Formal Borders For Small Gardens

On this subject of planning, let me make one other suggestion. In the small garden, where formality reigns for the most part, and where the herbaceous border is only a 3-ft. Strip along the garden boundary, there is, I think, a strong case for rather formal or limited use of herbaceous plants. For example, in such a border one might make a ribbon-edging of pinks, alternated with dwarf campanulas, with groups of early bulbs, such as snowdrops or crocus or scillas immediately behind the edging plants. The campanulas and pinks keep their foliage all winter, the bulbs would flower in early spring, and the others during the summer.

Behind this edging, doronicums for spring flowering could be alternated with chrysanthemums for the autumn, with an occasional standard rose for summer, and groups of gladioli, half a dozen in each group. This limited planting scheme would give colour and interest over twelve months, with a neatness that is impossible with a well-mixed planting scheme.

Formal Borders For Small Gardens

A point often asked by novices is whether one can mix shrubs such as roses with herbaceous perennials. As a general principle, such mixed borders are best avoided, though there are times when a skeleton of shrubs such as rosemary and lavender can well be used, the groups of mixed herbaceous perennials being set between the shrubs, so that in winter the border is partly furnished.

Roses should generally not be set in a border with herbaceous perennials, the exception being where a garden is too small to allow for separate rose borders; the use of an occasional standard rose, as suggested above, is then permissible. Bush roses should never be jostled by herbaceous perennials.

Further mixing is done frequently where annuals are used in groups among the herbaceous perennials.

Bulbs also are used in this way. Such mixing, though it afters the character of the border a little, is a wise move in a small garden, for it makes it easier to keep up the colour interest all the year. A line of tulips behind the perennial edging flowers does not interfere much with the main occupants of the border, and when the tulips are lifted, the substitution of a line of quick-flowering annuals will make a welcome contribution to the colour in late summer.

The best place for the herbaceous border is in full sunshine; for where sun is plentiful, flowers will also be plentiful, whereas shade tends to encourage lanky growth with too much foliage and few flowers.


Having recognized this fact, we turn our attention to those borders which are, through force of circumstances, set in partial or entire shade. Let us first be frank and admit that there will never be the continuous blaze of colour in the shady border that there is in the sunny one. That is a good reason for making the two opposite side borders in a long narrow garden, running from east to west, quite different in character. The border that faces south might well be made twice or three times the width of the other, and the garden design can be built up in recognition of this difference.

Where one of two borders suffers from partial shading only, as where a tree is the cause, the balance of colour can be kept up best by the use of pot plants, and by judicious removals from the nursery plot. For instance, phlox, and various other perennials, grown in a nursery plot until the flower buds are formed, will transplant remarkably well, if care is taken to keep soil round the roots, and to water overhead after the move. Japanese chrysanthemums grown in pots in the sun, and knocked out of the pots, or merely sunk into position in the border when nearly in bloom, are useful in the same way.


Then, of course, there are certain plants more suitable than others for permanent positions in full shade — lily of the valley, Solomon’s seal, sweet rocket, Japanese anemones, selenium, campanulas, primula polyanthus, violas, honesty, aconitum, foxgloves, funkia, pulmonaria, polemonium, spiraea palmatum, Miura martagon, and veronica virginicaall of these succeed pretty well without any sunshine.

As a shrubby skeleton for the border a few plants of mahonia, hypericum, and periwinkle would be extremely useful. It needs extra care over plant selection to achieve success in the shaded border, but it is by no means the hopeless task some gardeners are

apt to think it.

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