Expert tips for a stunning herbaceous border | Living North

Expert tips for a stunning herbaceous border


Herbaceous border
Newby Hall’s head gardener Mark Jackson shares his five-step plan for creating a stunning herbaceous border in your garden

Newby Hall Gardens in North Yorkshire boasts one of the longest double herbaceous borders in the UK –  172 metres long, with 6,500 plants. Head gardener Mark Jackson is in charge of keeping it looking its best, and he is sharing his tips on how to create a similarly stunning look in your garden, albeit on a much smaller scale.

1. Plant choice 
Choose plants that will grow in your garden’s natural conditions. Sun-loving plants will not be happy in a damp, shady border. Grow the plants you like – try and get a colour theme but keep it simple. The old rule ‘less is more’ works.

2. Structure 
As well as linking flowers’ colours, think of their shapes and structures. Use vertical-shaped blooms like Delphinium, Lythrum (Purple loosestrife) alongside cluster-shaped umbels like Eryngium (Sea holly) and Selenium to give contrast and interest. Also, mix heights by bringing taller, airy plants to the front. Select one or two plants which can be repeated along the border, to create flow and cohesion.

3. Seasonal planting
It is hard work to keep a border in peak condition month after month – some compromises are necessary. Perhaps consider a few early summer flowers, such as Paeony, Cirsium or Euphorbia (Spurge) with a bias to mid through to late summer, using plants like Anemone, Monarda or Phlox. This will prevent the border from looking tired with faded blooms.

4. Give plants a hidden hand
Herbaceous plants have non-woody stems so need support early on. Weave birch or hazel sticks into an open dome structure for plants to grow through. You can place them near the front of the bed for a pleasing, natural effect. Larger perennials further back can be supported by 125mm plant-support netting.

5. Nurture your border
Monitor your plants for feeding and division – each plant is different, with specific needs. Don’t overfeed as you will produce lush foliage at the expense of flowers, and divide perennials when they are less floriferous or have a hollow centre. Look after the soil – add organic matter, such as homemade compost or leaf mould, to maintain soil structure and nutrient levels. Also, keep off the soil in wet conditions.

Newby Hall & Gardens, Ripon

Published in: April 2018

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