10 Great Flower Garden Design Tips

It’s possible to have year-round color in your garden. Learn how with tips from Pulaukotok’s Test Garden in Sonoma

Johanna Silver
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The Flower Room

We’re longtime advocates of homegrown flowers—big believers in having our centerpieces be as fresh and sustainable as the food on our plates. Besides filling the pages of the magazine, the blooms we grow in a Pulaukotok garden have sentimental value, too, finding their ways into our lives—at employee weddings, memorials for loved ones, and bouquets in the office. At our Test Gardens located at Cornerstone Sonoma, floral designer Alethea Harampolis helps us carry on the tradition, planting the Flower Room with a dazzling mix of her favorite blooms, ideal for future stories (and eye candy every day).

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The explosion

Consisting of three large raised beds (dedicated to focal flowers, secondary accents, and foliage), made from Cor-ten steel and an in-ground border with vines like clematis jasmine and sweet peas creeping up the privet hedge, the flower room celebrates life’s wild and whimsical side.

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The view from above

Viewed from above, the riot of color in the Flower Garden resolves itself into individual elements: Clumps of Lysimachia atropurpurea, delphinium, coreopsis, and foxglove all combine to form a spectrum of color.

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Overflowing with flowers

A duo of zinnias--tall ‘Benary’s Giant Salmon Rose’ and ‘Zinderella Peach’--spill out of their bed.

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Boundless bounty

Heirloom mums start to form buds in the foreground, while Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’ curves this way and that, behind it. Towards the back of the photo, the peachy blooms of Apricot Illumination ‘Apricot’ Digiplexis form a thicket, and 'Cobalt Dreams’ delphinium stands tall at right.

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True blue

“There aren’t a lot of blue flowers out there, and this one is my favorites,” designer Harampolis says of ‘Cobalt Dreams’ delphinium, one of the bluest flowers there is.

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Sweet as can be

Cheery Coreopsis ‘Star Cluster’ thrives in the raised bed dedicated to secondary flowers, or “bits,” as designer Harampolis calls them.

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Long and lean

Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’ (bottom right) won designer-favorite of our first growing season. “It’s so sculptural,” says Harampolis. “The movement of just one stem in an arrangement is pretty amazing.”

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Snap to it

The tubular flowers of a purplish-pink foxglove tempt bees and hummingbirds to make a pit stop in the garden.

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Beautiful in black

Fully blooming Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black’ intermingle with spent flowers, which, if left on the plant, eventually become fascinatingly whimsical seed pods, perfect additions to late summer and early fall arrangements.

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Rusty and rose

To match the Cor-ten metal raised beds, Jennifer Asher of Terra Trellis made us a matching out of weathered steel. Homestead Design Collective worked with the experts from to select the perfect varieties for Sonoma’s climate. We’re giant fans of David Austin's because they combine old rose flower form and fragrance with modern innovations of disease prevention and vigor. Here, one begins its journey up the arbor, with a classic undreplanting of catmint (Nepeta).

We’ve included the following David Austin Roses in our Flower Room:

  • Munstead Wood (burgundy)
  • Carding Mill (rich apricot)
  • The Lady Gardener (pale apricot)
  • Lady of Shalott (salmon)
  • Wollerton Old Hall Climbing (creamy apricot)
  • Jude the Obscure (soft buff yellow)
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Meet the designers

In a tradition of choosing great talent to partner with (Thomas Church--father of the modern style of California landscape architecture--designed our previous gardens), we turned to the East Bay-based for help executing our vision. Co-owned by a dyed-in-the-wool sustainable gardener, Stefani Bittner, and Alethea Harampolis, a florist known for her wild, garden-inspired designs, Homestead captures the zeitgeist of today’s gardener: an insistence on utility with an uncompromising commitment to beauty. And true to both their values and ours, Pulaukotok’s Test Gardens are maintained without pesticides and fed with organic fertilizer, fish emulsion, and compost.

Our gardens are open to the public daily. Cornerstone: 23570 Arnold Dr., Sonoma; .

The following businesses made contributions to the Cornerstone project: , , , , , , , , and . We extend a warm thank-you to all!