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BORDER CONTROL; Carefully plan your collection of perennials to be rewarded with colourful display year after year.

Byline: diarmuid gavin

Flowers that many of us enjoy in our borders are often perennials. I'm thinking of lupins, delphiniums, oriental poppies, penstemons and the like.

What this means is that they come back year after year, but rather than building up a woody network of stems and branches, generally from late summer their foliage dies back under the ground to reappear the next spring.

We tend to buy these plants in garden centres and at flower shows when they are in bloom. But if we plan properly, it is possible to create a complementary collection of perennials to fill out our borders.

First, as with all planting schemes but especially when using the type of plants that will produce huge amounts of lush growth and flower every year, prepare the ground well.

It's your opportunity to create a great foundation to anchor the plants and to provide roots and shoots with everything they need.

Loosen the soil, remove stones and add organic matter - this can be composted house and garden waste or bags of well-rotted manure. All of this is much easier to achieve before you start planting rather than trying to repair ill-performing soil in a couple of years.

Most perennials prefer a pH of 6.5, although some like more alkaline or acidic soil. If you have trouble with a particular plant, check its pH requirements and the pH level of the soil. If plants look stressed during the growing season or if you see disease or insect damage, feed them with a quick-release organic fertiliser.

If a plant performs poorly, try moving it to a different location. If it still isn't happy, give it away or send it to the compost pile.

Keep newly transplanted perennials well watered for the first few weeks. Water deeply to saturate the entire root ball and establish good contact between roots and the surrounding soil. Most perennials can be divided in early spring every couple of years when new growth is a few inches high. If you miss your chance in spring, wait until autumn.

Irises are the one major exception to this rule: they should be transplanted in early summer, right after they have bloomed.

When designing a perennial garden, think about how you'll get access to your plants to stake, deadhead or divide them. Paving slabs can be used as stepping stones within the garden or set a walkway of forest bark. A walkway created at the back of a border will be hidden during the growing season, but will make the bed accessible for spring and autumn maintenance duties. Read the labels on plants and discover what sizes they will grow to. Position taller species at the back and lower growers at their feet or to the front.

Choose different species to do different jobs - mounds of nepeta, alchemilla and hardy geraniums are brilliant for filling gaps and edging the front of the border. Spires of salvias, verbascum and iris create vertical interest, and floaty perennials, such as verbena, cow parsley and fennel, soften the look.

Include plants that will flower across the seasons - for spring, aquilegias, primroses and Solomon's seal, and then for late summer and autumn flowering plants, such as rudbeckias, heleniums, chrysanthemums, crocosmia and sedums.

Keep an eye on colours to build a harmonious arrangement. Rather than buy single plants of lots of species, choose your top 10 and buy a few of each so you can repeat patterns and knit your scheme together. If you start this year, your plants will bulk up over the years and combine to form a mature and artistic arrangement.

CAPTION(S):

SEVENDAYS@SUNDAYMAIL.CO.border patrol Lavender, poppies, delphiniums, geraniums and alchemilla bring life to a cottage garden

natural Create a display that is balanced and gives colour from spring to autumn

up and away Attention-grabbing lupins provide a focal point in this large garden

look at me Pink dahlias battle for supremacy in ornamental floral arrangement
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 15, 2018
Words:660
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