As we look forward to the growing season, we may be thinking about creating some new beds. Island beds, so named because they are completely free standing, usually surrounded by lawn, are designed to be viewed from many perspectives.
Unlike forward facing beds and borders where the higher plants are at the back, islands have the highest plants in the middle. They are similar to an island in an ocean with mountains along the center of the land mass.
Islands can be of varied shapes but usually are round, oval, or kidney shaped. An island bed may also be built up with additional soil so that it becomes a berm. Some berms are used as screening and they are planted with small trees or shrubs to shield a property's perimeter from a street. Various kinds of island plantings have become popular, but it is a fairly recent horticultural development.
Alan Bloom, in the early 1950's in his garden at Bressingham, built the first island beds as an experiment for holding reserve nursery stock. His perennials thrived because of the increased light and air and easier access for the gardener. Size and proportion in terms of the overall space available, must be considered, but islands of flowering plants have strong impact.