Thoughts of Summer Borders

With all the cold weather we have been having lately, the planning of new summer borders brings new enthusiasm to be out in the garden. On a long, dark night, what can be more pleasant than to sit in front of a blank sheet of paper, sketching and drawing, whilst thinking of balmy, warm days not so very far off? And you don’t need to be a great artist. I know, for I am the only member of my family that cannot paint or sketch well, yet I am the only one to make a living from design. I like to think that I paint with flowers instead.

I am often confronted with an area of garden which has been cleared by a client of vegetation for them only to be daunted by the expanse of ‘scorched earth’ that they are left with. The one below, turned out to be one of the biggest challenges to date with the request that the area had the appearance of one large flower border from the house, yet without too much height. The other specification was for there to be a driveway for cars incorporated into it and for it to look traditional – not one of the newer ‘prairie’ styles, the fashion for which has swept Europe in recent years. To make matters worse, in clearing the garden, the contractor had also removed most of the topsoil.

To make the garden more manageable I divided the area up into sections. In the photo below is a new stone path splitting the levels and, to the left, part of the driveway coming in, in an arc. Altogether there were three raised beds, a long border plus the ‘in and out’ driveway and new path running through the whole scheme. Also in the photo is part of the mountain of topsoil that had to be brought in and there is still some turf to be removed.

Hundreds of pots filled with herbaceous plants stretching into the distance were a daunting sight when it came to planting time. These are just some of them carefully positioned according to the plan. Although not very clear on the photo, I also placed some medium sized rocks and several clumps of dogwoods. These were chosen, not just for their coloured stems providing winter interest, but also because their pruning requirements meant they would stay relatively small in height.

The reward for all the hard work is the finished result – although of course, being gardeners, we never have finshed results for we are always pruning and tweaking and fine tuning, never quite satisfied. From the house the borders do look like one and give colour throughout the year, although summer is their glory time. They are remarkable low maintenance too requiring a thorough weed and tidy in spring and again in autumn, for the close planting precludes much weed growth in the summer months. This is the garden in its second summer of blooming.

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13 thoughts on “Thoughts of Summer Borders

  1. Johnson, Wow, you can come over to my house any old day! Like you say, there is always something that can be changed. I guess that is what keeps us interested in the whole gardening process!

  2. Thanks to all of you for making time and effort to comment – especially as they are all so favourable!I have to say, Chris, that I rarely get the complete look that I'm trying to achieve. Perhaps it's that that keeps us all gardening, certain we will get there next time.I have to say, 'though, I was rather pleased with the outcome of this one.Johnson

  3. I was fascinated to come across your 'site', both literally and metaphorically, and to see the way in which you had tackled a somewhat difficult area for your client. The end result is very attractive, and clearly well executed with an eye to future maintenance.Two points of your design both interest and puzzle me. First, for what reason does the flagged path take a curve along its length? Secondly, you make mention of placing rocks in the border. For what purpose?Having just written in my latest posting on 'rocks' and ornamental rock gardens, and received a wide range of comments, you will, I am sure, understand my curiosity.Being a garden designer in these difficult times cannot be easy. I do wish you well.

  4. Thank you, Edith, for your interest and welcome to my blog.The path curves to follow the line of the retaining walls to the raised beds that were created. These were governed by a curved laurel hedge that I had to link up to and also by the arc formed by the driveway. Unplanted the path looks quite severe and 'wavy' but planting with a lavender hedge softened its appearance. The plantings will feature soon, probably in the next post.I agree to a point with your views on rock. Perhaps boulder would be a better description although the pieces I used weren't massive or many. They were placed to give a degree of solidity (pardon the pun) to the cornus in winter. During the summer they are barely visible beneath the plants.Johnson

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