Planning herbaceous borders for your garden is not always easy, but when you get it right, the results can be amazing. In this article, we’ll talk about what they are, and how to plant one, with tips to help you in achieving the best possible results.
What are Herbaceous Borders?
Herbaceous borders are growing areas that incorporate a wide range of herbaceous plants. Usually herbaceous borders are dominated by perennial flowering plants, which will bloom in your garden for a number of years to come.
Herbaceous plants are plants with non-woody stems – they can be deciduous or evergreen, but unlike shrubs and trees, do not have woody stems or branches above the ground. These types of borders are usually largely planted for ornamental appeal – but can also incorporate a range of useful and edible plants.
The primary goal in most herbaceous borders is to choose plants which complement one another aesthetically, and provide flowers that open in sequence over as long a period as possible. Usually, there will be flowers in bloom in a herbaceous border right through from early spring to autumn, and perhaps even beyond.
Planning Herbaceous Borders – Shape and Size
The first step in planning herbaceous borders is determining their shape and size. Wide beds, with organic and curving shapes, can allow for the naturalistic drifts of planting that can often be appealing in this type of garden design. But you can also create narrow strips of more formal planting, which can look great in a more contemporary garden, or in smaller gardens.
Before you start to plan out a planting scheme for a herbaceous border, it is important to determine the shape and size of the growing area. It is also important to think about how you might like to edge the border.
Choosing The Right Plants For the Right Places
When planning herbaceous borders, understanding the climate, microclimate, soil type and other environmental conditions is key.
The plants you will choose will depend on factors such as orientation. So think about whether the border is north, east, south or west facing. This will determine how much sunlight and shade the area will receive, and which plants will be right for the location.
You also need to know what soil type you have, whether it is water retentive or free draining, and its pH. That can help you find the right plants to include in your design.
Layered Planting and Structure in Herbaceous Borders
When choosing plants, begin by thinking about the environmental conditions. But think also about how the plants will form the structure for the herbaceous border. And stop it from feeling two dimensional. Make sure you think vertically. Typically, you will position tall plants at the back of the border, mid-height varieties in the middle, in front of them, and low-growing plants towards the front.
You can also play around with adding height and structure by incorporating support structures such as obelisks or arch trellises for climbing plants.
Remember, towards the back of wider beds, you can also incorporate shrubs or small trees. They will complement the herbaceous plants around and in front of them.
Establishing Plants for a Long Blooming Period
Another important think to consider when choosing plants is when each is in bloom. You should aim to make sure that you have a succession of blooms. Blooms that open in a harmonious way and follow one another without leaving gaps in the blooming period.
Often, the first flowers to open will be the spring ephemeral bulbs – crocus, daffodils etc.. Next will come the tulips, campanula and peonies. Next come other options like, for example, aquilegia and lupins, then geums, coreopsis, nepeta and astilbe. One mid summer arrives, there can be a huge range of flowering perennials. These might include achillea, delphinium, salvia and rudbeckia… And, towards the end of the season, asters, sedums and more can keep things going well into autumn.
Edibles For Herbaceous Borders
One final thing is that you don’t just have to think about ornamental appeal. In amongst the flowers in herbaceous borders, edible and useful crops can be integrated. Not just edible flowers, but also other edible perennials, such as artichokes, perennial alliums, and perennial brassicas, for example. These can be useful and beautiful and help you make the most of the space in your garden.
Do you have tips for herbaceous borders? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.