Thursday, 16 September 2010

Border Plants


Modern gardens can be an extension of a home's living space. The indoor living space is subject to fashion as replacement furniture is modernised and moved around to maintain interest and keep up to date with new technologies and the latest fashions.
This suits comfort, taste, appearance and socialising.

The garden, (the outdoor living space) is just the same as ideas change with healthy living through fresh foods and exercise, relaxing on the patio after a stressful days work and socialising around a barbecue being just as important as choice of that special must have plant.

The garden has developed over the years from the narrow cottage garden border where a few choice plants would grow, often from cuttings or suckers obtained from a friend's garden. These often had scented flowers such as border pinks, iris and herbs such as thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary and mint to be used in the kitchen. Borders often had honeysuckle growing up border fences.
Cyclamen hederifolium
Garden space got bigger after the last war when there was a steady demand for fresh vegetables and some fruit was necessary as there was no supermarkets, and people wanted to grow colourful flowers to raise spirits. There was a continuous flow of new vegetable varieties, fruit, flowers and other garden plants.

The garden enthusiast could indulge in a massive extension in the range of plants available to fill their borders. Slowly garden centres and specialist nurseries have grown to meet this need to try something new, different or just the latest fashion.

The Modern Garden

The pace of change has been huge as gardens are now smaller to meet housing needs where space for building gets priority over garden space. However, the pace of life is faster, more demanding and stressful and the need for a place to relax in all the more relevant. The garden may be smaller but can still be designed as a place to chill out, and be visually attractive and easy to look after.
Today's popular plants are those that are easy to grow, pest and disease free, have long lasting colour from flowers or foliage, give good ground cover and are not invasive or grow too tall. People want colour but without too much effort.

The herbaceous border would be fine if the plants did not need staking and climbers are great if they are self clinging. If only it were that easy.

It is possible to create that attractive garden border with colour all year round and easy to maintain, but most often there is a fair bit of graft to perform before we reach for the sun lounger on our sunny patio.

Choosing Border Plants

Anemone Honorine Jobert
Choice of plants is always a personal matter, but garden centres have such a wide choice that plants can be tried for a few years then dug up to be replaced by the next garden fashion accessory if they have any failings. My own garden goes through major transformations as many of my previous plant favourites especially roses, succumb to diseases in clean air devoid of sulphur. Global warming will also affect the choice of plant as warmer summers and winters are not to every plants liking and we also take the opportunity to try those more exotic plants that we might manage in a better climate. I'm assuming that our Scottish climate will get warmer and hoping that we wont just get warmer summer rain and a lot more of it. What's the point of a warm wet summer and a dry winter and spring!
Spray chrysanthemums

A larger garden has scope to have colour all year round with a wide choice of plants, but many smaller gardens can be an absolute treasure with just one well grown plant giving a burst of colour for a couple of weeks that will be remembered for a long time. I have noted several Dundee gardens with one brilliant azalea, one Rhododendron praecox, one philadelphus, or oriental poppies.
Wherever there is only room for a very limited number of plants it is better to select good plant combinations where they will all be at their best at the same time. If you have a garden where there is a wee bit of colour over many months but scattered around here and there, the impact is lost. Try a red quince under-planted with daffodils, or a Forsythia under-planted with Fosteriana tulip Red Emperor. A later early summer combination is flag iris, oriental poppies and pyrethrum. Another good spring combination is the lemon yellow broom Cytisus praecox amongst a drift of dwarf early red tulips and blue grape hyacinths all flowering together.

It is important to make the most from the space available, so plants can be very accommodating growing happily together, but at different depths. My winter border of coloured stemmed shrubs are attractive from October to the end of February. Then they get pruned to ground level as the snowdrops take pride of place to be replaced by the crocus two weeks later. Another couple of weeks later then the tulips take over and in July my lilies get the border to themselves being supported by the young shoots of my cornus and other coloured stemmed shrubs. Lilies are also useful companions to dwarf Japanese azaleas where they both grow happily together.

All Year Round Colour

Fuchsia Mrs Popple
Where there is scope for a range of border plantings consider trying to get year round colour. I have borders around all sides of my house so those that need a warm south border will be different from those in the northern shady border. No point putting crocus here as they need sun to open up the flowers, but snowdrops are perfect as they are happy in the shade.
My borders start the flowering season in winter with Jasmine climbing over a fence under-planted with snowdrops. Aconites are nearby in a drift surrounding a pure white Christmas Rose, the Hellebore.
My first herbaceous plants are the yellow Doronicum next to the blue Pulmonaria, then a drift of hyacinths pushes through the bed of flag iris, extending the flowering season.

The garden bursts with colour in spring and early summer but by August other garden areas have their moment. Fuchsia Mrs Popple, having just survived last winter is now in full flower and combines well with the white Anemone Honorine Jubert.
A spring drift of another Anemone called blanda dies down for a summer rest to be replaced with Cyclamen hederifolium.
As autumn approaches the michaelmas daisies have their display and this year I am also trying a drift of spray chrysanthemums, usually grown for cut flower but with tops removed to encourage them to branch into a wide plant which will be self supporting. I've no wish to stake them.


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