The Herbaceous or Perennial Border, Plant Selection and Planting tips


So, your perennial border is prepared with the requisite quantities of plant food soil and drainage grit if required. What's next?
Once you have gotten this far in the process, it is time to think about actually selecting the plants that will populate the bed or border itself.
My first piece of advice to gardeners selecting perennial plants is to let your mind "drift". Groupings of plants that weave and interlock with other groupings of plants within the same bed are known as "drifts". One cluster of plants begins where another cluster ends and the groups have a flowing effect as they grow to bloom. The shapes that these drifts create should be irregular, weaving through your perennial border and wrapping around other plants. Planting in drifts creates a sense of movement, which in turn will make your garden look alive, full and lush.

Select plants with interesting and contrasting textures. Plant fine leaved perennials with bold leaved specimens. Also, select different flower forms and shapes, select from tubular, loose, flat, round, pendulous spiked etc. Do not be afraid to include some non-perennials as well. Plants like Phormium, Cordyline, ornamental conifers and grasses all add structure and body to the perennial border.
When selecting colours be guided by the following...
Drifts of light or pastel coloured flowers tend to fade into the background, so the quantities of these colours should be larger than the drifts of vivid colours. If you find yourself having colour clashes (red / pink), try creating buffers between these colours with massed plantings of ornamental grasses or plain green leaved plants.

To ensure rapid establishment and growth of a perennial or herbaceous border it is important to follow a few simple planting rules.
Water your perennial even before planting. Immerse the pots in water-filled containers for about 10 minutes before planting is the best method, after this time remove them and allow the surplus water to drain away. Remove the pot and if the plant roots are wrapped tightly you should gently tease some free. This will cause new roots to branch out into new soil instead of continually encircling themselves.
When creating a planting hole, the ideal situation would be to make it twice as wide and deep as the pot, don't forget to break up the soil as you dig. The planting depth can be just as important with some perennials, with certain varieties refusing to bloom or thrive if planted at an incorrect depth. A good rule of thumb to follow is to never plant any higher or deeper than the compost level on the pot. Position the plants in the prepared holes and firm the soil around the roots.
Water thoroughly and deeply afterwards; continue doing this twice weekly for a few months to aid establishment. Certain perennials are quite tall upon purchase, I would advise you to reduce these in height to prevent plant failure due to wind rock. Although bark mulch is not a traditional material used on herbaceous borders, the addition of it to soil around your plants will save weeding and retain valuable moisture.
A 5 to 8cm (2 - 3in) layer of bark is sufficient for this purpose.

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"James, thanks for the garden layout. With your help we finally have flourishing planting in our shady back garden."

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