JOHN’S JOURNAL

Perfectly Positioning your Perennials

Often we all get tempted with purchasing new perennial plants for our flower beds, but when we get them home we can sometimes be a little unsure of where to put them! Are they front, middle or back? Should we be buying in 1’s or 3’s? And how far apart do they go? So many questions and there’s a few simple rules of thumb to follow to help make it easier.

More often than not people look at the height of a plant to determine whether it goes at the front, middle or back, and this is the first mistake! Whether a plant is self supporting or not, and is what we call’ see through’ determines if it sits at the front. For example a tall plant like Verbena bonariensis is a perfect plant for the front or middle of the bed, yet at upto 6foot tall using the high plant towards the back rule it would be lost. At the front or middle it means you can see through it and it also gives height and another layer to your planting, this rule applies to anything else which is self supporting and see through, Astrantias, Lythrums and Thalictrums to name a few. You may leave a little space in front of these for shorter plants which belong at the front like Heucheras, Alchemilla, Low growing Geraniums, but again these can also work their way into the middle of the bed, in clumps of 3’s these would lead the eye into the border and also give relief from taller plants around them, helping define and set them off. Then at the back of the bed this is the territory of the taller plants which are not so see through for example Border Phlox, Monardas and others that need support like Delphiniums and Hollyhocks. That’s generally the rule with perennial positioning.

Now is it 3’s or 1’s? That really comes down to the size of your bed and firstly don’t forget to add ‘threads’ to your planting, plants which are repeated to give repetition, generally long flowering plants or ones that repeat flower giving continuity and balance. Hydrangea paniculata is a great plant to repeat along the back edge to give late summer colour and also Winter structure with its dried flowers. Verbena bonariensis is a great one to repeat through your planting for long lasting colour and height, and Nepeta and Alchemilla are two perfect ones for the front edge. Look at pairing up either side of pathways and repeat these every few metres to lead the eye around a border. You can also repeat grasses through the bed to give a naturalistic feel to your planting helping give relief from the flowers and green foliage.

Obviously don’t forget your aspect, sun lovers and shade lovers, and if you feel a little phased by it all then don’t worry, we offer a free ‘Flower Bed Design Service’ at the nursery, carried out by myself and then it really is as easy as gardening by numbers!

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Here you can send in and find out the answers to those gardening problems

Do I need to mix anything in with new planting?

Perennials thrive on nutrients and fresh bacteria, so just before you plant dig over the soil and then mix in some rotted organic matter like spent manure or old mushroom compost, both are perfect for helping open up clay soils and adding fibre and air to the soil along with nutrients, helping the roots easily work their way into their new home. It also prevents the soil from just sticking back together and really does get the plants off to a flying start.

Do I feed my new planting with fertiliser?

Yes, we always recommend Vitax Q4, and yes there are nutrients in the organic matter which you apply but the application of Vitax as well just ensures that there is the right balance of food to help your perennials produce the flowers which you want. Simply sprinkle it on after you have planted around your new plants and it will last for 5 months gradually washing in over the coming months.

How do you carry out your flower bed design service?

Simply contact us via email or phone to make an appointment at the nursery with myself, and then bring along a sketch of your flower bed with rough dimensions on and some photographs either printed out or on your phone to help give context to the planting and we will happily come up with a layout for you after discussing colour preferences, aspect and any particular requirements. 

 

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

 

Plant of The Week

Dicentra spectablis

Commonly known as Bleeding Heart it’s a very easy perennial plant which thrives in partial or full shade. Producing arching stems with hanging pink and white heart shaped flowers it’s delightful and so easy to grow. Dying down later on in the summer before coming back the following year