Tips for Planning the Perennial & Mixed Border Garden Ideas


When we think of a garden, the first thing that likely comes to mind is an English flower border. These borders are typically characterized by large drifts of flowing color, masses of white lilies, and towering spires of blue flowers. When we think of a garden, the first thing that likely comes to mind is an English flower border. It is an expression of the shape and color beauty that every genuine flower enthusiast strives to produce to the best of his or her abilities and resources.

Other Kinds of Gardens

The mixed border is a variant on the garden that is composed entirely of perennial plants. In addition to using groupings of annuals and biennials, as well as maybe some of the spring-flowering bulbs like tulips and hyacinths, this sort of garden has quite a few of the more fundamental perennials, such as daylilies and phlox, as well as many other types of plants. When compared to an all-perennial garden, this kind of garden offers more versatility in terms of design, larger masses of color over a longer period of time, often cheaper costs, and simpler upkeep.

A flower garden that is made up only of annual plants is a third possible variation on the theme. These may either be planted in aesthetically pleasing clusters in order to have the most potential visual effect, or they can be cultivated in functional rows in order to serve primarily as a supply of cut flowers.

It should come as no surprise that the styles of gardens change with time, much like the trends in the architecture of the homes that they surround. And the kinds of gardens that are in style are influenced both by cultural trends and by economic considerations. In comparison to their counterparts in other countries, most American gardens are severely lacking in the area of adequate upkeep. As a consequence, a fourth form of flower garden has emerged in response to the desire for minimal maintenance and the prevalence of smaller plots. It includes the use of a few plants or as many as you desire, annuals or perennials or both, in a variety of methods and locations, depending on where you believe the addition of these plants will improve the appearance of your property. You can use either annuals or perennials. An “accent garden” is one name for the kind of garden that is becoming more common over the whole of the country today.

A lovely border of perennial plants growing up against a wooden fence. There are also some annual petunias utilized here, which contribute to the overall appearance. Even if the birch trees are on the more petite side right now, there is still a chance that they may get too large in the future. This image was provided by The Garden Guru.

Flowers stand out as vibrant color accents no matter where or how they are incorporated into the overall landscape design. This kind of garden is fairly common; for example, you may find a little bed of petunia plants tucked behind some bushes at a retail mall. You’ve probably seen it before. It may be as few as one or as many as three daylily plants that a friend of hers has propped up against an antique rock that was there long before her ranch-style home was constructed. Or it may be a thin strip of sweet alyssum that runs down the front walk of your neighbor’s house or around the flagstone patio she has. Flexibility and ease of use are two of its greatest strengths, and an approach to flower growing like this is ideal for any sort of land.

But the fundamentals of flower cultivation, as well as the kind of plants that may be grown, are quite consistent throughout all of these different gardens.

Planning a Border

Let’s circle back around to the very first striking image of a flower garden: the all-perennial or mixed border, which is the quintessential example of a flower garden in the present, the past, and the future.

To begin, create a plan on paper by drawing it to a big size. This will allow you to make notes right on the design. The ideal depth of the border should be anywhere between 5 and 8 feet.

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The best location is one that is near to the home; ideally, it should face south or south-west (in the northern hemisphere), although this is not of much concern as long as there is sun and it is several feet away from the roots of any trees or bushes that may block the sunlight. Maintain a distance of at least two to three feet between the border and any huge trees.

In addition to a hedge, a suitable backdrop may also consist of a wall with a rough texture, a view of trees or vegetation in the distance, or a low fence that is covered with climbing roses. In the first place, there need to be some surrounding relief, and a patch of grass works better than anything else to demarcate the boundary. It is preferable to have a border that is less extensive rather than rob it of its grass setting. Beds with a more natural, “island” layout (approximately kidney or crescent shaped) might be included into the overall landscape design. Shrubs are the most common choice for them to be planted with, but there is no reason why perennials and annuals can’t be utilized instead. If you decide to utilize beds of this kind, put the tallest-growing plants in the middle, followed by those of medium size, and finally the edging plants around the edges.

Selection of Plants

The selection of plants for the flower border could seem to be a challenging task, but in reality, it is one of the most enjoyable elements of building a garden. You will benefit by researching plant descriptions and familiarizing yourself with the plant lists. Utilize resources such as nursery catalogs and reference books that may be discovered at garden centers, horticultural societies, and public libraries.

10 points to guide you in selection of plant material:

  1. The total number of years a plant may live. Which comes first: an annual, a biennial, or a perennial growth?
  2. The height as well as the lateral spread of the width.
  3. There are three distinct growing habits: prostrate, upright, and ascending.
  4. The timing and duration of the blossoming season
  5. The hue of the blooms and the leaves; the durability of the foliage; and the aesthetic result.
  6. Moisture, soil, and plant feeding needs.
  7. Do you like the sun or the shade?
  8. Toughness in a certain geographical area.
  9. Is there no limit to the plant’s growth?
  10. susceptibility to attack by insects and diseases.

Choose essential plants for your all-season, mixed border based on their line, mass, color, and reliability while you are preparing the material for the border. Make an effort to steer clear of the rigidity that might result from an arrangement that is too regular. It is preferable to arrange the plant groupings in sections that are broader than they are deep as opposed to arranging them in straight lines like cabbage rows. Because of this, each group will have the opportunity to be seen from the front of the border in the best possible light.

A lush perennial border consisting of rudbeckia and nasturtium plants.

Naturally, the plants that are the tallest should be placed in the back, followed by those that are of a medium height, and finally the dwarf plants should be placed in the front. This does not exclude the possibility of having some of the taller plants emerge into the center ground or the medium-tall plants moving toward the front of the bed. Both the height lines and the planting lines should be broken up in order to achieve the allure of irregularity. The objective is to replicate the haphazard manner in which mother nature cultivates her plants while simultaneously arranging them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing within the constraints of the available area. Strive for proportion as well; for example, if the border is extremely narrow, towering plants should be avoided with the exception of the odd accent. If the border is excessively tall and thin, it will give the impression that it is top-heavy. The size of the groups that are shown should be appropriate. It is very rare for a border to be effective when it contains large numbers of a single kind of plant. It is recommended that any borders that are wider than 8 feet have a service path that is at least 2 feet behind them. This will allow you to move to the other side of the garden without having to navigate through the plants.

Is it feasible for a flower garden to maintain its state of perpetual bloom? If you are willing to settle for pockets of color in different parts of the garden rather than a continuous blanket of color from spring through October, then the answer is almost probably going to be “yes.” In order to accomplish the latter requirement, you would need to have access to a wide variety of greenhouses, cold frames, and nursery rows, as well as a large number of gardeners who would tend to the plants and add and remove them as their blooms opened and closed. Despite the assertions of some overzealous nurserymen, there are not many many flowers that bloom continuously. But you may still create highly vibrant landscapes by using annuals, bulbs, and perennials that have particularly extended blooming seasons.

When designing a border, it is also important to take into account the time of year when the garden should be at its most colorful. If you want to take a trip during the month of August, then it makes perfect sense to choose plants that reach their full potential in the spring and early summer months. If you start your borders with easy plants that can survive in your climate, you won’t have to do much to care for them after that.

Edging a Flower Bed

Even while stone and brick edgings are useful, it may be difficult for a mower to get near enough to perform a decent job of cutting them. The extruded concrete curb-type edging that is popular in certain regions and appears to withstand the wear and tear over the years is one example. However, the grass will grow tall and unkempt against them, and it will be necessary to cut it using shears or a “weed eater.”

It is possible to purchase plastic strips that may be shaped to suit curves and then set at a height of less than an inch above the ground. This will allow the mower to go freely across the area. Despite the fact that it is not unusual to see this sort of edging be nicked by the mower every once in a while, Plastic edging that has been designed to seem like bricks or chunks of stone is another option that may be employed. However, the plastic edging will deteriorate in the sun over the course of the years considerably more rapidly than the alternatives of stone, brick, or concrete.

When it comes to using little plants as edgings, make sure the plants are dense and full of foliage. Additionally, the plants should have a lengthy flowering season. It is possible to maintain control of the dwarf compact petunia, Nierembergia (also known as cup-flower), dwarf ageratum, and the tried-and-true sweet alyssum, all of which may be used as efficient color fillers.

Iberis sempervirens, also known as hardy candytuft, is the perfect perennial to use as an edger in areas where it will not be scorched by the sun throughout the winter. It has masses of white flowers and has leaves that remains evergreen. Other small perennials such as Arabis alpina, Alyssum saxatile, dwarf asters, Campanula carpatica, dianthus, Depeta mussini, pulmonary, sweet William, and Veronica incana have been chosen because of their ability to bloom in succession. This will offer a nice impact and make a transition from the low edge to the taller plants in the beds if it is planted in bands that overlap slightly and is interplanted with tiny bulbs.

Midsection and Background

The front or edge strip of a mixed border often contains shorter plants than the center part, which makes use of taller species. However, the plants in the middle portion need not all be the same height. The impression that we want to achieve is one of undulating movement, which will be achieved through contrasting and combining various colors, shapes, and textures. It is necessary to move certain clusters of low-growing plants from the forefront into this area, and it is also necessary to bring some taller plants from the background into the foreground.

It does not matter whether your border is 10 feet broad or 5 feet wide, or if it is 60 feet long or just 20, the most significant plant material is located in the middle part between the foreground and the background plant material. This is where the gardener’s expertise is put to the test. When designing his or her color effects, he or she has to first think like an artist, then consider contrasting rounded flower shapes with forms that have spikes, take use of the assets supplied by different foliage colors and textures, and last, think like an artist.

Due to the fact that their heights range anywhere from 18 to 36 inches, the majority of the more notable perennials may be categorized as middle-of-the-border topics. There are several types of annuals that are suited, including those that have a nice growth pattern, such as zinnias, marigolds, and snapdragons. The following are some examples of medium-height, hardy perennials: astilbe, many types of daylilies, bearded iris, blue salvia (Salvia farinacea), baby’s breath, sweet William, peony, shasta daisy, Canterbury bells, veronica, nepeta, yarrow, summer phlox, bee balm, chrysanthemum, coral bells, columbine, bleeding heart,

Even while the list of dependable background plants may not be as diverse or wide as the list of medium-height plants, there are still a lot of options available to choose from. Background plants are very essential. Some of them are bushy enough to be planted as solitary accents, which is particularly useful in the case of gardens that are either narrow or short, but the majority of plants, much like the other plants in the border, are most effective when planted in groups of three, four, or five.

Plants such as delphinium, tall kinds of summer phlox, dusty meadow rue (Thalictrum glaucum), false indigo, hollyhock, foxglove, thermopsis, monkshood, globe thistle, and boltonia are examples of good background plants. Some of species, like the plume poppy, may reach heights of up to 8 feet, which makes them unsuitable for borders with length and breadth restrictions.

Gardeners at all levels have a tendency to lack patience, and as a result, they often have unrealistic expectations for the first year of a newly planted flower garden. It often takes more than one growing season to establish a significant boundary. Before offering their optimum performance, many perennials, like peonies and gas plants, take a few years to grow established and mature into their full potential. In addition to this, it is inevitable that errors will be made. Nevertheless, the failure of a single planting does not ruin the entire season. It is possible to pick for some kind of continuous bloom from spring through October. It is not necessary for the garden to become lifeless in the middle of summer, particularly if annuals are employed.

Planting annuals is the solution to the issue of empty spaces. They need minimal work to raise, so along with their inexpensive cost and the ease with which they can be maintained, this contributes to their widespread popularity.

They are the best cut flowers, and they have many points of value whether they are used on their own in a border or among the dominant perennials in the border. When staying in rental property or for a limited period of time in a vacation home, they are unrivaled.

*There are various precautions that should be taken when growing plume poppies! It is relatively simple for it to become invasive. Put it in a location where either 1) it will be unable to expand beyond its bounds (like a flower bed that is isolated next to the garage), or 2) you won’t mind if it takes over a piece of your yard.

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