stand out in this tidy summer border.

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    Pergola Smothered in Climbing Roses

    Climbing Rose Pergola

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    A pergola needn't be elaborate to attain that wow factor in the flower garden. You can build a simple DIY pergola out of PVC pipe in one weekend, and who will be the wiser once it's covered in 'Francois Juranville' climbing roses like the one in this photo? Climbing roses don't look very pretty at the base, so disguise those thorny canes with a lush underplanting of speedwell or liatris plants, which will complement the roses in the garden as well as in your vase.

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  • 03 of 15

    Fragrant Path

    Sweet Alyssum and Lavender

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    This is what flower gardeners wait for in early summer: the first fragrant lavender blooms, complemented by the aroma of sweet alyssum. Include other mounding plants that won't crowd each other out like coreopsis, sedum, or dianthus in full sun areas. Install plants that spill or creep around paths that are seldom used, as bees may get agitated by frequent passers-by.

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    Casual Wildflowers

    Bellflowers and Johnsons Blue Cranesbills

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    There are many reasons to explore native plants in the summer border, including ease of maintenance and the ability to attract pollinators like honeybees and butterflies. Wildflowers include summer favorites like these bellflowers and Johnson's Blue cranesbill hardy geraniums. Other top-performing native wildflowers for summer borders include butterfly weed, coneflower, beebalm, and penstemon.

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  • 05 of 15

    Cottage Style

    Baby's breath and verbena

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    The tall wands of Verbena bonariensis pair with baby's breath in this easy, breezy summer cottage garden. One person's casual can be another's chaos, so keep the shears handy to remove spent flowers in late summer. Deadheading can also control the unwanted spread of volunteers, which keeps closely packed flower borders from turning into a tangled mass of species.

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  • 06 of 15

    Make it Formal

    Formal Flower Garden

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    Formal gardens are not usually noted for their abundance of flowers, but when used with restraint, blooms can add color and texture to knot gardens. Even the most austere evergreen hedge can use a bit of softening from the presence of a few tidy roses trained into tree form, also known as standards.

    A successful flower garden doesn't need to be brought into bounds to conform with the typical notion of a formal garden. Instead of adding some flowers to an existing formal garden, you can also add some formal elements to an existing flower garden. The addition of concrete statuary and a boxwood hedge changes the tone of a cheerful flower garden, bringing order to the floral abundance.

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  • 07 of 15

    Bold Accent Colors

    Colorful Annual Flowers

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     Just as you don't have to rely on a few throw pillows to carry the color burden of your entire living room, you don't need to count on the on-again/off-again blooming cycle of your flowering plants to provide constant color in the garden. It's OK to go against the grain of the natural color trend for fences and borders in the landscape. Instead of fading into the background, this raised bed stands out as a key design element when painted a vibrant fuchsia hue.

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  • 08 of 15

    Ornamental Foliage

    Summer Flower Garden

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    Plants with burgundy foliage fill in the gap between blooming cycles in your summer flower border. The fact that plants like 'Purple Emperor' sedum also produce flowers is a big bonus.  Other handsome burgundy-leaved flowers to try in the sunny border include hardy hibiscus 'Summer Storm' and calico aster 'Prince.'

    For even greater impact, pair burgundy foliage plants with chartreuse companions. Coneflower 'Coconut Lime' bears brilliant green flowers in zones 5-9, while spiderwort 'Sweet Kate' glows in moist soils.

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  • 09 of 15

    The Power of Repetition

    Circular Garden

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    It's fun and tempting to buy a variety of new plants at the nursery in the spring, but great garden design can happen with just a few select cultivars. Repetition is pleasing to the eye and makes you look like a garden pro. In addition, sticking to a simple color palette of pinks and purples reduces visual overload. Far from being boring, this garden relies on a few pops of chartreuse in the form of evergreens for contrast.

    Depending on your region, you can look to the bright golden-green foliage of 'Lemon Twist' or 'Kosteri' Hinoki cypress, or the slightly less hardy 'Gold Crest' cypress, all of which remain compact in the flower garden. Achieve quick mass and height with the addition of verbena bonariensis and bee balm 'Marshall's Delight' or the new introduction 'Purple Rooster.'

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    Contrasting Textures

    Echinacea Garden

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    The plumes of a purple smoke tree, Cotinus coggygria species, makes a fascinating backdrop in this flower garden that features a healthy stand of coneflowers. In spite of its tropical appearance, the smoke tree is hardy in most gardens, tolerating temperatures down to -30 degrees F in the brief zone 4a growing zone.

    The smoke tree looks more like a large bush in the garden and looks best at the edge of a flower bed, rather than a standalone specimen. 'Velvet Cloak' and 'Royal Purple' are two named varieties that have long-lasting blossom clusters and purple foliage that looks vibrant throughout the growing season.

    Other flowering favorites included in this summer border include annual white nicotiana flowers in the foreground, a few blue wands of Russian sage, and the last blooms of black nigra hollyhock.

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  • 11 of 15

    Uncommon Selections

    Lily Garden

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    Two lilies, Turk's cap lily and foxtail lily, make this flower border special. Some knowledge and effort are required to grow these plants, but the payout is worth it. Soil should be moist, but well-drained. A sunny, sheltered spot in the garden is ideal, as high winds cause these tall stems to snap. An hour devoted to staking your tall lilies is essential for these top-heavy flowers, as the blooming time always seems to coincide with spring storms. Single stakes are better than grow-through grids for lilies, as you should tie the stems at multiple places along the stake for the most secure support.

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  • 12 of 15

    Red and Purple Blooms

    Red and Purple Flowers

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    The two-toned spikes of red hot poker Kniphofia and Oriental red poppies provide a bright counterpoint to the cool purple spikes of delphinium and salvia. All of these flowers can thrive in harmony in areas with mild summers with average to low humidity.

    A South African native, red hot poker likes well-drained soil in a sunny location. Although drainage is important, it prefers rich garden loam to lean, sandy soils. Red hot poker resents transplanting, so give it a permanent site in the garden.

    Oriental poppies like 'Beauty of Livermere' are outstanding specimens in the late June garden, but you should expect the plants to go dormant when flowering is finished. The tall blooms of blue sage will provide coverage for the gap when the poppies have faded.

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    Annuals and Edibles

    Cosmos and coreopsis

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    An annual border filled with capsicum 'variegata,' pink cosmos bipinnatus, yellow and red coreopsis tinctoria, and purple basil aptly demonstrates how effective a marriage of flowers, vegetables, and herbs is in the ornamental summer border. Nearly all veggies and herbs like a full day of sun, humus-rich soil, and regular moisture, so choose flowers with similar growing requirements. Classic flowers to liven up the vegetable garden include marigolds, zinnias, and sunflowers. These flowers not only beautify vegetable and herb plantings but also attract pollinators and may repel some garden pests.

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    Like With Like

    Red Monarda Flowers

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    The key to a successful pairing with an assertive plant like bee balm? Matching it up with similarly vigorous flowering plants, like lamb's ears and day lilies. Like any plant, the fine line that divides welcome volunteers and invasive thugs is the gardener's desire for more plants. In the spring, dig up new bee balm plants that have overgrown their bounds and share them with friends, or you can even put them in the compost bin without feeling guilty about it. Thinning bee balm plants actually prevents mildew by allowing fresh breezes to carry mildew spores away.

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    Low Maintenance Beauties

    Wildflower Garden

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     A successful wildflower garden may seem like the result of a handful of seeds scattered at random, but it's worth considering each specimen of the native garden individually, as each has something important to contribute. Shasta daisy is an easy plant for beginners and rewards with four months of blooms that attract butterflies but deflect deer. Pink achillea varieties like 'Love Parade' and 'Wonderful Wampee' are every bit as drought-tolerant and vigorous as the yellow yarrow varieties.

    Knautia, also known as scabiosa, is a short-lived perennial but may self-seed. The pale blue spikes Culver's root may reach several feet in height, especially in moist soils with some afternoon shade. Crocosmia 'Lucifer' is the answer to the question: what looks like gladiolus but is a hardy perennial? Finally, the cheerful purple poms of drumstick allium form small but not invasive colonies, even under the toxic canopy of black walnut trees.