Nothing announces that “Spring has Sprung!” like the visual impact of stunning flowers! In nature, we can occasionally experience the majesty of wildflowers across an open field, when all of the necessary environmental elements align just right. But in the manicured landscape, flowers can become a distinct and powerful design element, but only if the results aren’t left to chance. The Art of Color is one of the essential elements of practicing The Art of Landscaping.
To better understand The Art of Color, we’ve turned to a couple of our resident floral experts, Brian Cox, Senior Account Manager, and Eric Springer, Business Development Manager, of Signature Landscape. These two gentlemen are the talented artists behind some of Kansas City’s most brilliant flower beds that residents and visitors enjoy daily.
Brian and Eric agree that the primary purpose for using annual color is to draw attention to the property and, in particular, to highlight points of interest. When done well, Brian says beautiful floral displays create “bragging rights” for the property; he uses “Drive-by beds” to catch the attention of passersby and “Walk-by beds to create close-up interest and a personal connection”. This aesthetic impact creates value for properties that desire to stand out, such as exclusive Apartment communities, neighborhood entrances, corporate campuses and retail destinations. Eric adds that thoughtful use of flowers “links the property and makes a statement”.
Once a property owner decides that adding, or enhancing, flower displays makes both aesthetic and economic sense, the next thing to consider is how they will actually be used in the landscape. Eric advises that flowers should “complement what’s already there, but not take over” and explains that they provide “a vibrant pop of color that you can’t get otherwise throughout the season.” The right placement and sizing is crucial to achieve the desired impact; Brian looks for sites “near signage, along walks, in park settings and alongside patios”, but stresses that “you need good sun to get brilliant color.” Eric adds that choices of locations also “must consider the space available and what’s around it”. A trained artist’s eye here makes all the difference.
When it comes to actually establishing flower beds, containers, or baskets, here is a checklist of 7 Flower Essentials from Brian and Eric:
1. Verify Sun Exposure
2. Suitable Water Source
- Flowers should not be on the same irrigation zones with turf or other plant material.
- It’s important to also consider the water needs of the surrounding plants. You don’t want to install annuals that require a lot of water in beds next to yews or boxwood as these plants will drown.
3. Size Beds (or Containers) Correctly
- Eric explains that “bigger beds or containers provide more options for color and texture, plus they widen our design ability”.
- According to Brian, “even small beds can provide an useful accent, if they have a proper backdrop of plantings or structures.”
- “Clearly understand the design philosophy behind the planting and share that with the client”, advises Eric.
4. Build the Beds
- This involves excavating 8 inches of topsoil; Brian suggests replacing it with “compost and top soil tilled with slow release bloom-booster fertilizer”; he adds that “this is the foundation and you’re lost without it.”
5. Plant Selection & Bed Design
- These elements need to be considered together. There’s tremendous variety to choose from, but the elements above narrow down optimum plant selections.
- Brian makes it a practice to “customize to clients, noting specific color and variety preferences”. He uses pictures of established beds to help clients select what they like.
- “Varieties must consider the layout”, explains Eric, “since their growth habits must be considered to keep the look in balance throughout the growing season.”
- Where space permits, Brian explains that “I like to use a white or blue border, with color in the center and a taller backdrop; it’s like matting and framing a painting.”
6. Plan Flower Rotations (“Change-outs”)
- Having at least several rotations per growing season keeps things looking fresh and creates visual interest.
- The “bare minimum” should be summer and fall change-outs, explains Eric, but “if you want to add that splash of spring color with something like Tulips, you need to have at least one earlier planting.”
7. Maintain the Flowers!
- Extra visits are needed to remove spent blooms (“dead-heading”), weed, and monitor plant health.
- Sustaining proper soil moisture is essential.
- Brian explains “you can’t set it and forget it” when it comes to flowers.
- Flower bed care should be addressed separately in the maintenance specifications for the property.
Brian and Eric also share similar thoughts when it comes to their #1 Piece of Advice regarding flowers. Brian says “It’s essential for clients to communicate their expectations for flowers and what they like; the designer can then offer ideas on how we can meet those expectations.” Eric elaborates that “I need to understand why they want flowers and the desired impact; value is created when we draw the eye to what you want them to see.”
Artists understand that beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder. So whether it’s paint on canvas, or flowers in the landscape, genuine artists want to produce work worthy of their Signature!