The Herbaceous Border

The hardy herbaceous border in many gardens is a straight, or perhaps curved, bed with a fence, or wall as a background. This may be unavoidable, but where space permits an island bed which one may walk round can be most attractive. Rose beds are frequently so designed, why not a bed for hardy perennial plants?

With such a flower bed sited in the full sun the plants will not become drawn up as they so often do when planted near a wall or other tali background and will need less support, and the new plants should produce a reasonable show in their first summer. When . Planting, the taller growing plants should be placed in the middle of the bed with the lower ones towards the front, or perimeter.

Naturally it will depend upon the size of the bed how many of each type of plant is used in a group, but not less than three to five of one variety should be planted together to give the best results. Planting just one or iwo makes a border look like a patch-work quilt. What to plain is a matter of individual taste but the following plants would make an attractive display. Starting from the middle of the bed. Choose one of the shorter delphiniums, such as the blight blue ‘Marion’, which does not usually exceed 5 ft. in height. Three of these planted about 2 ft. apart will make a bold group and if the spikes are cut back immediately they have finished flowering, the plants will produce more flowers in the autumn. The bushy light pink sidalceas are effective just in front of the delphinium for they come into flower after the delphinium’s first display, and they grow to about 4 ft. The long-flowering Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’, with its flat golden heads on 3 ft. stems is also very useful and another plant that flowers over a long period is Salvia .superba, also known as .S’. virgata ‘Nemomsa’. Red hot pokers, such as ‘Royal Standard’ make a striking picture with their flame red heads on 4 ft. stems, and the deep orange red Heleiiium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ is one of the best of these summer- flowering plants. It grows about 2 ft. high. Around the front of the bed could be planted thrift Armeria ‘Vindictive’, a dark red dwarf the pale pink, double Gypsophila ‘Rosy Veil’. Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’. Geranium grandiflonim, a rich blue, the Chinese Balloon Flower known as Platycodnn grandiflorum, with large deep blue flowers, and many other charming plants.

If necessary during the first season these could be inter-planted with bedding plants in May to fill in gaps between the plants until they are properly-established.

Most perennial plants in herbaceous borders need regular attention each week – staking, tying, removing dead flowers and, of course, watering in dry spells. An excellent way of prolonging the display of any hardy herbaceous border flowers is to cut some of the stems when they have made about half their growth. Just cut off’ the growing point of the stem. This will persuade the plant to produce new growths from lower down on the stem and these, of course, will flower later than the stems that have not been so treated. It would pay to cut about half the stems on a plant in this way. Of course, not every type of herbaceous plant is suitable but michaelmas daisies, heleniums, and varieties of helianthus are some examples which may be cut, thus greatly extending the flowering season. Achilleas, phloxes and even day lilies andanthemiscan so be treated. Watch now if you are growing michaelmas daisies. Some of the older varieties that you may have inherited with the garden have an annoying habit of running underground so that stems arise quite a long way from the original plant. These shoots should be grubbed up as soon as they appear, if there is any danger of their spreading more than you are prepared to let them.

Fortunately, herbaceous plants do not suffer a great deal from pests and it is usually a member of the aphis (or greenfly) family that is the culprit if trouble does arise. Keep an eye on your plants and if you see signs of damage, a spraying every week or ten days with a derris or pyrethrum spray will usually keep the pests under control.

Old established herbaceous plants such as phloxes ofteh produce far too many stems. These should be thinned out in the spring before they have begun to weaken each other. Reduce the number of stems on a phlox plant to about 8 or 9. If more are left, the spikes of flower will be very small.

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