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planning my border

(21 Posts)
NotAnEMERGENCY Sat 08-Oct-16 11:04:20

We've been living here for 2 years now and I'm gradually getting round to sorting out the garden, starting with a (pretty much empty) 11m long border. I have a good idea of what plants I'd like and have checked their soil preferences, light requirements etc but one of the things I'm uncertain about is how close together to plant things.

I've done a sketch, initially for 2/3 of the border. (The left-hand side may be more tricky as there is a 10m high cherry tree in place and therefore also shade, roots and dry soil. I may wait with that section until I have more confidence/experience, hopefully gained by planting the right-hand side of the border.)

I've taken the height (from the Crocus website) into account so that taller plants are behind shorter ones and I've used the 'spread' info for the 'diameter' of the plants on the sketch. Is this the right thing to do? I am aware that this is the maximum spread and therefore it might take a while for some of the plants to grow to this size.

I have actually cheated on my sketch with a couple of the big diameters. The white circle is a choisya (2.5m spread on Crocus but I have done 1.5m) and the biggest blue/purple circle is a hibiscus (2m spread on Crocus but I have done 1.5m). Is this a problem? If I actually use the full spread, there'd barely be space for other plants!

To give you an idea of the other plants on this particular sketch, the biggest light pink circle is a cistus and the rest are lavatera, verbena, lupin, erysimum bowles mauve, agastache, agapanthus, lavender, penstemon, geranium.

Does the closeness of the plants on my sketch look OK or would that be too crowded? Do I need to leave space for being able to get to the plants at the back to maintain them (deadhead, prune etc)?

Sosidges Sat 08-Oct-16 13:18:54

Personally I like to see a crowded border. You can prune the plants or move them to fit the space as they grow. A tip I have learned is to prune out the lower branches of some shrubs as they get older so that they form more of a tree shape. Also, using this technique you can put taller plants at the front of the border, which I think gives a more natural rhythm. Your plant choices sound lovely.

Do you have a phot of your border?

Qwebec Sun 09-Oct-16 00:46:07

Diameter is a tricky thing. It generally means the spread after a few years. Sometimes it stops, sometimes it continues to grow for ever. Putting them closer means it will look finished sooner, but then you will have all the job of controlling them/trimming /dividing. So it really depends what you want.
Personally I would plant one shrub in the border and plant the other one elsewhere or make the bed deeper. For maintenance, you could add a few flat stones to step on while you tend to your flower bed. Ah, and if you find your bed to bare for the first years, you could add a few annuals or vegetables.

dodobookends Sun 09-Oct-16 13:51:12

Our neighbour's hibiscus is about that size - but it has taken over 30 years to get that big!

shovetheholly Mon 10-Oct-16 08:18:46

A lot of professional gardeners actually plant quite a bit tighter than the recommended distance for the first couple of years. So instead of planting 30cm apart, they might go for 20cm instead. Otherwise, it looks really, really bare. As things like perennials clump up, you can divide and move them to fill other borders.

It's really important to think about the eventual height of things, so you're planning in absolutely the right way. But you can't really plant like that from the start without having feet and feet of bare soil, which just won't look right. So it's good to think of planting in waves. I tend to buy smaller plants for cost reasons, so I tend to think in terms of: year 1, years 2-5, years 5+. A Choisya will take a decade or so to get to the full diameter (and many gardeners will trim them back before they get that big), and you want to have some interest in that border in the meantime. This can be provided with annuals (which can really fill things out in year 1 in particular), short-lived perennials, or things that you will eventually divide and move.

If you've already dug the border, and you have some pots, put them out roughly in the places you're intending to plant - and you'll quickly see whether you have too many or too few.

NotAnEMERGENCY Tue 11-Oct-16 10:28:27

Thank you for all the comments! I think I need to be more open to the possibility of moving plants around after a couple of years to suit how they are growing and developing. (I tend to be quite scared of that thought and feel like once they're planted, that's it - they have to stay there!)

Sosidges: Could you explain a bit more what you mean by: 'you can put taller plants at the front of the border, which I think gives a more natural rhythm'?

Qwebec: When you say you'd only have one shrub in that border, what do you mean by 'shrub'? People/websites seem to define shrubs in different ways: woody plants, big plants (that aren't trees), evergreens... For example, according to the Crocus website, 5 of the plants on my list are shrubs (choisya, hibiscus, cistus, lavatera and lavender).

Shove: I like your suggestion of placing empty pots on the empty border - I'll try that!

shovetheholly Tue 11-Oct-16 10:42:42

Unfortunately, nothing in a garden stands still, so moving stuff (dividing, transplanting) eventually is pretty much a must! The good thing is that with the vast majority of plants, if you observe a few simple rules and do it at the right time of year, they will flourish afterwards. So it means that even if you get the border plan wrong initially, you can just shift it round til it's right! So it is quite forgiving of error, really. I am eternally moving things that just aren't quite in the right place!

Kr1stina Tue 11-Oct-16 12:01:28

Your basic method is good. But you also need to know how fast things grow, how long they last and how much they cost .

Are you sure your cherry tree is 10m tall ? If so, what's the spread ?

Choisya will take a few years to grown to to a decent you can put herbaceous plants around it for the first few years .

Hibiscus is cheap and they grow leggy, so I'd buy three and plant them together for a good effect.samewith the lavatera

How many of each herbaceous are you planning to buy ?

Lupins grow big , maybe1.5 m height and width by year 2 . But remember they will be cut down by September and you'll have a big gap in the border .

, erysimum bowles mauve - great choice, will flower all summer until the first frosts. Mine is still going today . Cheap. Get 3

agastache - great if you have sun and good draining.

agapanthus, - remember they are just a cluster of preset China leaves except for when they are in flower

lavender - great if you have poor soil and lots of sun. You nee to cut them back hard after flowering and be Prepared to replace them years

penstemon, geranium. - if your soil is very poor you might have to feed and water them . But great, easy , long flowering .get 3 of each at least

Do you have climbers on the back wall or fence ? If not then you need some, it's going to look very bare in winter with just the agapanthus leaves and the tiny Choisya .

I'd add some sling flowerinh bulbs too - this is the perfect time to buy them

Sorry for poor formatting - on phone

Sosidges Tue 11-Oct-16 12:33:33

If you like formality then plant tall things at the back and climbers against the wall. However a more informal look will benefit from variety of heights. For example, instead of ttraing a clematis or rose against the fence, try putting an obelisk among your shrubs and grow them up that. Lavender, lemon balm and thyme make Good low cover and you could plant your hibiscus in front of them or In the middle.iDon't be afraid to experiment and move things around if you feel you have made a mistake.

Just remember if you are moving things, don't do it when they are in flower and give them a long drink the night before and then again when you move them.

shovetheholly Tue 11-Oct-16 12:44:40

I'm with sosidges, I like some larger things in the middle of the garden and it's what I'm trying for with mine. It's a hard look to get right though.

Sosidges Tue 11-Oct-16 12:55:50

Another thing, i notice your border has a straight edge, so by planting some shrubs at the front they will soften it and add curves. There are very few straight lines in nature.

Kr1stina Tue 11-Oct-16 13:20:44

Could you make your border deeper ? It's difficult to get sevaral layers in one that's only 2 m deep.

I have some that size which I can't make wider, they are a pain and smallish shrubs soon take them over .

Sosidges Tue 11-Oct-16 15:10:13

I am no good at links but if you google 'Great Dixter Border' you get some great ideas for planting long narrow borders.

Sosidges Tue 11-Oct-16 15:12:06

After Beth Chatto, Great Dixter is my favourite Border. I alway think it is like a kid going into a sweet shop and throwing all the Jars of sweets around. It is riotous and chaotic but just works so well.

Kr1stina Tue 11-Oct-16 15:44:04

I agree, the Long border at great Dixter is wonderful . But it's 63m long and 4.5m deep, so a slightly grander scale than my garden grin

Lloyd used quite a few evergreens, inc libertia, pinus mugo,, aucubas, privet, euonymous, lonicera, grasses with winter form and lots of bulbs under shrubs - hyacinths, snowdrops, tulips.

shovetheholly Wed 12-Oct-16 08:23:33

I love Beth Chatto's garden! But I went a couple of months ago and - brace yourselves - it. does. not. look. good. at. present.

I don't know what is going on, but it is nothing like as splendid as it has been in previous years. Large areas were being reconfigured, but the bits that were left were just in a bit of a state, like any other garden rather than the real perfection she has achieved previously. I was rather sad to see it looking that way.

MissMargie Wed 12-Oct-16 08:35:18

I gave my DS lots of easy plants for his new border, geraniums, crocosmia, tall daisies, hostas - He complained mid summer that it was awful.............. plants falling all over the lawn.
Err, yes, when they get too big you dig them up and chuck them on the compost heap.
I wouldn't sweat it too much OP.
Apart from soil, light, and position, as regards the sun, the weather can make a big difference. A wet cold summer will mean different plants thrive, compared to a hot, dry one. And of course different plants flower and produce a show at different times of year. So you need to be patient and see how you like the way they look for a year or two.
Your ideas are good, get some annuals seeds (and slug bait) or plants from the garden centre to fill in the gaps.
Plants don't make a fixed design you develop it over time.

shovetheholly Wed 12-Oct-16 09:04:39

MissMargie - I am outraged on your behalf!! Of course plants grow, and they OUGHT to fall over the lawn and soften the edge. grin

You're dead right about the weather. I remember about 4-5 years ago, we had a VERY wet summer and my primulas were the size of cabbages.

MissMargie Wed 12-Oct-16 11:52:15

Haha, yes DS lives quite far north and should be grateful that anything grew!

NotAnEMERGENCY Wed 12-Oct-16 12:46:11

The border can't be made any wider. Decking goes right up to it and changing that would be more work than I'm willing to do at the moment. This border existed in its current dimensions already but the half log edging on all our borders in the garden needed to be replaced as it was falling away from the soil at a 45 degree angle!

That's why we've just had retaining sleepers put in and I've been using the fact that the landscape gardener would be trampling all over the bed as an excuse to be able to start from scratch with this border (dig out the many perennial weeds, improve the clay soil with manure etc).

I certainly intend on having quite a few bulbs and would definitely be up for having some climbers against the fence but hadn't factored that in yet as the fence could do with replacing. New neighbours just moved in about 3 weeks ago so I'm hoping they will sort it out soon. (However, I will give Sosidges' idea of an obelisk in the middle of the border more thought too.)

Kr1stina Wed 12-Oct-16 13:35:20

Does the fence belong to the neighbours ? If it does, you might want to talk to them about it and offer to contribute something towards it so they get one you both like and looks good on your side too. And they will then allow you to put wires and climbers on it .

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