10 steps to better beds and borders

May 16, 2012 -  By

Many landscape clients want high-performing, easy to care for beds and borders. Typically, they combine tough, flowering perennials with hardy shrubs, bulbs, grasses and other foliage plants, with a twist on the look emerging each season. To help accomplish those goals, Anthony Tesselaar Plants has compiled this list of 10 things to keep in mind when installing plants in beds and borders.

1. Develop your point of view. “Decide where you’re going to look at the garden the most, says garden writer Doug Green in “The Easy Way to Design Perennial Gardens” on Doug Green’s Garden website. “This is the point of view. In other words, you’re looking at the front of the garden.”

2. Spread the love. “The trick to having a garden that blooms all summer is to pick an equal amount of flowers for each of the three bloom periods,” says Green. “And the second trick here is to space them equally through the garden.”

Fairy Magnolia Blush3. Create a backdrop. “A tall flowering hedge at the back creates a canvas for the rest of your ‘art,’” says Anthony Tesselaar.

4. Make it mow-friendly. Add a mowing strip for ease of maintenance around the outside of the bed or border. Straight lines or broad curves look best and are easy to keep neat. In his “Perennial Flower Garden Design” article on his website, Green suggests laying out a garden hose or two to make the curves smooth enough to mow around.

5. Invest in edging. “The use of landscape edging, if done properly, can reduce the time and effort any gardener takes to maintain the garden,” says Green. Plastic landscape edging can be a real time-saver, he adds, but cheaper isn’t better. “Cheaper edging has several characteristics: the plastic is thinner — degrades in the sun faster — and it’s often not as ‘tall,’ so the amount that actually goes into the ground is shorter, allowing grass roots to go underneath the edging, or it doesn’t come with enough holding stakes and easily bends out of shape, or worse yet — pops out of the ground.”

6. Choose a range of heights. “Go tall in back; medium in the middle and low in the front,” says Tesselaar. “But don’t line them up like a school photo. Think overlapping drifts.”

7. Include evergreen and long-blooming plants for year-round color and texture. Tessleaar and Green suggest cordyline, corydalis lutea, coreopsis, campanula, chrysanthemum or Shasta daisy, gaillardia (blanketflower) and daylilies.

8. Select plants with strong form and color. “One or two kinds are enough, and repeat them throughout the border,” says Tesselaar.

9. Add some shrubs. “I’m incorporating shrubs directly into all my borders now,” says Green. “In fact, one of my front beds is being designed and planted to be mostly shrubs and bulbs, with a few shrub roses and fall-blooming annuals for late season color.”

Volcano Phlox

10. Don’t underestimate the power of white. Try combining white-variegated or white-bloomed plants with contrasting shapes.

LM Staff

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