We often receive calls and emails from people who have recently moved into a new home, feeling overawed at taking on a mature garden with very large and deep borders. Inexperienced gardeners understandable find the prospect extremely daunting and so come to us for our advice.
While deep borders can take a bit of looking after, they are not necessarily high maintenance. So, when thinking about what to do with the borders, here are a few tips and pointers:
Review the planting
Is the border full of large shrubs, which look glorious in their natural shape and are doing a good job at covering the ground and suppressing weeds?
If the answer to this is “yes”, then you might not want to do anything at all! But if the border is half bare / weed ridden, or full of small herbaceous plants (for example) requiring more frequent tending and weeding, then you might want to consider changing the planting to something requiring lower maintenance. Contact us if you need help with a new planting scheme.
Sometimes the problem can be that a particular shrub has taken over too much of the border. Here you will need to consider whether it can be dramatically pruned (a lot of shrubs will stand up to some drastic pruning), or whether it needs to be removed entirely.
Consider reducing the size of the border
Would it be helpful to reduce the size of the border, and thus introduce more space or an extra feature into the garden?
The easiest way to reduce the size of a border is obviously just to convert part of it back to lawn (or gravel, or…). But this exercise can be viewed in a creative way. For example, could the garden be made more interesting at the same time by reshaping the lawn and borders to introduce curves, where the borders are wider in some areas and then narrow down in areas where lawn has been added?
Or, you could add a feature area or seat area within the border, which will enhance the garden but also reduce the planting space?
How does a path sound? They can add real appeal to a garden (children love them too!)
Installing some form of path through a border can add genuine interest to a garden while also reducing the plant maintenance and helping in terms of accessing the deeper recesses of the borders.
When a border has a path running through it, the front section of the border effectively becomes double sided so that as you walk along the path you can disappear from view behind taller plants located towards the back of the front section of the border. And as you walk along the path, you might want to see some smaller plants located at the path edge in the middle of the border.
The planting can become complex (let us know if you need a hand!)… but very interesting!
Plants, plants, plants…
Are you really a true plant lover at heart?
Not everyone is looking to reduce planting space to reduce maintenance (although no one ever asks us for a high maintenance garden!).
To a plant lover, a deep border is a really exciting prospect and enjoyable to plan and plant – with large shrubs located towards the back of the border forming a mixed and varied foliage tapestry, and with the height of the planting gradually graded down towards the front of the border, perhaps with some neat low edging plants at the front of the border, and a central layer of colourful perennials and smaller shrubs in the middle of the border.
The benefit of a deep border is that plants can be allowed to grow naturally without being constantly trimmed to keep them in bounds. Enjoy the freedom!
There are of course also more general ways of reducing maintenance in deep borders – mulching being an obvious example.
As always, if you need some creative input or simply some help maintaining your existing garden, do let us know.