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Gardening People: Get your border in order.

Byline: Charles Lyte

ONE of the truly great traditions and glories of British gardens is the herbaceous flower border. In the larger gardens, these can be hundreds of feet long and tens of feet wide, but I once saw one that was about four feet long and it still looked delightful.

The advantage of a herbaceous border is that once it has been made and planted it will more or less look after itself. You'll just have to do a little weeding, watering and dead-heading.

Once every three years it will be necessary to lift the plants and split the clumps, replanting with the strongest and youngest pieces.

Preparing the bed in the first place is vitally important. It must be very well dug, and all weeds, especially fierce perennial weeds like docks, dandelions, buttercups, thistles and nettles, must be dug out and dumped.

Then dig in as much organic material, well-rotted manure or well-made compost, as possible.

Before going out to buy plants, have a good look round. At this time of year, when flower borders are at their best, it is well worth visiting established gardens to see fully mature plants so that you have a clear idea of their height and spread. With this experience you will be able to judge what will suit your own garden best.

Plants should be chosen for their flower colour, foliage, scent and a long flowering season. So the borders look a little different each year, leave some spaces for groups of colourful annuals.

If the bed is against a wall, hedge or fencing you will need to plant the tallest plants at the back and gradually grade them down in height to the front of the bed.

Where a bed is free-standing - in the middle of a lawn is a good bet, for example - the very tallest varieties should form a kind of spine down the centre, grading down in height on either side.

The taller plants can be planted in groups to give them maximum effect as focal points.

But which plants? Personally, I think there's nothing quite like breathing in the scents of different flowers. In the spring, I love narcissus, followed by annuals like ornamental tobacco (Nicotiana), and wallflowers, which can be replaced by night-scented stock.

Then there are pinks (Dianthus), phlox, peonies, sweet peas, sweet Williams, St. Bruno's lily, Iris florentina and the bearded irises, and the magnificent regal lily (Lilium regale). All are beautifully scented.

For height, choose lupins and delphiniums, with Michaelmas daisies and spray chrysanthemums for autumn colour. And around them? The choice is unlimited and it's all a question of taste. But do have a good look round now for inspiration.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jul 14, 2002
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