Planting Schemes For Herbaceous Borders

I do not know whether to regard herbaceous borders as more important to the large garden or to the small. Possibly their importance is equal; but if there is any difference, I should say that t he mixed border is more vital in the small garden. Collections of flowering shrubs, seasonal beds, rose, iris, or other special flower gardens carry a continuity of interest in the layout of a large garden, whereas in a small space seasonal bedding not only limits the In the 12-ft. Wide border, which is ideal, a constant succession of loveliness is really possible. Plants might be set in groups of five or seven. Very large plants would, of course, be satisfactory set singly; a large delphinium, well grown, occupies a square yard of space, and needs no companion.

Herbaceous Borders 2

It should be remembered that though “ clumps “ are the common sight in most gardens, a better floral display is always obtained where flowering stems are ruthlessly restricted to just enough to fill the allotted space. A single flowering stem of Michaelmas daisy might, for example, spread 2 ft. each way, and present a mass of flowers, poised symmetrically on the radiating side branches. If half a dozen stems were allowed to occupy the same space, each would have fewer flowers, and none of them would appear so symmetrical and decorative. It needs courage, when twenty flower stems are developing from one root stock, to pull out sixteen or eighteen of them, but it definitely pays, and to the amateur who doubts this statement, I recommend an experiment with one root out of his number. Limit it to one, or if it is a large root, to three stems; and watch the result.

Hardy plant catalogues of today nearly all offer a complete herbaceous border, and supply a planting plan. I should be the last to suggest that these plans are undesirable, except in one way—they are “ready made,” and therefore have no individuality.


I suggest then that he should make out, for himself, a list of the plants he specially likes in borders, choosing them from the most up-to-date catalogue he can find, since varieties of all plants are constantly being improved on by hybridizing and selection on the part of the nurseryman.

With the formidable list he probably selects, he can then begin to work out a border planting scheme that is original and personal. He can begin by noting against each plant of his choice the height, season of flower, colour, and general habit, i.e., spreading, upright, etc. For this he may have to consult both catalogue and gardening book, since new varieties of old plants may have different characteristics. At the same time, he may find it wise to strike out of his list certain plants not suitable for his type of soil, or which need so much extra care that, for the present, they must be excluded.

Next a plan of the border should be drawn, preferably on squared paper, so that each square can represent a square yard, or a square foot. This makes it much easier to allocate the various plants to their positions.

Now comes the tricky part of the business—trickier than the most involved crossword. The plants must be disposed along the border, so that spring, summer and autumn each have a show in each part of the border, and so that tall plants are not set in front of short ones, unless the short ones are early flowering and will be fading by the time the giants begin to run up. At the same time, colour of flower and foliage, the delightful contrast of various leaf and flower forms, and the relation of the colour effects to other parts of the garden must all be kept in mind. Tricky? Yes ! So much so that a good herbaceous border is the hall-mark of success in garden making, and is, in fact, an ideal that few gardeners achieve. However, I know of no task in the garden which is more fascinating; and I should beg every gardener to make time to plan his own borders.

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