Get the best from your bor­ders

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING - BY DIARMUID GAVIN

For many gar­den­ers, their care­fully planned herba­ceous bor­ders are the cli­max of gar­den­ing achieve­ment — with height, flower power, scent and colour vy­ing for at­ten­tion. Bees, but­ter­flies and moths are busy for­ag­ing for nec­tar among the blos­soms. It adds up to a beau­ti­ful sight — the epit­ome of flower gar­den­ing — but one that re­quires con­stant help and in­ter­ven­tion, even in mid-per­for­mance.

Hap­pily, most mid­sum­mer tasks are en­joy­able and al­low us to ap­pre­ci­ate our achieve­ments while tend­ing to the bor­der’s re­quire­ments; en­sur­ing that it doesn’t run out of steam be­fore sea­son’s end and plan­ning ahead for next year.

Many herba­ceous plants have a healthy ap­petite. When pre­par­ing a bor­der, you should add an un­der­soil seam of well-rot­ted ma­nure to the space, deep enough so that it doesn’t burn the roots of the new­bies.

Then, each spring, a good feed with chicken ma­nure or slow-re­lease pel­lets will en­sure they have sup­ple­men­tary feed for the sum­mer dis­play.

If they look a bit list­less even with all of that, give them a boost with a mid-per­for­mance liq­uid feed. This could be a sea­weed feed or a high potash feed, such as tomato feed to boost flow­er­ing.

Reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing dur­ing dry weather is es­sen­tial.

There are lots of plants vy­ing for a drink and, while they won’t dry out as quickly as pot­ted plants, they can still suf­fer, es­pe­cially less ma­ture plants.

A daily pa­trol to dead­head can reap huge re­wards.

And while you’re at it, fox­glove spikes and pop­pies can be cut down (un­less you are sav­ing them for seed). Ear­lier flow­er­ing plants such as lupins can have fin­ished flow­er­ing stems re­moved.

If you’ve planted ex­tremely densely, your bor­der won’t need much weed­ing. How­ever, keep an eye on rogue plants — a weekly tug­ging out of un­wanted weeds is part of the plan.

Some taller plants, such as Meadow Rue (thal­ic­trum) and dahlias, may need a bit of sup­port.

It’s com­mon to stake at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son but I tend to adopt a wait-and­see ap­proach. If I can get them to stand tall with­out any sup­port, all the bet­ter.

How­ever, there are some plants — such as the va­le­rian — which now need some­thing to lean on.

Ob­ser­va­tion is key: what’s work­ing, what’s not? Some plants are nat­u­ral in­vaders and will take over if al­lowed — lysi­machia is one such of­fender. Is she el­bow­ing out her neigh­bours?

It’s a good time to tag plants that will need lift­ing and di­vid­ing in au­tumn or spring.

You might want to do this to in­crease stock of a favourite plant or to re­ju­ve­nate an older one.

Very ma­ture herba­ceous plants tend to start to grow out­wards in con­cen­tric cir­cles — like rip­ples in a pond — leav­ing a bare cen­tre.

Leave a marker in the ground be­side th­ese spec­i­mens so that, come au­tumn, you’ll re­mem­ber which ones need do­ing.

Since my visit to the Botan­ics, I’ve been spend­ing time gaz­ing at my herba­ceous plant­ing at home and analysing what I’ll change next year.

I have lots of pur­ples and yel­lows, but I think that red astilbe in the shady cor­ner is jar­ring with the colour scheme. I can also see where it’s go­ing to be a bit dull later in the sum­mer, so I might get some late sum­mer colour such as asters, he­le­ni­ums and rud­beck­ias to keep the show­ing go­ing un­til early au­tumn.

It’s a time to imag­ine other pos­si­bil­i­ties. Maybe is it time to tear up your own rule book?

Have you spot­ted some­thing in other gar­dens that you’d like? Take pho­to­graphs now — it’s all to easy to for­get once it dies down. Al­ready I’ve made a note to add some zing! To start with I’ll use geums such as ‘To­tally Tan­ger­ine’ which will go to work early in the sea­son.

Tall ere­mu­rus ‘Pinoc­chio’ burst­ing through the se­date plant­ing will add ex­cite­ment. I’m go­ing to in­clude some or­ange Turk’s Cap lilies for mid-sum­mer mad­ness and maybe fin­ish the sea­son with some vivid cro­cos­mia ‘Emily McKen­zie’. Never stop dream­ing!

SUM­MER COLOUR: Turk’s Cap lilies will brighten things up as we move into July and Au­gust

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