One of the things I love about summer gardens in Britain and Ireland is the herbaceous border, consisting of perennial plants which have their few months of glory, die back in winter to reemerge again in spring. The great gardens open to the public usually have such a border, often a hundred feet in length and backed by an old wall or ancient yew hedge. But even in an average suburban plot, the principles are much the same.
- Colour – a very personal choice; some like to group “hot” colours nearest to the house fading to the cooler shades of blues and whites in the distance. You may like to look back at Using Colour in the Garden
- Repetition – repeating a key plant or colour creates cohesion and harmony.
- Groups – plant in groups, best in odd numbers, for greatest impact; the depth of the border should be at least 4 feet if possible.
- Height – traditionally tall plants such as Delphiniums were grouped at the back sloping forward to the low growers at the front; however, wave planting is common where similar plants are “woven” through the border.
- Form – Using contrasting shapes and textures creates interest,eg, tall poker heads of Kniphofia next to the flat heads of Achillea.
- Maintenance – deadheading, staking and editing is necessary to keep the show going.
If you are starting a new herbaceous border this autumn, soil preparation is very important and incorporating non-herbaceous plants such as bulbs, shrubs and grasses means you won’t have just bare soil come the winter months.
So these are some of my top perennial plants, small, medium and tall, which I have found over the years to be easily available, reliable, hardworking or good value at giving a prolonged period of flowering and attractive to pollinators.
Successful herbaceous Borders
Autumn is the perfect time for regenerating your herbaceous border, lifting and dividing perennials so that you can increase your stock, reappraising the successes and failures and planting bulbs to increase the flowering season.
Emerging spring perennials is something to look forward to in the dark months of winter ahead.