The bright border was the first area I planted when we moved to this garden five years ago. My vision was a firework display of uncompromisingly bright flowers: tulips, euphorbia and alliums in spring, orange and magenta roses and peonies in early summer. It would reach its peak in high summer with gold, vermillion and scarlet day lilies and crocosmia, contrasted with deepest purple buddleias and salvias (you can see it in high summer in this post: Supersonic).
It took a couple of years to get it right. I doubled its depth after a year, to three metres, to balance out its length of twenty metres. In its first summer I made use of dahlias and annuals to fill out the newly-planted shrubs and perennials. There is no need for that now: the perennials have plumped up nicely.
We haven’t had as much sun as I would like this summer, but this doesn’t seem to have held back the bright border. In the softer light it has taken on a slightly different character. The coral and warm orange tones are more prominent than I remember in previous years.
I’m enjoying this softer look. There is time for fireworks later. For now, we can have ease and comfort.
Not only are the colours softer, but the textures and shapes resemble plump cushions and fabrics being draped over one another.
I thought I might share some of my favourite planting combinations with you. This is the English rose ‘Thomas a Becket’ with Geranium ‘Brookside’.
I love the soft inter-tangling of this combination. The rose is perfect for the back of the border. It has a profusion of multi-stemmed magenta flowers. The rose is not especially fragrant, but it is incredibly floriferous: it will not be without flower from now until November. It is a full and tall rose, and its arching stems soften the back of the border. There is one drawback: it is a devil to deadhead. I will have to don long sleeves and gloves. I’m not sure how I am going to fit myself between geranium and rose. Last year, there were still gaps between the planting where I could squeeze between with my secateurs and bucket. These have now been infilled.
These three plants equal one another in their ability to intertwine. This adds to the soft look of the border right now.
Another combination I love is Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ with Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’. The two equal one another for vibrancy and warmth. The euphorbia is burning orange, whilst the geranium is glowing magenta. They are both abuzz with bees.
The euphorbia and the geranium have decided to melt into one another’s arms to make one hummock. Here they are in a fiery embrace, with the cooler rose-and-geranium combination behind.
Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’ oozes all over the border. Here she is again with one of my Top 3 English roses, ‘Benjamin Britten’ (you can see more of this gorgeous rose in this post, The Elusive Benjamin Britten).
I love the geraniums and alchemilla spilling out over the front of the border. This feeling of abundance is what I love in a flower border.
There are no spaces to fill. There is no weeding to do, because weeds can’t get established when the border is already so full.
I have employed my usual tactic of planting in groups of at least three of the same plant. The exception is peonies. One peony produces ten to twenty flowers at maturity. When the flowers go over, the foliage provides interest and support for other plants.
There is still plenty to come: in and amongst are hemerocallis (day lilies), crocosmia and phlox.
There will be gold and orange and scarlet and deep blue-purple, but for now, I am enjoying these softer tones of coral and pink, and lilac-blue. A bright border can be a soft border too.
All of the named varieties of plants are highly recommended for a low-fuss border. I divide my perennials every three or four years. The roses need at least a weekly dead-head, and I will give them a feed of blood-and-bone at the end of June. They get a thick mulch of well-rotted manure in winter, and a prune. That is pretty much all the maintenance this border needs.
If you would like to ask any questions or leave any comments, please do. You can opt to receive an email notification each time a new post is published by clicking on the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of this page. Feel free to share this post on social media, using any of the buttons below.