Perennial Plants and the Perennial Border

Perennial Plants

Your perennial border is like a long-term investment in the garden. It is not a transient thing so some thought must be given to the project. Don’t just rush in and sprinkle a handful of plants wherever the fancy takes you. Think about heights, so that one plant will not be swamped by another; about colour, so that there is no clash, and about flowering succession, so that there are no bare patches. Think, too, about when you wish to plant. In autumn the soil will still be warm and can take young plants raised from seed in spring; in spring, though you must wait for it to warm up, you will have been able to dig over the plot and let the frost break it up, and this timing will be helpful when setting out cuttings taken in autumn and sheltered through winter. Either way, try to ensure that any manure you dig in is well seasoned.

Having made certain that the soil is in good condition to receive your plants, you must help it to hold them. When you plant, firm the soil thoroughly. Tread it down hard, so that it can grip round the stems and roots. And remember that it is your border. Visiting experts may look down their noses at your choice and placings – disregard them. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder here as much as anywhere. Only if you are not satisfied, is there something wrong, and the great blessing about a herbaceous border is that you can change it as much as you like next year.


inside the perennial


There are a few standard practices. Naturally, to avoid masking you will put the small plants at the front or edge, building up towards the centre and back. A practical point to bear in mind is that tall plants can easily be knocked down by wind and rain. Staking them is laborious but an insurance; if you want to avoid this trouble, keep your plants at a maximum height of around 1m (3ft).

Perennials will give you colour, whether of foliage or flowers, through the greater part of the year. But they will not all do that at the same time, nor will they do it for the same consistent periods. Some flower early, others late. Some bloom for many weeks, others for a few days or even hours, so plan a succession, arranging your planting in such a way that as one plant goes over its neighbours immediately surrounding it are coming up to their best.

This leads us to the key factor in planning a perennial border (which, of course, can also include annuals). Make it a good bold one, not a straggly line of plants skirting the edge of a path, where every leaf is under the eye. If you can spare a width of two metres out from the back fence, use it all. True, you won’t be able to reach this far from the front comfortably if you wish to hoe or rake, but you should not have much to do once the plants are growing well: few weeds will have the chance to handicap your plants and embarrass you.

One way to achieve depth and give the plants room to breathe is to have a bed in the middle of the lawn. We have rose beds, so why not other types? It will be like a floral island, and in this case your taller plants will be in the middle.

Drainage is another important item. Except for the specialist bog plants, few perennials relish wet feet. Heavy moisture-holding clay can be alleviated to some extent with a layer of gravel, sand or peat; easily drained light sand can be given body with a good layer of straw manure or compost or, again, of peat, but bear in mind that peat is acid and could upset the chemical balance of your soil and what grows in it.

When preparing a new bed, it is a common practice to plant potatoes there for the first year, to clean the soil. If you should be troubled with bindweed, put in zonal pelargoniums instead: they are more decorative and bring a touch of poetic justice by strangling the strangler yet without affecting any other plant.

The object of the herbaceous or perennial border is to maintain a good show of colour for as long as possible, so it will simplify the choice of plants to list them month by month and subdivide each list into SHORT — up to approximately 60cm (2ft), MEDIUM — 60—150cm (2-5ft) and TALL — over 16 5m (5ft).

Because conditions of soil, climate, cultivation technique and even quality of seed or plant vary so widely, it is impossible to state categorically exactly when a plant will bloom, or its exact height. So the details that follow on the next few posts may well be a few centimetres or a couple of weeks adrift either way. This is intended only as a rule-of-thumb guide in planning your programme of succession. The flowering periods given are the assumed limit over which that particular plant will flourish. It does not necessarily mean that one single bloom will last for months on end: you may have to get a succession of varieties, and proper study is best done with the aid of a good nursery catalogue.

Most perennials reach their peak around May—June, obligingly coinciding with the time when the spring bulbs are looking depressingly drab and dead yet you dare not touch them. Your early perennials will do a lot to hide these gaps and in their turn, as they fade, will be smothered and hidden by the younger and more boisterous inhabitants.


Click on the following links for:

January – April flowering perennials

May flowering perennials

June flowering perennials

July and August flowering perennials


28. April 2011 by admin
Categories: Annuals, Biennials and Perennials, Plants | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Perennial Plants and the Perennial Border


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