Friday, 18 March 2016

Cheery plants on a dull day

As it's a cold and dull day outside and because I woke up with swollen and bruised ankles and knees, today I am doing some armchair gardening, well, sofa gardening actually.

When Jane and I created the herbaceous border on Sunday, we talked quite a lot about the herbaceous plants that we've had in the past and which ones we liked most and which we'd eagerly have in a new garden. And that's what I've got, a brand new garden, so I thought I'd share my thoughts about some of my herbaceous favourites.

I can't afford to splash out on decorative plants at the moment, until I've stocked the vegetable garden, fruit section and bought the trees that we'd like in the garden, I will have to be content with thinking about the plants I'd like to add the ones I already have and imagining how pretty the herbaceous border might look in years to come.

Geranium Phaeum Alba (above), I found this one on ebay here. I love the neat mounds of foliage with the clean white flowers held above it, it's really easy to propagate by division.

And the dark purple version, like this one. I like to plant them next to each other and imagine that there's a pint of Guiness in the garden. I also like very dark purple aquilegias, easy to grow from seed and prolific self-seeders, although the colours can be very different from the parent plant. I particularly like this one from Nickys Nursery, this has to be worth a couple of pounds to see the cheery little flowers waving in the breeze. I also like the sound of that the dried seed heads make when the wind catches them.

Actually I like nearly all aquilegias except ones with yellow in them, I don't know why, but they just don't look right to me. Gardening is such a personal thing as I know some people love the yellow varieties.

I like to have fresh flowers in the house and make use of lots of foliage to contrast with the flowers, so some plants that provide nice foliage would always make it into my herbaceous border.
Alchemilla Mollis, like this one from Jackson's Nurseries , has a softness but freshness to the green and I like the way the morning dew sits on the edges of the leaves like little jewels. In the past, I've planted an orange crocosmia around the edges of small achemilla plant so as it grows the crocosmia flowers sit high above the mounds of foliage.

There are other plants that I like to plant together, I especially like contrasting colours together because they show each other off. Scarlet red tulips look superb planted amongst pretty blue forget-me-nots or a deep red-purple heuchera Palace Purple with bright orange pot marigolds.

Lysimachia punctata spreads well and at two to three feet adds mid range height, the strong yellow flowers add a splash of buttery, sunny yellow (a colour I don't use an awful lot in the garden, except for the dandelions that inevitably end up everywhere!). Garden Oasis sell a bare-rooted one. They are great for a summer flower display in a jug on the dining table, although the flowers can drop quite quickly.

In my old garden in Mid Wales, I grew several peonies and oriental poppies. I like the blousy boldness of their flowers as a contrast to all the little flowered plants that I usually choose.

Kelways have been the best place I have found to buy peonies, I particularly like Bunker Hill with it's red petals and lush foliage. I remember as a small child being fascinated by ants that climbed over the buds of peonies, a joy that remains even now.

In my mind oriental poppies should be red, but having said that, I also like some of the gentler shades too. This in-your-face red one is splendid, it's Beauty of Livermere from Mr Fothergill's.

I've grown some Lupin Russell Hybrids Mixed from seed this year, they are just at first leaf stage, so I don't expect them to give a display until next summer. They may end up in the herbaceous border, but I've grown them mainly to be companion planting in the vegetable garden as they have such good nitrogen fixing properties. I spotted that Thompson & Morgan have plants which would give a display this summer.

Although not a herbaceous plant, I think that a Leycesteria Formosa (pheasant berry) plant deserves a place in my herbaceous border. They don't seem to be as widely available as I think they should be, but I've found them from Burncoose Nursery and they also have a golden leafed variety which looks lovely. In the past, I have cut the stems down to the ground in spring to give lots of young growth, but  other years I've left it to grown tall and hold it's tiny white flowers are hidden inside the rich deep coloured bracts. It self seeds well and new plants pop up all over the place. Not such a good thing if you are fussy about placement, but I like plants to find their own space, within reason, and am happy to find this plant turning up in unexpected spots. An added bonus is that birds love the berries in the autumn and early winter.

After we had created the herbaceous border on Sunday, Jane and I planted the selection of plants that I had brought with me and some that Jane had given me (thank goodness for gardening friends!). So the basics of the border are in, foxgloves, delphiniums and daylilies each have a place and although they aren't herbaceous, I'll be adding some lavenders from the cuttings I've taken and will lift some of the irises that are currently in the soak-away pond of the reed bed.  I'm going to go and raid my sister's garden for more perennials, she has a sloping bank that I planted up some years ago using divisions from my old garden, so I am sure she won't mind me having a few divisions of plants to help stock my new border.

If you think I've left out any herbaceous border essentials, please let me know in a comment. Have a good gardening weekend!


  1. When they are fully settled I may need to come and steal some clippings! My garden is still so dull and so little fragrance and texture!

  2. You'd be welcome to come and have some. I also need to come to your home and divide that lovely Japanese Anenome, I love the way the flowers are held high and proud above the foliage.


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