Looking to spruce up your landscape a bit? A well-designed border can add impact and interest to any garden – large or small. And, by selecting plants that take a minimal amount of care and chemicals to thrive, you can easily create an eco-friendly border. As a bonus, depending on the plant selection, a well-planned bed or border can also be a magnet for butterflies, beneficial insects and birds.
Interplanting perennials with woody plants is a crucial for good design. Woody plants create a framework, providing structure, texture, height and year-long interest. Perennials, on the other hand, come into and out of season from late spring through autumn.
To create season-long color, start with partial-season bloomers. Then add in perennials and shrubs that bloom for longer periods of time, spacing them throughout the border to create waves of color.
Depending on your location, early to mid-season bloomers include daffodils, tulips and other bulbs; shrubs including azaleas, daphnes, lilacs, magnolias, flowering quince, spireas, forsythia and viburnums. Low maintenance perennials such as dicentra (bleeding heart) Siberian iris, Oriental poppies and peonies are good early blooming options.
Low maintenance mid-to-late summer bloomers include agapanthus, daylilies, phlox paniculata (Volcano phlox is a great option because it reblooms if deadheaded), achillea, Russian sage, lobelia, buddleja, lantana, rudbeckia, campanula and coreopsis; shrubs include spirea, and crape mytles. Asters, hardy mums, sedums, some varieties of hydrangea and carylopteria (Bluebeard shrub) are great for late summer color.
Season-long Color and Interest
Another essential element for an eco-friendly, well designed border is plants that provide color and interest throughout the season, especially ones that are low maintenance.
For instance, there are several varieties of long blooming salvias that are hardy in Zones 4-9, including ‘May Night’, ‘Marcus’, and ‘New Dimension Blue’. They send out their purple/blue blooms starting in early spring and continue to bloom all summer long with very little care. And as an extra bonus, they’re deer resistant! Other low maintenance perennials include cranesbill (hardy geranium) and echinacea which is available in a wide variety of colors and sizes.
Foliage plants are also great for adding season-long interest. Hosta, lambs ear, artemesia, astilbe, ferns, heuchera are all low maintenance plants that offer both interesting texture and color.
For West coast gardeners, two new coprosmas – Pacific Sunset™ and Pacific Sunrise™ provide color and interest with their beautiful glossy leaves and compact shape. Both varieties have variegated leaves and the colors on those get deeper in cool weather, providing color in the spring and fall when other plants are less colorful. As a bonus, these coprosmas are deer resistant!
Flower Carpet, the original “eco rose”, shows off glossy green foliage long before it blooms, and then blooms from early June through October or longer, depending on location. Flower Carpet comes in a variety of colors and sizes and has won over 25 awards for disease resistance and easy-care attributes.
Long and reblooming shrubs include potentilla (bush cinquefoil), weigela, and leptodermis oblonga, a little known but wonderful low-growing fragrant shrub – perfect for the front of borders.
Other points to consider when creating a perennial border:
Consider how your border will look from every angle and view (home, street, driveway, etc.).
Plant in overlapping drifts of colors to give a continual flow to the border design
Make it mow-friendly; stay away from sharp angles and tight borders.
Ornamental grasses are ideal for adding strong impact and year-long interest
For a complete list of plants that are suitable for borders, visit the Perennial Plant Association’s website.