Gardens Ablaze

BORDERS FOR BEGINNERS

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By definition, a garden border is an area that is open in front and backed by a structure or obstacle, such as a house, garage, fence, patio, etc.  We all see the gorgeous mixed perennial plantings in magazines and books, but we really don't see many gardens like that in our own neighborhood.  That's because a garden like that requires a lot of money, time, and experience to pull off, and most of us are short on all three. Accordingly, this page is designed for the beginner or time-strapped person who still wants the look and satisfaction of a well-done garden border at low cost.

Next time you go past a mall or office complex, take a good look at the landscaping.  Most professional landscaping of this type uses one or two types of tough but colorful plant material, such as pansies, lantana or wax begonias.  They choose the brightest colors available (often opposites on the color wheel) and pay close attention to evenly spacing all the plants.  They also use thick mulch to keep it neat and moist, and from that point on, they mow, blow, and go for the entire season without a single problem, all the while maintaining the appearance of a lush, well-kept landscape. 

Look and learn, folks, because that's the recipe for a gorgeous home flower border all season long.  The border at the top of the page is a simple informal border with wax begonias lining a walkway in a double row.  This particular garden had shrubs and other plants farther back, but if it had been a blank slate, the begonias could have been repeated all the way back, which would make for a spectacular show.  The  next picture is a simple mass planting of yellow Lantana in the back, pink begonias, what looks like Homestead Verbena (I should have looked while I was there), and a yellow shrub I haven't identified yet. Of course, buying that many plants in flats might get a little expensive, but that's where propagation and starting from seed come in.  More on that later.

There are lots of plant materials that are inexpensive, easy to obtain, and easy to grow for those who are starting a new garden border or just want to dress up an existing one.  Choices don't have to be limited to flowering plants - ferns and foliage plants make wonderful border additions too.  See Color in the Garden for ideas on where to start color-wise.  Determine whether you have mostly sun or mostly shade in the area before buying anything. The worst mistake you can make is to try to make a sun-loving plant live in the shade or vice versa.  If you are starting the new border in the springtime, strongly consider buying seed and starting it indoors early. There are many, many many great plants that grow readily from seed, some blooming in as little as 40-50 days. You can truly save a bundle growing plants from seed.  If it's too late for that, you will have to buy individual plants or flats.  Lots of annuals take well to cuttings, and any gardener with a little determination can propagate an entire garden full of plants from just a few parent specimens.  Below are some suggestions (but by no means a complete list) for easy to find and easy to grow plants that do well as edging, front, mid, and back of border plants for sun and shade that are almost guaranteed to  thrive with minimal care.  These are not, however, arranged according to season as of yet so choose carefully.

Shade Plants (Front of Border)
Ajuga - Short, evergreen, nice fall color, purple flowers in spring. 
Bleeding Heart - Graceful woodland look, easy care.
Coleus - wonderful leaf colors, readily roots from stem cuttings.
Crocus - First spring color - overplant with other plants after bloom.
Dianthus - nice grass-like foliage all year, blooms early spring.
Ferns - gorgeous in any garden setting.  Not too costly if bought young.
Grape Hyacinth - Start season with this and over-plant later.
Impatien - Bright colors, easy care, readily roots from stem cuttings.
Hosta - Beautiful, lush look. Hostas multiply over time in good conditions.
Liriope -
Mondo Grass - A bit expensive, but makes a permanent neat edging.
Ornamental Cabbage/Kale - Great color and interesting form. 
Parsley - The curly kind makes a wonderful dark green edible edging plant.
Primrose - Gorgeous colors, withstands cold well.
Vinca - Impatien-like flowers on much more drought tolerant plants.
Violets - Care-free, dark green leaves w/purple flowers.  Spreads readily.
Wax Begonia - Bright colors, easy care, readily roots from stem cuttings. 

Sun Plants (Front of Border)
Ageratum - Small blue flowers, withstands some neglect.
Candytuft - Mounds of white, lilac or pink flowers well into summer.
Celosia - Bright colors with upright plume shape.
Geranium - Bright colors, interesting foliage. 
Lantana - Great color, long bloom time, drought tolerance.
Marigold - Bright, sunny, nice foliage, withstands some neglect.
Pansy - Wonderful colors, easy care, excellent cool weather plant.
Petunia - Fabulous colors, easy care.
Snapdragon - Beautiful colors, upright spire form, blooms until frost.
Sweet Alyssum - Long bloom time, fragrant low edging plant.

Shade Plants (Mid Border)
Astilbe - Plume-shaped, bright colors, easy care.
Dahlia - Incredible selection in every color, easy to grow.
Dame's Rocket - Good looking phlox-like plant.  Easy to grow, self seeds.
Four O'Clock - Bright colors, self seeds freely, can be invasive.
Foxglove - Stunning flowers, drought resistance.
Lily of the Valley - Very fragrant, excels in the shade.
Wallflower - Nice looking, easy care, blooms profusely over long period.

Sun Plants (Mid Border)
Black-Eyed Susan - Easy to grow, drought tolerant, long bloom time.
Daffodil - Variety for every situation, extremely cold hardy, spring bloom.

Coreposis - Bright, cheery, few pests.
Cornflower - Very nice blue or pink flowers, easy to grow, drought tolerant.
Iris - Must-have for everyone, fabulous form and bloom.
Liatris -Interesting upright form, easy to grow.

Ornamental Onion - Big, round, bold flowers, excellent companion plant.
Poppy - Beautiful color, great seedpods.
Shasta Daisy - Beautiful perennial, easy care.
Tulip - The most vivid spring bloomer.  Wide color range.

Shade Plants (Back of Border)
Azalea - Easy care, fabulous when flowering.
Camellia - One of the few winter flowering shrubs.
Canna - Large, tropical leaves with showy flowers.
Hydrangea - Gorgeous plant with fabulous flowers.
Elephant's Ear -  Large, tropical leaves.  Easy to grow.
Evening Primrose - Faint lemon scent.  Herb with many uses. Night bloom.
Nandina - Lacy foliage with showy red berries in winter.
Rose of Sharon - Easy to grow with beautiful fall flowers.
Wild Ageratum -

Sun Plants (Back of Border)
Butterfly Bush - Large tapered flowers all summer long.
Chrysanthemum - A staple for the fall garden.  Many colors, easy care.
Gladiolus - Huge colorful blooms on stately plants.
Heliotrope - Beautiful foliage with deep colored flowers and great scent.
Hollyhock -
Sunflower -
Rose - The Queen of the garden.  Every color and mostly good growers. 

 

 

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