Spring is an exciting time of year, when we have another chance to create, improve or repair our gardens for the coming seasons. If the hot dry weather last summer left your borders running out of steam, you’ll no doubt need to give them a boost now and put some heart back into the soil.
Begin the transformation by grubbing out anything that is past its best. Prune and re-shape shrubs with hedge trimmers or clippers and if necessary dig them up and move them to a better spot so that you can concentrate on creating focal points and great plant combos.
As gardeners, we are usually looking for robust plants that can stand up to extreme weather. Nurserymen build these attributes into breeding programs, so bear this in mind when selecting new plants.
Colour is key
To give your borders a new lease of life and maximum impact, think about a colour theme for the planting. Go for bold colours like red and purple alongside greys and blue-grey foliage or combine plants with clashing colours, which trendsetters’ say are hot this year
For example, Dulux have Spiced Honey as the colour of 2019. It’s a warm amber tone that you can use to evoke a sense of calm and especially if you pair it with a neutral colour palette such as muted pinks and greys, so it’s a good choice for areas where you want to unwind. It also goes with burgundy colours if you want to create a more vibrant border scheme to go with grassy green shades.
When selecting new plants to fill gaps however, they should always suit the style of the garden, so do your homework before visiting the garden centre. If your idea is to ‘modernise’ a traditional bed of roses or herbaceous perennials you might prefer to look for easy-care plants with strong forms and textures or go for plants with big leaves and plant in bocks of colour rather than the usual drifts or clusters of the same plant.
Popular planting style
The eco-friendly trend is to fill borders with flowers that will draw in pollinators. As a result, lots of garden designers have been experimenting with incorporating wild flowers and perennial meadows.
Sarah Price is one such designer. With four Chelsea Flower Show gold medals under her belt and involvement in landscaping one of the best wildlife gardens at the 2012 Olympic Site in London, she has shown herself to be not only knowledgeable and passionate about plants but has an especially good eye for colour.
Sarah also uses a mixture of plants and especially those that have tubular-shaped blooms like penstemons and salvias that bees can crawl into and small flat daisy-like flowers that they can walk on. Take a tip from nature – blue, yellow and purple are bees’ favourite colours and they cannot see red!
Whatever you decide to plant aim to make your own garden, a tranquil space, which has a natural relaxed feel for both people and wildlife and use a mix of early, mid-season and late flowering plants for continuing interest and group them together based on their watering needs.
Leaves come in a range of different shapes (oval, heart-shaped, sword-like and palmate) and all with margins that could be smooth, serrated or toothed.
Select evergreens for winter interest as well as seasonal shrubs, lush green ferns and structural plants like ornamental grasses as well as edibles like angelica and globe artichokes. And, use stylish garden architecture such as ‘twigwams’ and other decorative plant supports to give the border your own unique stamp.
Once your staking is done, mulch around the plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds and to help make your garden look seamless, polished and healthy. To keep your borders in great shape, take care of the edges too. Good ‘front of border’ plants include hardy geraniums, colourful leafy heucheras, elephant ear bergenia and fairy wings or epimediums.
Edge your beds
Allowing floppy plants to spill over can damage lawns so it’s best to rein them in with terracotta edging tiles, woven wicker panels, log poles or sleepers, or anything else that takes your fancy including the garden classic of mini hedges of lavender or neatly clipped box. Although you might want to avoid box, which for the past few years has been damaged on a grand scale by Box Blight, a fungal disease that loves warm, damp conditions.
Feeding box in spring, with Vitax Buxus Fertiliser will create stronger growth, which is more resistant to disease. Infected plants are noticeable by the brown or black patches that develop, resulting in leaf drop.
Another wildlife-friendly option is to use gabions or wire cages, filled with natural stones or logs, which can provide a home for insects and small animals.
You can also dress up border with a focal point. Whilst this could be a striking shrub, decorations like bird feeders, wind chimes, reflective gaze balls and bare metal or painted wooden obelisks add a more personal finishing touch. You should also consider adding statement fixtures like lighting, which gives your garden life after dark.
Labels are useful but can be intrusive so use your imagination. Good ideas include plant names or pictures stenciled on flat stones laid at the base of each plant in gravel mulch or an annotated labeled photo of the border that is safely kept in your gardening notebook for future reference.
Use every planting opportunity too, from putting plants like thymes in crevices in walls and between stones in paths to add interest. Edible can be incorporated into the borders or grown in pots on the patio.
You’ll find lots of new ‘dwarf’ fruit and also nut trees at www.lubera.co.uk. The current trend is for edible walls and herbs are perfect for growing in wall planters.