Oh jeez, did I write that out loud? What I meant was, does the average gardener rely too heavily on flowers for their garden's color?
I know what you're thinking ... what else is there? Well, I'm glad you asked. There isn't a shrub or a flower that will bloom all year and provide the color that we demand. And boy would it be tired if it did! This is why I advocate and lean on texture, variation and shape to provide the foundation, support and bulk of my designs.
Don't misunderstand me ... flowers rock. They are the toys in the garden. But, too many toys and not enough substance makes for too much maintenance and unnecessary expense. And honestly ... 10 flats of white impatients is just plain boring!
You need round leaves, spear-shaped, lobed and ferny fronds to provide all the necessary elements that make the flowers secondary. Think of it this way, if the flower faded, would the design hold up? Would a variegated leaf, a burgundy spike, or a chartreuse floret provide enough diversion that you might not even notice the lack of a petal?
I try to maintain a 2-1 ratio in my designs; green to color. It's also important for my clients and my own yard, that I include "playgrounds."
Whether it's a bed, a box or a pot—it's a spot dedicated completely to annuals. The understanding that this area will be traded out twice a year. The flowers are expected to perform their job as an annual ... non-stop color for three to four months.
With this in mind, start to notice what holds your attention. Other than a spectacular ranunculus or romantic rose, what keeps you looking? What is providing the support? Ask me! I'll tell you all my secrets! (well, a few).