Category - Beds and Borders

Beds and Borders Garden

Creating a Garden Border

Planting a new border can really improve your garden. It is interesting to watch new plants grow and develop, and borders can also be useful to hide eyesores and add interest and colour.

You will need:

  • Spade
  • Trowel
  • Organic matter
  • Grit
  • Fertiliser
  • Mulch

Tip: When planning a new border, consider whether it will be in sun or shade, whether the soil is acid or alkaline, whether the drainage needs improving and how much work you are prepared to spend maintaining the border. These will determine the types of plants you choose. If you pick trees and shrubs, for example, they will cost more but take less maintenance. Herbaceous perennials are higher maintenance but higher return.

Step 1: Mark out the shape

Decide the position and shape of your border. Don’t make your border too narrow – a wide plot will be easier to maintain and look far better. Gentle curves work best as they’re easier to mow and edge properly. An elongated shape works well rather than a long strip and allows room for different-sized plants.

Garden Border

Garden Border

Use a long hosepipe to mark out the shape of your border – it’s easy to adjust until you achieve a pleasing shape. If cutting out of grass, the edge is bound to be damaged so leave a few inches to trim back later.

If you have already purchased plants, spread them out and imagine them at their ultimate size. Rearrange and adjust your border shape if necessary. Keep in mind when they flower, what they will look like in winter and how big they will get.

Step 2: Prepare and improve the soil

Remove all weeds, particularly perennials. Turf can be chopped up and buried or better still composted for future use. Don’t remove any of the topsoil.

Dig in bulky organic matter. This is your best opportunity to improve the soil and is a good investment. If the drainage is poor add grit and dig deeply to loosen up the sub-soil. Take care not to mix darker topsoil with subsoil – put it to one side if necessary to enable deep digging.

If drainage is a problem make a raised bed. Build up a low retaining wall with bricks, stones or used railway sleepers and add good topsoil enriched as above.

Add fertiliser if necessary – it may be required for poor sandy soils – and rake level.

Weed seeds will always be brought to the surface and there will be a flush of new weeds. Hoe these off. Ideally, prepare the border in autumn and plant the next spring.

Tip: Buy a soil test kit to find out if your soil is acidic or alkaline. If your soil is very alkaline or acidic this will limit which plants will grow well.

Step 3: Plant the border

You can achieve an instant effect by planting large specimens or quick growing shrubs, but this is costly and can increase future maintenance work to keep them under control. It’s cheaper to buy smaller plants if you have the patience to wait for them to grow but ensure you check their ultimate size and plant accordingly.

Plan the planting before you start digging. You can do this either on paper or by placing the plants in their pots on the border. Work out the correct distances to leave between the long-term specimens and then fill the gaps with lower-growing perennials and bulbs.

Dig the holes for the plants. Check the hole is deep enough – most plants should be inserted to the same depth as they were growing in the pot. For larger trees and shrubs make a planting hole twice as wide and deep as the pot. Break up the soil, add organic matter and a little extra fertiliser.

Remove the plants from their pots, insert and firm the soil around the roots. Water thoroughly.

Tip: Take a photograph of your handiwork when finished – it will be interesting to compare with your border after it has had a few years’ growth.

Beds and Borders Garden

Design Your Own: Beds and Borders

There can’t be many gardens in Britain that don’t contain flowerbeds or borders. Sadly, an awful lot of them are far duller than they need to be. Perhaps the plants are past their best. Or maybe they were never conceived properly in the first place. So, if you want beds and borders with a wow factor, check out the design principles we’ve assembled here.

Top Tips

  • Don’t place plants with widely differing growth rates in the same bed. The faster-growing plants may smother their slower neighbours.
  • Raised beds edged with old railway sleepers or retaining walls give you greater control over the soil and involve a lot less bending.

Back to Basics

It seems obvious, but no plant will prosper in conditions it isn’t suited to. The first step to designing a successful flower bed is to establish how much sun the location gets and what sort of soil it has. You can buy soil-testing kits from garden centres. Once you know how well your soil drains and whether it’s neutral, alkaline or acid, you can choose plants to suit the conditions.

Beds-and-Border

Beds-and-Border

New Broom

If you’re reviving an existing bed, only hang on to plants that are in good condition and that can be incorporated into your new design. Take advantage of the space you’ve created to work plenty of well-rotted compost into the soil. If you’re creating a bed from scratch, use a length of hosepipe to mark out the shape. Smooth, flowing curves give a more natural look – and they’re easier to mow round than tight angles.

Shaping Up

Now comes the fun part! Once you’ve hunted down the plants that will give your new flowerbed some zing, lay them out in their pots to help you decide on their final positions. The labels ought to give you an indication of how high and wide they will eventually grow. Take care that larger plants don’t obscure their smaller neighbours. In a border, it makes sense to place taller plants at the back. In an island bed, taller plants can form a “backbone” to the arrangement.

Beds and Borders

Beds and Borders

Spice of Life

Variety is the key to most planting schemes. Choose plants with different shapes. Use complementary and contrasting colours. Think about the foliage of a taller plant in terms of the backdrop it might provide for smaller plants in front. One final tip: try not to fill your bed with plants that all flower at the same time. Unless you’re intending to create a specific effect, aim for a bed that will provide interest all year round.