Creating Eco-friendly Perennial Borders

poolside plantings

This simple multi-level border protects the nearby pool while adding charm to the landscape. A cobalt blue container filled with Flower Carpet Pink provides serves as an anchor.

Well-designed borders can be a spectacular feature in any landscape. By selecting plants that take a minimal amount of care and chemicals to thrive, it’s easy to create an eco-friendly border. As a bonus, depending on the plant selection, a well-planned perennial bed can also be a magnet for butterflies, beneficial insects and birds.

Corner bed with borders along fence line:

Garden border ideas

Three years later, with bed and borders totally filled with season long color from rudbeckia, dalilies, Volcano phlox, fall-blooming clematis, Flower Carpet Scarlet and a mix of woody shrubs.

Key elements

  • Consider how your border will look from every angle and view (home/building, street, driveway, etc.).
eco-friendly flower beds

This border actually runs up the center of the garden and so is viewed from multiple sides

  • Plant in tiers. For borders that back up against a fence, wall or building place the tallest plants in the back and then move the heights forward, ending with the lowest growing plants in the front.  When creating borders that are seen from multiple sides, consider place the tallest plants in the center and move outward from there.
  • Plant in overlapping drifts of colors to give a continual flow to the border design.
choosing plants by color

Combining complimentary colors adds impact to any border

  • Long narrow drifts have more impact and give the garden a more graceful look. Using complimentary colors can create a dramatic effect as well.
Perennial beds and borders

A tightly planted border along a curved walkway leaves no room for weeds!

  • Space your plantings so that when they mature within 2-3 years, they’ll grow together to form a more solid look. Gaps in spacing make borders look ragged and unkempt and leave room for weeds as well.
  • If space allows, make an interesting shape. Curved edges look natural and help to draw the eye along. They also help to soften straight lines of property lines, buildings, fences, etc.
  • Make it mow-friendly; stay away from sharp angles and tight borders.

 

Plant Selection

Inter-planting woody plants with perennials is a crucial for good design.

Woody plants create a framework to the border, providing structure, texture, height and year-long interest. Perennials, on the other hand, come into and out of season from late spring through autumn.

easy care roses

Combine woody shrubs with both long season and partial season bloomers. Shown here in the foreground is Flower Carpet Pink Supreme groundcover rose which blooms from late June through October in Zones 4-6 and longer elsewhere.

Foliage plants are also great for adding season-long interest. Hosta, lambs ear, artemesia, astilbe, ferns, and heuchera are a just a few low-maintenance plants that offer both interesting texture and color from early spring to late fall.

 

early blooming shrubs

Fairy Magnolia blooms early in the spring and is ideal as a backdrop hedge in mixed borders.

To create season-long color, start with partial-season bloomers – shrubs and plants that bloom early, mid or late season.

 

easy care borders

Flower Carpet roses are ideal in the front of any bed. These are bordered by a low hedge of boxwood.

Then add in perennials and shrubs that bloom for longer periods of time, spacing them throughout the border to create waves of color. For instance, Flower Carpet – the original “eco rose” – shows off glossy green foliage long before it blooms, and then produces thousands of blooms from early June through October or longer, depending on location. Flower Carpet comes in a variety of colors and has won over 25 awards for disease resistance and easy-care attributes.

plants for fall color

With the right plant selection, a good border will provide color and interest well into the autumn

If space allows, evergreens and ornamental grasses also provide a framework as well as year-long interest, even in the coldest climates. Both are available in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes.

 

fragrant shrubs

Leptodermis oblonga, image courtesy of Bluestone Perennials.

And finally, don’t be afraid to experiment and try new plants! For instance,  Leptodermis Oblonga is a little know but wonderful low-growing fragrant shrub – perfect for the front of borders. It’s deer resistant and attracts butterflies too – perfect for the eco-friendly border!

 

 

Click here for a downloadable short list of suggested eco-friendly plants for season-long color.

Visit the Perennial Plant Association’s website for extensive listings off perennials for all climates and conditions.

 

 

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