“My favourite gardens have no borders”, says Sarah Price, starting off her recent article on ‘Wildflowers in gardens’ in Gardens Illustrated. Sarah has visited our garden a couple of times and used a photo of our garden to illustrate this article.
Yes, I thought on reading her opening words, I agree. But then why do I have borders in my garden? Or do I?
I have areas where wildflowers (aka native plants) are allowed to colonise and intermingle and do their own thing. Sometimes I will add to the mix. I might pop in a few plants of fox and cubs, aquilegia vulgaris and Lady’s bedstraw and off they go.
I have other areas which are meant to be ‘borders’, where wildflowers and other natives have infiltrated and have been allowed to become established. This may be because I have decided that I have to live with them because I can’t get rid of them (rosebay willow herb and ground elder) or I choose to keep them because they look good (greater stitchwort and golden saxifrage).
One of my current projects is re-designing (if that’ not too grand a term) a ‘border’ which has always been dominated by Lysimachia punctata (yellow loosestrife). It was here when I arrived 35 years ago and over that time has just very gradually spread out a bit providing a big splash of yellow (which I find very cheery, but I know posher gardeners are a bit snooty about) in the summer and a lovely drift of bolt-upright rusty, rustling foliage in the depths of winter. The patch (border) gets mown around all summer, which I suppose stops it taking over the whole garden.
Picking up the ‘is it a border and does it actually matter?’ theme I’ve approached this ‘re-design’ in the spirit of a bit of an experiment . The ‘experiment’ involves slicing off (Lysimachia is shallow-rooted) spadefuls of the stuff and plonking them elsewhere to do or die; let’s see whether the stuff can out-compete what was there before. Lysimachia is, after all, about as tough as it gets in the way of competing with it’s neighbours. The space this has created in the ‘border’ has been planted up with various grasses and other perennials which have been patiently sitting around in pots awaiting a permanent home. The ‘border’ has been extended by placing some of the afore-mentioned spadefuls amongst the adjacent un-mown grass where knapweed and fox and cubs have colonised.
So, the whole thing will look of a piece with wildflowers and ‘tame’ flowers both happily growing with the grasses (both tame and wild) amongst ribbons of Lysimachia. That’s the theory anyway. We’ll see what it looks like next year.
In the meantime some pics of ‘wild’ and ‘tame’ cohabiting both in borders and not…
And finishing off with what I should be doing this afternoon if it wasn’t raining – planting tulips (both in borders and not) and the war on squirrels which seem to be digging them up as quickly as I am planting them. Round 2 involves rodent repellers and buried chicken wire. Smudge is doing his bit to help…