Aren’t most gardens meant to be colorful anyway?
Yes, but the main attraction of this design is not only the fact that it puts colorful discounts in focus. A rainbow garden is a garden where the plants have been arranged to resemble the colors of the rainbow, both in order and (sometimes) in shape. So consider arched garden beds that follow the ROY G BIV memorial (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).
For some gardeners it is the main attraction; to others, it may sound like a headache waiting to happen. But with a little planning, a rainbow garden is not difficult to achieve, even in a single growing season.
Color blocking and a wide color palette are the essential elements of a rainbow garden.
And the most important part of creating a new garden design is letting your creativity roam free—or at least as free as your planting space will allow. You don’t necessarily have to follow an arch shape if planting in groups would look better in your space. Just like you don’t have to follow the colors of the rainbow in order. And you definitely get to play some eye tricks with the blue-indigo-violet combo. Nature sure does!
How do I plan a rainbow garden?
The key to getting a rainbow pattern in your garden is proper planning. This is why a rainbow garden, like any design from the ground up, is best started on paper rather than on site.
First, decide what type of rainbow garden you want to invest in: a spring onion garden, an annual garden or a perennial garden. I’ll expand on the pros and cons of each of these below, so you can skip this step and come back later. But don’t skip the planning on paper before you start digging in the ground.
On a piece of paper, sketch out what you want your rainbow garden to look like, with a few questions in mind.
How much sunlight does your rainbow patch get?
How often are you prepared to water it to keep the “‘Wow! factor” fresh?
Will passersby be able to admire it, or is it for your own private viewing?
Do you want to keep it a subtle affair, or go all out with this design?
How much maintenance are you willing to put in?
Do you want to plant the flowers in color order, or mix and match them a bit to keep it interesting?
Here are three possible rainbow garden layouts to get the ideas rolling.
Layout 1: The arched rainbow garden is designed as a side feature in the location that receives the most sunlight.
Layout 2: You are completely immersed in the rainbow garden as you walk along the path and every row is within reach.
The rainbow garden acts as a natural enclosure and privacy protection for the seating group.
1. Choose plants that have approximately the same flowering time.
This depends a lot on the climate you work in and the type of plants you want to grow in your rainbow garden. But you definitely don’t want some flowers to wilt (or worse, go crispy brown) while others still haven’t opened yet.
For maximum visual impact, choose plants that bloom at the same time.
For maximum effect, you should choose plants that flower at the same time. This should be a fairly easy choice if you stick to the same type of plants – for example, you’re more likely to achieve a wave of flowering effect if you plant only summer perennials or only spring bulbs. Planning gets a little more complicated if you decide to mix and match, especially bulbs and perennials.
2. Consider the height of the plants at maturity.
This is one of the main reasons why you may need to adjust the color order when planting in drifts. Think of it as stadium-style planting, with the tallest plants in the back and the shortest plants in the front seats. In other words, you don’t want your delphiniums to overshadow your marigolds, nor your lupines to block your geraniums from view.
3. Consider the foliage.
Some plants have beautiful flowers that would work well in a rainbow garden, if only their foliage wasn’t too dense. So plants such as nasturtiums have a high leaf-to-flower ratio that would visually get in the way if you’re going for the rainbow effect.