Harmony in the Garden Blog

Designing with Ball-Shaped Flowers

ball-shaped flowers

love designing with ball-shaped flowers. 

Don’t get me wrong, I also adore spire-shaped flowers (click here if you missed that post!)

However, there’s something about spherical shapes that always makes me smile.

designing with ball-shaped flowers

 

Maybe its because the lollipop shapes tend to be more playful? 

Or maybe its because the symmetrical, round balls are such a fantastic opportunity for contrast.  

Either way, I love them all.  Today I’m sharing with you some of my favorites, as well as how to design with them.   Enjoy!

 1.  Create Repetition

designing ball-shaped flowers

Repeating the ball-shape among different flowers is a sure-fire way to add some excitement to your garden’s bed.

While hiking at Lake Tahoe, I found this stunning combination of salsify seed heads and globe thistle flowers.  

What an impact this spherical repetition makes!

ball-shaped flowers

In this example, the ball-shaped heads of purple allium flowers echo the tight ball-shaped peony buds.

It’s subtle, but highly effective!

designing with ball-shaped flowers

 

While there aren’t repeating ball-shapes in this example, it does illustrate how the red globes of gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’ echo the surrounding burgundy and red colors.

2.  Introduce Contrast

ball-shaped flower

Just as repetition is important in the garden, so is contrast.

Whether from texture, shape, or form, contrast in the garden helps prevent a garden from looking too predictable.

In this example, while the colors echo one another, the different flower shapes keep it dynamic (especially those darling magenta gomphrena balls!)   

designing with ball-shaped flowers

 

In this two-plant combination, the round globes of the ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea beautifully contrast with the pink spires of the astilbe.

ball-shaped flower

 

In another two-plant combo, the chive’s lavender lollipop flowers provide playful contrast with the fern’s oversized triangular foliage. 

ball-shaped flowers

 

In this example, I contrasted my client’s spiky blue agave with the yellow balls of the phlomis fruiticosa (Jerusalem Sage).

3.  Add Some Visual Drama

ball-shaped flowers

The oversized globes of allium flowers appear to float above the lower-layer plants in this garden.

The effect is mesmerizing, almost as if they’re bouncing along, beckoning you to follow the path.

designing ball-shaped flowers

 

Nothing quite beats a cluster of spherical opium poppy seed heads for making a statement in the garden.

Add in the glaucous color, and you’ve got some DRAMA!

ball-shaped flowers

A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a weekend at the incredible and expansive garden of P. Allen Smith (click here for more about my visit.)

On our last evening there, we had dinner in the garden, surrounded by this voluptuous border. 

The spherical ‘Globe Master’ allium heads, illuminated by the setting sun, took my breath away. 

Absolutely perfect!

Front of the Border

Below are some examples of ball-shaped flowers that are perfect for the front of the border.

ball-shaped flowers
Allium karataviense (Turkestan Onion)
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Armeria maritima 'Bloodstone' (Sea Thrift)
ball-shaped flower
Craspedia globosa (Billy Buttons)
ball-shaped flower
Eriogonum grande var. rubescens
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Globularia sarcophylla 'Blue Eyes'
ball-shaped flower
close-up of globularia - amazing, isn't it?
ball-shaped flowers
Agapanthus 'Baby Pete'
ball-shaped flower
Cotula hispida (Silver Waterbuttons) spotted at the New York Botanical Garden

Middle of the Border

ball-shaped flower
Eryngium 'Blue Glitter' (Prickly Sea Holly)
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Allium obliquum
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Erygnium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master)
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Helichrysum italicum
ball-shaped flowers
Tanacetum Vulgare (Tansy)
ball-shaped flowers
Tansy close-up (as you can see, pollinators LOVE this flower!)
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Peonies 'Sarah Bernhardt' and 'Felix Crousse'
ball-shaped flowers
Peony bud of 'Shirley Temple'

 

*** This reminds me – if you have peonies, click here to see how I refrigerate them to extend their blooms by weeks!

ball-shape flowers
Phlomis russeliana 'Jerusalem Sage)
ball-shaped flowers
Dried seedheads of phlomis russeliana (left)
designing ball-shaped flowers
Salvia clevlandii 'Winifred Gilman'
designing ball-shaped flowers
Close-up of 'Winifred Gilman' flowers

Back of the Border

designing ball-shaped flowers
Spirea prunifolia (Bridal-Wreath Spirea)
ball-shaped flower
Echinops 'Blue Glow'
ball-shaped flower
Viburnum carlcephalum (Scented Viburnum)
ball-shaped flowers
Viburnum carlcephalum close-up
Hydrangea 'Annabelle'
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Dried ball-shaped hydrangea flowers
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Asclepias physocarpa 'Family Jewels Tree'
designing with ball-shaped flowers

Of course I can’t forget to include this crazy variety of milkweed with the slightly rude name (ha!) asclepias ‘Family Jewels Tree.’  

Annie’s Annuals sells this fast-growing 6-foot variety (and yes, it hosts monarch butterflies, too!)

Don’t forget Seedheads, too!

ball-shaped flower
Hypochaeris radicata (False Dandelion)
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Allium seedheads
ball-shaped flowers
Seedheads of phlomis fruiticosa (featured above)
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Anemone multifida (Pacific anemone)
designing with ball-shaped flowers
Japanese anemone seedheads
ball-shaped flower
'Monch' aster seedheads
ball-shaped flower

I’m particularly fond of the seedheads of the echinacea pallida growing in my pollinator garden.

I leave them on the plant until the birds have finished pecking at the seeds, then pick the sturdy stems to enjoy for months to come.

 

heat loving deer resistant perennials
designing with ball-shaped flowers

 

Well, that’s it for now.  I hope I’ve given you a few ideas on how to use ball-shaped flowers in the garden.

I know I’ve left out others (like those incredible little globe dahlias!) so tell me, what are your favorites?

 

For more reading on flower shapes, you might enjoy these past posts:  Foxtail Lily Frenzy | Designing with Spire-Shaped Flowers | Knock-Out Khiphofias

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13 Comments

  • Rebecca, your posts are always so beautiful and inspirational. I love seeing your name in my inbox and so appreciate all of your effort to create the blog! I live in Carmel, and hate seeing the damage that many have suffered during the storms. We have such extremes here in our state! As gardeners in CA, we are so grateful to have rain and see the earth in our gardens so deeply wet though!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Marilee, you made my night! 🙂 The damage is crazy, isn’t it? Seeing the images on the news along the coast is just shocking. The rain stopped here late this afternoon and I’m so looking forward to walking around my garden and imagining what a glorious spring we’ll have. Thanks again for your comment.

      Reply
  • Dear Rebecca,
    I love this posting! It is inspirational, but also so full of solid ideas for how to design our gardens. Your combos of textures and colors make my mouth water.

    So glad you touched on the seed heads. They’re gorgeous and important.

    Thankful for the rains and the promise of a rich and colorful spring to come.

    Sending love to you two,
    Sharon

    Reply
    • Thank you, Sharon, I really appreciate that! I’ve appreciated all the rain but am very much looking forward to the sun that’s supposed to make an appearance tomorrow. I’m sure all of us will be out wandering through our gardens in the next few days checking on our babies! 🙂

      Reply
  • Hi Rebecca, I’m so grateful for the rain as well. I’m in Southern California, and just renovated my backyard and planted native California plants in November, so the timing was perfect. I’ve gathered so much inspiration from your blogs for my own backyard. Your blog is truly a treasure to me.

    Reply
    • Thank you SO MUCH, Vanessa, I appreciate your kind words. Truly, it means a lot to me. It can get a little lonely writing away by myself in a vaccum, so it’s nice to hear people out there are enjoying my blog! I love sharing my information and photos with people, so this is great to hear. And I’m so happy for your new garden – you’re right, the timing couldn’t be better and I’m sure you’ll be rewarded with an amazing spring garden!

      Reply
  • I’ve been thinking about you with all of the torrential rains pummeling so much of CA. Stay safe, dear Rebecca. We’re actually going to be able to enjoy the tail end of the rains tat are moving towards Tucson for the next 3 days!
    BTW, the first photo in the contrast section is simply stunning. The combination of colors, shapes and textures definitely make my heart sing!

    Reply
    • Hi Sheila, thanks for thinking of me. We’ve been fine overall, just had to pull an all-nighter at our place at Tahoe because the entire downstairs flooded and we all had to do our best to keep the water at bay (omg NIGHTMARE) but other than that little hiccup (lol) it’s been fine. No downed trees this year at least (yes, I’m knocking on wood right now) Hooray for rain coming your way – enjoy it! So glad you like the photo, btw. 🙂

      Reply
      • Your area keeps getting slammed, but luckily you know how to plan ahead for possibilities. May the coming spring bring views of blooming beauties wherever you look outside your windows.
        We have actually already received 1″ of rain, so far from this front! It should be an incredible flower filled Spring for Az desert blooms. Hugs

        Reply
  • Hello Rebecca, I always enjoy your insightful blogs and photos, especially on ALL these rainy days. Hope you and your family are safe and your garden doing well. Thank you for all you share with us.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Sabrina. In between cleaning out my closets (finally!) and organizing photos, I’m running out of indoor chores with all this rain. Won’t our gardens be wonderful this spring? Sending you and Freeland lots of love and hope there’s not too much damage in your garden from all the wind. xoxo

      Reply
  • I’m so glad that reservoirs are filling up in California even with the landslides and downed trees. I love alliums and peony buds!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Maia – it’s heartbreaking to see so much damage. We’ve had our own share of flooding here, and the downed trees are everywhere. It seems every other property has a fallen tree or two. If only we could get this much rain spread throughout the season, right?

      Reply

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