IN A small garden, plants have to work to earn their place. By selecting the perennials and shrubs that offer more than their money’s worth, a border will look great for months, no matter the size. For instance, perennials that bloom over a long period and attract butterflies easily outshine those that only flower for a few weeks and don’t offer nectar. Likewise, shrubs that look good in more than one season – for example, via summer flowers and autumn berries – outdo those that only perform once a year. These stalwart border gems can be planted now, as long as the ground isn’t frozen, for a dazzlingly long display next year.
Opt for non-stop bloomers over quick bursts of colour. Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ gets going in May and produces orange flowers into August; likewise, Knautia macedonica and Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’ flower all summer. Late-bloomers include Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’, which bloom from mid-summer to mid-autumn. Also invaluable are the flowering plants that add structure and layers, such as Verbena bonariensis and sea holly, which have an architectural shape and an airy ‘see-through’ quality.
Foliage is often forgotten, but if used well a border will look impressive for months. Use contrasting leaf textures, shapes, and colours side by side. Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) and rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) have downy silver foliage that contrasts well with burgundy-leaved plants, such as Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ and Hylotelephium telephium ‘Purple Emperor’. And large-leaved plants, such as elephant’s ears and plume poppy (Macleaya cordata) contrast well with the slender, thin leaves of grasses.
Evergreens provide colour all year and many also offer structure. The silver leaves of lavender can be sheared into boules or into a low hedge to contain a flowerbed. Box can be clipped into topiary, such as pyramids that create vertical accents through a border, while compact cotoneaster and skimmia have autumn berries and evergreen leaves. Opt for these hard-working plants over those that don’t give as much, and the border will look better for longer.
9 border gems
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’ AGM
This grass forms a mound of slender arching leaves that burn copper and red in autumn, and produces red plumes that mature to pink, then silver. Likes well-drained soil in sun. H: 5ft (1.5m).
Eupatorium maculatum (Atropurpureum Group) ‘Riesenschirm’ AGM
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The fragrant presence of Devon violets reminds Toby of bygone days and a violet trade that lifted people’s spirits
Spring blossom for wildlife
Plant fruiting trees and shrubs now, so your garden will be filled with beautiful snowy blossom that will provide valuable nectar for insects come spring, says Hazel Sillver
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Wintertime is when house plants and the benefits they bring really come to the fore, says Anne Swithinbank, as she selects a range of examples for every need
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