Designing your Garden Border

When designing a border, following the maxim ‘right plant, right place’ will save you a lot of heart ache, as well as back ache!

The first step in designing any border should be an evaluation of the conditions of your plot, including soil type and how much sun your little nature haven receives. You can then choose a style or theme and the corresponding plants that will thrive in this situation.

I would also recommend taking into account future maintenance. Perhaps you prefer to spend more time with your feet up admiring your border than getting amongst it! Ornamental grasses, such as tufted hair grass (Deschampsia), are low maintenance and only need a tidy once per year. Evergreen shrubs are anther easy option that can provide both structure and delicious scent.

If you choose carefully, you will be able to pick a shrub that won’t outgrow its space and may not need any pruning from one season to the next! Flying in the face of those who think that gardens are of no interest in winter. In fact, it is possible to design a whole border to climax in flower and form in the darker months.

The Royal Horticultural Society, has an extremely useful online database, where you can enter details such as size, colour, type of plant and soil type. It will even tell you which nursery stocks your coveted specimen. I am afraid the only thing it won’t do is plant and water it in for you!

Here at the Walled Gardens of Cannington the efforts of students, volunteers and staff are reflected in a wide variety of styles of design, which include designs based on:

Cultural conditions

Our Dry Garden features drought tolerant plants. Perhaps your plot doesn’t receive consistent, glorious sunshine so go with this, do not fight it, as you will not win! Our stumpery displays ferns, ivy and other long lived plants that like to dwell in the shadier shadow of a north facing wall.

Level of formality

Will you go for the strict and elegant lines of a perfectly laid out symmetrical design or will you go a bit more freestyle and try to emulate the fluidity and flow of nature.

Heart stopping showmanship

Annual plants are blatant show-offs, living for one season and boy do they pump out some colour in their short life span! They are suited to people who like to have an active relationship with their green space, or their pink, red, blue, orange or yellow space!

Perhaps you prefer a classic herbaceous border which also requires much pampering and preening. These plants die back so for portions of the year there will be gaps, therefore consider adding some structural evergreen shrubs, using them as if they are the underlying percussion of your orchestral masterpiece!

Colour Themes

Colour themes can be used and I urge you to ensure that the colour wheel is your friend. Consider whether to go for toning, harmonious or complementary or for the daring, experiment with clashing combinations.

Collectors borders are for plant geeks!

This could be collecting all the species of one type of plant or perhaps picking a linking theme, such as place of origin of the plant as we have done with our Australasian Garden.

Whatever style you go for, your plant choices can be narrowed down by sticking to your chosen theme. Now is the perfect time to get going. Day length is increasing and all manner of flora and fauna are beginning to stretch and stir. All over the region gardeners are sowing seeds and contacting nurseries to get hold of their next must have plant. I will warn you, it is addictive!