Time to plan a sum­mer bor­der

If win­ter has left you feel­ing starved of flow­ers, let your imag­i­na­tion run riot and plan a colour­ful sum­mer bor­der, writes Alice Spenser-higgs

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

AU­GUST is the time when the gar­den is at its most bare. The roses are pruned, many peren­ni­als have gone to ground and de­cid­u­ous trees and shrubs have lost their leaves.

It may sound unin­spir­ing but this al­most empty pal­ette makes it eas­ier to plan the sum­mer gar­den, and in par­tic­u­lar the sum­mer bor­der.

Hav­ing vis­ited Eng­land’s sum­mer gar­dens, I have come back in­spired by their flow­er­ing herba­ceous borders.

They are magnificent, and there is no rea­son why they can’t be recre­ated here, us­ing both in­dige­nous and ex­otic plants that grow well in our own ar­eas.

The English borders I saw were in both for­mal gar­dens and in­for­mal gar­dens as well as in large herb and veg­etable gar­dens where they pro­vided colour against boundary walls. In some cases the borders were 6m to 7m or, in smaller gar­dens, about 3.5m wide.

What was so ap­peal­ing was the colour that they brought into the gar­den and the va­ri­ety of gar­den flow­ers, many of them planted to at­tract but­ter­flies and bees.

The artistry of a bor­der lies in its use of colour and al­though colour schemes are a mat­ter of per­sonal taste there are com­bi­na­tions that just seem to work.

Mauve or soft blue, yel­low, sil­very grey and white, some­times with a splash of orange or red is one of these. An­other brighter com­bi­na­tion is blue, mauve, yel­low and pink or a gen­tler com­bi­na­tion of blue, pink and sil­very white with the slight­est hints of pale lemon.

At Great Dix­ter, where the rules are con­sis­tently bro­ken, pink and orange were used to­gether al­though sep­a­rated by shades of blue and pale yel­low.

English gar­den writer Alan Titch­marsh ad­vises that the bor­der should be in pro­por­tion to the size of the gar­den al­though deeper rather than nar­row borders are more ef­fec­tive.

Once the colour scheme is de­cided, the fun part is de­cid­ing on the plants.

When draw­ing up a plant­ing plan for his borders, Titch­marsh starts from the back and works to the front. This means know­ing the height of plants and mak­ing sure the tallest are at the back and work­ing in de­scend­ing or­der to the low­est in front. Not al­ways as sim­ple as it sounds but mis­takes can al­ways be moved.

Be­sides choos­ing plants for their colour, one needs to con­sider con­trast­ing forms and tex­tures.

There are three ba­sic forms; tall and up­right, which in­cludes the spikes and spires, domed or rounded and bushy or spread­ing. Good ad­vice from Titch­marsh is to work in tri­an­gles, putting con­trast­ing shapes, sizes and tex­tures to­gether. The tri­an­gles should be dif­fer­ent sizes and can over­lap. Even though the grown plants will blur the tri­an­gles this gives the bed an un­der­stated struc­ture.

When check­ing with Kirch­hoff’s Mar­laen Straathof for ef­fec­tive bor­der plants she sug­gested start­ing with the ‘in be­tween’ plants to pro­vide early sum­mer colour while the mid­sum­mer an­nu­als and peren­ni­als are get­ting ready for a later show.

The Cape daisy (Os­teosper­mum) makes a won­der­ful spring show and the Seren­ity range of colours in­cludes laven­der, dark pur­ple, lemon and honey yel­low, pink, white, cream and sun­set (pinky yel­low).

An­other spring flow­er­ing daisy is the ar­gy­ran­the­mum and the Madeira range in­cludes some hot pinks as well as the sim­ple white with yel­low cen­tre. Later these can be re­placed by Shasta daisies or Michael­mas daisies.

Di­anthus is an all rounder with the dwarf va­ri­eties suit­able for the front of the bor­der while the taller Ama­zon (60cm) is a good, mid­sized bor­der plant.

Ama­zon Neon Cherry, Pur­ple and Rose Magic have vi­brantly coloured blooms that make a state­ment in a bor­der es­pe­cially if con­trasted with other drought tol­er­ant an­nu­als or peren­ni­als like blue salvia or the yel­low flow­er­ing gail­lar­dia Mesa (45cm), rud­beckia “Prairie sun” (80cm), and Ver­bas­cum “South­ern Charm” (75cm).

A good se­lec­tion of blue’s for the bor­der in­cludes del­phini­ums (90cm to 1,1m) for the back of the bor­der, Feli­cia “Pinwheel” (60cm), La­van­dula an­gus­ti­fo­lia “Hid­cote blue” (45cm), Pen­ste­mon “Elec­tric Blue” ( 45 cm), Salvia Vic­to­ria Blue (30cm), Salvia “Mys­tic Spires” (60cm)and Salvia Black and Blue ( 75cm).

Two airy plants that lighten the tex­ture of a bor­der are gaura and the new Euphor­bia “Breath­less”, both be­ing avail­able in shades of white and pink. Both are quick grow­ing fillers with the Euphor­bia be­ing the more com­pact plant with a height of about 30cm and spread of about 60cm.

Fi­nally, don’t for­get about or­na­men­tal grasses like Carex or the fleshy grey green or blue green leaves of se­dums for tex­tured fo­liage as a buf­fer be­tween colours.

To bring bright pink into a bor­der use early spring flow­er­ing Di­anthus Ama­zon which are taller enough for the mid­dle of the bor­der.

To recre­ate this bor­der con­sider us­ing white Os­teosper­mum 'Seren­ity', Ar­gy­ran­the­mum or shasta daisies, blue Salvia 'Mys­tic Spires', yel­low gail­lar­dia 'Mesa' and blue/grey Senecio 'Blue Chalk'.

This colour­ful bor­der at Chartwell, the home of Sir Win­ston Churchill, shows how beau­ti­ful del­phini­ums are as a bor­der plant.

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