Planting the Front of the Flower Border
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) has very attractive pleated leaves, rounded in outline, and grey-green in colour. The star-shaped, lime-green flowers, appear in June-August. The plant looks especially effective if associated with grey or sand-coloured paving.
Michaelmas daisy (novi-belgii) is a boon for the autumn, its blooms lighting up the border in September and October. Choose the dwarf forms that grow not more than about 300 mm (1ft) high.
Bergenia cordifolia is a goodperennial for the front of border, its rounded, glossy leaves contrasting well with other foliage. It produces lilac-rose heads mainly in March and April, but can start to flower in January.
Border pinks are hybrids ofplumarius (don’t confuse them with the border carnations, which are mostly a little too tall for the front of the border). Good examples are ‘Doris’ (pale salmon pink), ‘Excelsior’ (pink), ‘Mrs Sinkins’ and ‘Sam Barlow’ (both white).
BEDDING PLANTS: HALF-HARDY
The following front-of-border bedders will make a colourful show, but must be planted out only when all risk of frost is past.
The ageratums have hairy, heart-shaped leaves and mounds of small, fluffy flowers in June-October. The best forms are F1 hybrids of A. houstonianum and include ‘Bengali’ (rose-carmine), ‘Blue Danube’ (blue), ‘Ocean’ (light blue), ‘Summer Snow’ (white). None is more than 250 mm (10 in) high.
Theinclude many attractive forms for both the centre and the front of the border. Those for the latter are forms of the variety A. majus ‘Pumilum’, which rarely exceed 150 mm (6 in) in height. They include ‘Delice’ (pale ), ‘Floral Carpet’ (mixed), ‘Pixie’ (mixed), ‘Trumpet Serenade’ (mixed).
are available in two main forms – African ( erecta) and French (T. patula). Most of the African varieties are too tall for the front of the border except for the dwarf forms, such as the double-flowered ‘Inca Orange’ and ‘Inca Yellow’, which are less than 300 mm (1 ft) high. The French varieties include ‘Honeycomb’, ‘Naughty Marietta’, ‘Spanish Brocade’ and ‘Tiger Eyes’.
BEDDING PLANTS: HARDY
The clarkias are graceful plants with sword-shaped leaves with flower-spikes bearing double or semi-double flowers in July-September. C. pulchella is best for the front of border.
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) has fern-like grey-green foliage and delicate orange flowers; it is 300-600 mm (1-2 ft) high. Good cultivars include ‘Ballerina’ (pink, orange and yellow with white), ‘Ripe’ (cerise), and ‘Monarch Mixed’ (crimson, cream, orange, red and yellow). If these are too tall, try the cultivars of E. caespitosa – notably ‘Sundew’ (lemon yellow) and ‘Miniature Primrose’ – which are not more than 150 mm (6 in) high.
Godetias (close relatives of clarkias) are compact, with mid-green pointed leaves and trumpet shaped reddish purple flowers in June-August. Cultivars include ‘Azalea-Flowered Mixed’, ‘Crimson Glow’, ‘Dwarf Bedding Mixed’, ‘Sybil Sherwood’ (salmon pink edged with white); all are about 375 mm (15 in) tall.
COLOUR & TEXTURE
Colour is the most obvious part of an ornamental plant’s attraction. A dazzling, riotous display of colour from spring to autumn is generally the idea for beginner gardeners. But as time goes on and experience accumulates, this aim gradually changes as you realize that more subtle but more satisfying blendings can be obtained in which colour is mixed with white, or cool greys and silvers, or with plants whose leaves come in a variety of greens.
HARDY BORDER PLANTS
These are mainlywhich ‘perform’ between April and October, die back in the winter and reappear the following spring. A few have evergreen leaves. spent flowers will encourage new buds. Stake the taller varieties.
ANNUALS & BIENNIALS
Annuals andfill the summer garden and with bold and brilliant blocks of colour. Following are easily grown from seed. Annuals flower the year they are planted, biennials the following year. Follow instructions on the seed packet for sowing depth.
Bulbs take up little space and will give colour inalmost all year round. Most appreciate a well-cultivated soil and look better planted in clumps or drifts. Allow the leaves of narcissi to die back naturally to encourage healthy growth and flowering the following year.