Designing a new border

Herbaceous border
Herbaceous border. Photo:

For gardeners, the good thing about this time of year is that there’s not much to do outside so there’s plenty of time to plan. If a part of the garden didn’t quite work out as well as you hoped last year – perhaps it was a one-season wonder, or full of shade-loving plants and then the neighbour cut down his overhanging tree – it’s time for a rethink.

Garden design
Garden design. Photo:

Start off with some squared paper and draw a plan of the patch to scale. Indicate north and south, fences and overhanging trees and anything that you want to keep. Think about a theme for your border, and what kind of planting you prefer – contemporary, cottage-garden, urban, formal, wildlife-friendly or perhaps mediterranean. These days there’s a wealth of ideas just a few keystrokes away.

A bed and border planning book will be a great help in deciding which plants look good together, and help you to visualise how big they will grow. You will need to decide if you want some plants at their best all year round (a mixed border of bulbs, shrubs, evergreens and perennials), or if you’re happy with a blaze of glory in the summer months. An easy to care for family-friendly border should major on resilient shrubs and weed-smothering ground cover, or if your priority is butterflies and bees plan for sedums, buddleia, herbs and lavender with some hardy annuals. If you want to bring birds to your garden make sure you include fruit and berries, with twiggy trees and dense bird-hiding shrubs.

If you’d like some help the RHS have lots of inspirational photographs and key plants to choose to bring different styles to life. Or consider bringing the professionals in – the Society of Garden Designers offers a search facility to find the perfect designer for you.