Harmony in the Garden Blog

Designing with Spire-Shaped Flowers

spire shaped perennials

When designing a garden, some of my favorite plants to include are those with spire-shaped flowers.

Spire-shaped flowers are typically triangular, with a broader base that tapers up to a point (similar to a cone or a rocket shooting into space).

Those who have read my blog for some time probably know how much I value shrubs in the garden. 

However, like 99% of other gardeners, I’m a sucker for colorful and unique flowers, whether they come from shrubs, perennials, or annuals. 

spire shaped flowers

Flowers are so much more than just a pretty face.  Especially when the flower itself has a unique shape, like spires. 

When used creatively, spire-shaped flowers can provide moments of divine inspiration in your garden, serving a wide variety of functions in your design. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to use spires in the garden.

1.  Repetition with spires

spire shaped flowers

Repetition is a powerful design technique in the garden. 

Whether repeating the same plant or pulling out a specific element of the plant (such as color, texture, or form), repetition creates soothing harmony in the garden. 

In these examples, the shape of the flowers (and sometimes foliage, too!) is the repeated element.

spire shaped flowers
Echium and Aeonium 'Zwartskopf' flowers
spire shaped flowers
Spire shaped repetition with flowers and foliage
spire shaped perennials
Veronica 'Royal Candles' & Aloe 'Blue Elf'
Spires of Ajuga 'Mahogany' & Heuchera maxima
spire shapes
Repetition of spire shapes from Liatrus, Verbascum, and Mugo Pine

Repetition is effective as long as the element that’s being repeated is strong enough to stand apart from its neighbor. 

Here’s an example of what happens when a shape is repeated, but the contrast isn’t strong enough. 

Can you imagine how good the salvia or heuchera would look planted next to a contrasting shape (ie: a ball-shaped flower?)

2.  Contrast with spires

spire shapes
Contrasting Spires with ball-shaped, white astrantia flowers

Too much repetition, however, can become a bit predictable (or even worse – monotonous!) 

That’s where contrast comes in to save the day. 

Contrasting a color, shape, or form helps wake the eye, telling the brain to slow down because something interesting is happening here!

spire shaped flowers

This is an excellent example of mixing shapes throughout a garden bed.

In the front are spire-shaped foxgloves and iris, with balls of allium flowers ‘floating’ in the back of the border.

This was taken during my visit to Central Park’s Conservatory Garden (click here to read more about one of my favorite gardens ever!)

Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' provides shape contrast along with color repetition

3.  Add some Drama to the Back of the Border

spire shaped flowers
Echium candicans (Pride of Madeira)

Unfortunately, it’s pretty common that the middle layer of a garden bed gets all the attention, with the lowest and tallest layers woefully neglected. 

Luckily, all it takes is a few carefully placed towering spires to highlight the tallest layer of the garden. 

spire shaped flowers
Eremurus ‘Oase’ (Foxtail Lily)
spire shaped flowers
Click on this photo to see how to plant these beauties!
Reseda luteola
Persicaria orientalis
Aloe arborescens
spire shaped flowers
spire shaped flowers

4.  Spires provide visual motion

spire shaped flowers

Similar to rockets shooting into space, spire-shaped flowers draw the eye upwards, providing visual motion in the garden bed.

I’m not talking about literal motion, like a swaying grass on a windy day, but the illusion of movement without any breeze whatsoever.  

Anything that breaks up line of sight, causing the brain to slow down a moment and look up is a great thing, adding interest and excitement to the garden.

spire shaped flowers
Aloe ferox
spire shaped flowers
Astilbe chinensis 'Visions in Pink' buds
Veronica 'Royal Candles'
Veronica 'Eveline'
Kniphofia 'Gladness'
Kniphofia 'Gladness'

In addition to directing the eye upwards, when planted in a drift, like these ‘Gladness’ knifophias, the spire-shaped flowers direct the eye throughout a garden bed.

Click here for more about the amazing, low-water, deer-resistant kniphofias!

5.  Ideal for small spaces

Ptilotus 'Joey'

For those of you who have smaller gardens, spire-shaped flowers come in small packages, too.

And, because of their narrow shape, spires are often compact enough to fit snugly into tight spaces.

Whether it’s a compact window box (for more window box ideas, click here), a narrow garden bed, or a small space next to a boulder, there’s sure to be the perfect spire-shaped flower.

spire shaped flowers
Bulbine frutescens
spire shaped perennials
Tiarella 'Pacific Crest'
spires in containers
spire shaped flowers
Celiosa 'Intenz'
lupine meadow

There’s no doubt about it – whether small, medium or tall, spires certainly add a wow-factor element to the garden bed.

(Yes, that’s me, left, amid a sea of lupine!  Click here to see some jaw-dropping photos of this naturally occurring meadow.)


For more reading on flower shapes, and how to use them in the garden, you might enjoy these past posts:  Designing with Ball-Shaped Flowers | Creating Contrast | Knock-Out Khiphofias

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