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Gardens can appeal to us on many levels. One important, but often neglected aspect is flow -- the way our eyes and bodies move through the space.

Garden beds filled with colorful bulbs, perennials or annuals can draw us from one space to the next, especially when they're filled with repeating colors or textures. Evergreen and deciduous shrubs are also useful for creating flow by shaping spaces and controling both views and movement.

Grassy pathways that snake through a garden are an effective way to tie different areas together. Hardscaping materials such as bricks, pavers, edging and mulch also influence how we move through a space. Sculptures, benches and garden structures create resting points in the flow. In an effective garden design, all of these elements work together to guide us from one experience to the next.


Plants such as hostas, caladiums, daylilies and border dahlias can be excellent tools for creating flow. For example, all the plants in a bed of border dahlias, even if the flowers are different colors, will have a similar height and width. This establishes visual continuity and our eyes read the bed as a line moving from one point to the next.

Garden designers often encourage us to plant groups of the same type of plant, instead of placing individual plants here and there through the garden. This is particularly effective when these plants establish or follow a line, such as along a curving garden path or against the walkway leading to your front door.

Another way to use plants to create flow is to repeat a certain type of plant, or a certain color through your garden. Caladiums are particularly useful for creating flow in a shady garden. Their colorful foliage can become a repeating motif that ties one area to the next. In a sunny garden, daylilies or ornamental grasses can be used in the same way.

There are hundreds wonderful plants to choose from and each type has its own special beauty. Some gardens are a collection of individual plants with lots of individual personalities. In gardens that are designed to create flow, plants work in groups, collaborating to shape spaces and guide movement. Thinking about plants in this way can open up lots of new possibilities for your garden.