Changing our herbaceous border
Precisely one month before the opening of the Garden Academy in May 2008, we planted the big herbaceous borders. I chose a cool colour scheme of blues, purples, whites and pinks, for the simple reason that the preceding years my English garden in Coleshill had a lot of warm yellows, oranges and reds, and I fancied a change. It is not every day one gets the chance of planting such a big border, so it was fun planning and planting it from scratch.
Already within the first year the catmints (Nepeta kubanica and N. ‘Walker’s Low’), Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’ were stars. Others needed one or two years longer to fill out and make their mark, but all in all it established itself quickly. It was a hit. So much so, that many of our clients want just such a border. I do feel flattered and am pleased so many like it, but myself, together with Barbara Hübotter and Ellen Richter, our wonderful designers who also do a lot of planting planning, are rather tired of this combination.
Problems in the border
There are a few problem areas in the border, where for example bindweed was accidentally introduced with our own compost, or where Symphitum has sown itself. These really need to be tackled before they get out of hand. Therefor I suggested to Thea Carlin, our brilliant head gardener, that maybe, in view of our 10th anniversary next May, we should completely replant our herbaceous border. Seeing her appalled look told me enough, I changed my mind rather quickly.
Tackling the problems
Over the years some plants were added which have not turned out to be the greatest improvement, or others, in their 9th year now, which are maybe not as vigorous anymore and would benefit from being lifted, divided and replanted. With this in mind we are taking a critical look at the border regularly. Those we feel underperform are being removed, making spaces for new treasures and enable the unwanted pernicious invaders to be eradicated. This way we can give the border a gentle make-over without completely changing its appearance.
What is new?
The biggest change is in the colour scheme. So many of our clients are allergic to yellow which I find regrettable: it is an important colour in the garden, especially in early spring after a long winter, but also in small quantities during the rest of the season. Especially on dull overcast days when one has the feeling somebody forgot to switch the lights on, will vital soft yellow sunshine be brought into the garden and lifts the spirits. There is yellow and there is yellow. I am not talking the saturated warm yellow of many of the high-summer daisy-relatives such as for example Rudbeckia, Helenium, Correopsis and Helianthus, but light, fresh lemony yellow. I find this colour works wonderfully well with the many blues and purples we have in the border, and don’t upset the pinks too much either.
Along the edge of the border we’ve been making room for Euphorbia seguieriana that has a long flowering season, and the delightful Correopsis ‘Moonbeam’ which flowers together with Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’ at the moment when we cut back the catmints and Alchemilla late June/early July.
In the second row, I have added more Baptisia in yellow, blue and soft pink, as they have proven to do so well on our light, dry soils and stand so beautifully till late in the autumn. The lovely, slender-flowered Hemerocallis lilio-asphodelus has also found a space here and some Gypsohila. Thea has also replaced some lost (and sorely missed) Salvia nemorosa ‘Cardonna’ and Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’.
In the middle, she also replaced Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’. These do not hang about for many years, but they make such a great statement that I readily forgive them their short life-span. We have introduced Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and Cephalonia gigantea in the middle of the border, two plants I used to love in my English garden and have sorely missed.
Another memory of those Coleshill days is a delightful little Potentilla recta that I brought back from my garden and has sneakily found its way into the big borders a year or two ago, together with some early primroses. I think they both have been trying to tell me all along they really belong in here and I should go along with the flow.
This autumn we will be adding bulbs again like each year, this time the accent will lie on the same fresh, softer yellow tones. I’m already looking forward to Narcissus ‘Lemon Drops’, ‘Lieke’, Spoirot’ and ‘Elka’ and Tulipa ‘Purissima’, ‘China Girl’ and ‘Honky Tonk’.
I am excited about these changes and look forward to the “new” border in its tenth year.