Creating a beautiful garden is not as difficult as you think. The harmony of a beautifully planted border can make all the difference to a garden, so let’s have a look at some simple tips to make your borders fabulous.
If you want to inject some flair into your borders then the key thing is to add variety through different structures and classifications of plants. It’s not all about flowers. You do want a range of flowers that will give you different effects each month of the year, but you also want a backbone of evergreens and a range of shrubs, small trees and groundcover mixed in. Getting a good balance is the key to having the kind of stunning borders that will put a smile on your face on any day of the year - spring, summer, autumn or winter.
Whether you’re sitting on your lawn chair in the morning enjoying a glass of orange juice and the papers, or perhaps with a glass of wine in the evening while the BBQ is cooking and the kids are playing, it’s important to have a good selection of summer-flowering plants. Herbaceous perennial plants are perfect for that because they are plants that lift up and flower in spring and summer and then die down during the winter months. Varieties such as lupines and delphiniums, thalictrums and alliums, and a whole host of others can give you colour from late spring right through the summer, so dotting them into the borders is a great idea.
Balancing borders with shrubs is important too. Summer flowering viburnums are beautiful in the garden. You can also get evergreen viburnums - the viburnum tinus not only gives you the colour during spring flowering season, but also gives you an evergreen in the cold season. They are a wonderful way to draw in birds to nest in your garden too.
Shrubs such as weigela or ceanothus are also brilliant for colour within those borders. There’s one weigela florida variegata that has stunning pink flowers in late spring, but also a gorgeous variegated leaf. Ceanothus is wonderful - another good nesting plant, and great for leaning against a wall too. It has vivid blue flowers and dark evergreen leaves.
Getting groundcover is also important in bringing balance to your border, so that you’re not just looking at soil at the base. Ground cover cotoneasters such as dammeri or humifusa are great coaters: they have foliage, they have flowers, and they have berries too. Alchemilla mollis, or ‘Lady’s mantle’, is a herbaceous plant which dies down in the winter, but during the summer fine hairs hold water droplets from rain or dew in little glistening pearls all over the leaves, creating the most beautiful display. Aubretia is another superb ground cover, and if it’s planted on a wall it will trail down the side too with hues of colour from pinks to purples.
Small trees planted dotted into borders, again, give that little bit of extra colour and a great change in structure. Pyrus salicifolia pendula, or the ‘Weeping Pear’, has beautiful silver foliage that looks like a hung cloud as it grows in the border. Pencil cherries work well too: Prunus amanogawa has upright branches that fill with pink flowers in the spring, and then the leaves give a second display of colour in the autumn. Salix caprea pendula is just a little willow which is perfect for a border. It gives a cascading effect of pendulous branches with downward hanging leaves, and early on in the season it has silver catkins that will actually turn to sulphur yellow.
Peppering into borders some plants with fragrance will also add a whole new dimension to your garden. Roses are marvellous and you can buy them in all different sizes. Standard roses grow on a clear stem with a kind of lollipop head at the top, and there are tonnes of varieties you can get. You can also buy bush roses, either floribundas or hybrid teas. Basically, a hybrid rose is a single rose on a stem like you would get at valentines, and then floribundas, or cluster-headed roses, are where you can get many different flower heads on one stem. I usually buy my roses when they are already in bloom at the garden centre; that way you can stick your nose right in them and choose by fragrance as well as sight.
There are a multitude of different plants to choose from that will brighten up any border. The secret is to go to your garden centre once every month and choose a perennial that is in flower, because then you know you will then get that colour again next year. If you shop once a month you know you will have 12 months of colour. And don’t forget to shop with your nose. If you’re going out looking for plants with fragrance, whether it’s jasmine or honeysuckle or roses, get out there while they are in flower so you can experience the fragrance and choose for yourself.
Beautiful, colourful borders are the heart of the garden, and when you’re sitting in your garden furniture, relaxing in the sunshine, that’s exactly what you want to see.