Once the permanent framework of small trees and shrubs is in place, the fun starts. By filling the spaces in between with smaller shrubs and hardy perennials that flower in succession, the border will look good right through the seasons.
As the glorious blossom of spring-flowering shrubs, such as camellias, rhododendrons, daphnes, and broom begins to fade, the perennials take over, Lupins, peonies, and poppies are some of the biggest summer attractions, followed by delphiniums and phloxes. These in turn can be infilled with smaller species: lady’mantle, low-growing hardy geraniums, dianthus, and catmint.
For fall color, add Michaelmas daisies, dahlias, and Japanese anemones, backed up by flaming shrubs like Photinia villosa or sumac, if you have space.
Try to plan your border on paper first. Take into account each plant’s effect on its neighbor and juxtapose different species for contrast – not just between flower color, but between foliage, texture, and form.
OPPOSITE: This well-made border has perennial plants arranged in descending order of height, starting with the tall plume poppy, followed by achillea and orange-red heleniums, and finishing with low clumps of sedums, catmint, geums, and hardy geraniums.
BELOW: Yellow phlomis interwoven with vibrant purple French lavender makes a striking statement.