If I say herbaceous border or perennial border to you, what comes to mind?
To many people this conjures up images of gardens filled with colourful blooms all summer, only to become empty and barren of flower or leaf during autumn and winter. Many more of you will think of landlord’s estate grounds, staffed by teams of subservient garden workers. These workers tend the herbaceous borders requiring constant deadheading, pruning, staking, mulching, feeding, watering and division. Now those impressions may have been the way perennial borders were thought of in the past, today however, perennial borders are somewhat different.
They are actually seeing a bit of a mini revival.
* Perennials, alternatives to large lawns
Homeowners who have become tired of the never-ending cycle of feeding, weeding and mowing lawns, have decided to decrease the size of these green areas.
Instead, replanting them with colourful perennial or herbaceous borders. These may have been lawns that their all grown up children once ran and played on, now devoid of that activity. On the other hand, perhaps the homeowner became tired of having the same mirror image lawn as his neighbour; I can tell you there is nothing like a perennial border to change that situation.
* Perennial form and growth
Planting a new perennial border can really help improve your garden.
The plants overall are much faster growing and softer in form than shrubs. It is also interesting to watch these new perennials grow and develop, often shedding their skin of last season foliage only to replenish it the following spring.
* Layout and Soil Preparation
The first thing I would suggest when creating a perennial border is to become nosey.
When out driving or walking, have a look into others gardens, you may see something you like or an idea you can borrow. Another good way to learn new planting ideas is to visit garden open days or gardening exhibitions. When you have an idea of what perennial plants types you like, you can then select a point in your garden to position a border. Try to determine how much sun or shade your chosen location gets. Do not try to make sun-loving plant like the Michaelmas daisy grow in an area that gets a lot of shade.
* Border Shape
Decide the shape of your border.
Do not make your perennial border too narrow, a wide border will be easier to maintain and look far more awash with lush planting. Go gentle on the curves, we all like a curving border but avoid a very fussy serpentine shape. Try to make the border lengthy, you will be able to accommodate many different-sized and blooming plants. Use a long length of hosepipe or heavy rope to mark out the shape of your border, this allows you to adjust until you achieve a comfortable shape. When your shape is decided, you can mark the ground with marker spray or simply by scratching with a stick.
* Preparing Your Soil
Now its time for soil preparation before planting.
Most new garden beds and borders benefit from additional organic material being added to it and dug in. This is especially true of the perennial border. So, dig over the ground thoroughly and remove all traces of perennial weeds and large stones, leave the small stones as they aid drainage and help to regulate the soils temperature. Dig or till in lots of organic matter to improve the soil for your perennials at this stage as well. If you have a good back and you feel up to it, this organic matter is most effective if dug in to a depth of 12 inches. Choose from the following source of organic matter… garden compost, leaf mould, well rotted farmyard manure, spent mushroom compost, garden centre soil enricher. An ideal situation would be to have half your soil made up of organic matter, a great reserve of plant food.
I would advise adding grit at this stage as well if your soil is very heavy, sticky or poorly drained. Digging in a good quantity of sand grit or gravel will open up your soil and allow channels for drainage.
After all this is done, you must allow the soil to and its amendments to settle for around a week or two before planting.
This gives you ample opportunity to select and source the plants you would like to inhabit your newly created border.