For the very best display in your garden, choose a border with perennials. When choosing your combinations, location, flowering period, and the growing heights are important. And so is your personal preference, of course!
Exciting or calming
Autumn and spring are the best seasons for establishing the perennial border, although perennials bought in pots can be planted any time provided there is no frost. Start by choosing the right spot. Whereas before the term border used to be reserved for long narrow border beds, these days it can take many forms. Next, it’s time for the fun part: choosing your perennials! Some perennials are true sun worshippers, while others prefer shade or half shade. Also pay attention to variety in the flowering periods. Otherwise, borders are mostly a matter of taste. If you like an exciting border, opt for contrasting colours and forms. If you prefer a calmer appearance, create larger groups with a single variety and choose harmonious colours.
Example of a sunny border with fiery colours
- Sneezeweeds (Helenium)
- Knotweed (Persicaria)
- Moss phlox (Phlox)
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
- Goldenrod (Solidago)
- Rose Campion (Lychnis)
Examples for shade/half-shade border with predominantly pastel shades and white
- Meadow rues (Thalictricum)
- Black cohosh (Actaea)
- Barrenwort (Epimedium)
- Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum)
- Twisted shell flowers (Chelone)
- Lungwort (Pulmonaria)
Next, decide where your plants will go in the border. Start by making a sketch or slide the plants around the soil like puzzle pieces until you find a set up you like. Keep the growth heights in mind. You could choose to stagger the plants from low to high or put groups of taller plants in between lower ones for a more natural look. Another fun idea is to plant the plants higgledy-piggledy or interweave them. Burnet (Sanguisorba), masterworts (Astrantia) and sage (Salvia) are examples of suitable filler plants.
People have been using perennials for borders for more than 140 years; it was English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll who started planting perennials in groups around 1880. With her art school background, she paid close attention to the colour and composition of leaves and flowers. Many landscapers still use the innovative way she filled in borders.