Planting a sunny border


Now that spring has arrived after this long, strange winter it is time to get outdoors and back to our gardens. Much needs to be done in the early spring to our existing flower gardens to ready them for the season. This is exciting work as we find the bits of green under the winter clutter. Once you have completed your spring clean-up duties it will be time to look towards new plantings for the year.

A sunny flower border can be planted in a number of locations such as along a rock wall or fence line, or along a property line. Once you have determined how long your border will be you will need to get the area ready for planting. Any grass will need to be removed. It is always best to remove the sod completely rather than tilling it into the soil. Any rocks or other such items should be cleared from the area unless they are too large to move. In that case, they will make lovely accents to the border. Amendments should be added to the soil in the form of compost. The entire area should then be raked through and left to sit for a short time. This will give you some time to plan your border and the plantings that will go into it.

As with any flower garden there are no hard and fast rules on what you plant in your new border. That said, it is important that a border “flow” and carry the eye throughout the entire length of the border.

The first step in choosing plants is to determine what shrubs or small trees you want to use. In a very large border, small trees will give structure to your planting. A flowering crabapple or a red bud are both wonderful choices, and can be planted on either end to anchor the border or can be planted an equal distance apart within the border.

In addition, there are many shrubs that can be used. Beautiful spring flowering Lilacs or Azaleas are always a great choice along with another shrub variety that flowers later in the year such as Mock Orange or Spiraea. I particularly like Spiraea because they have a nice rounded shape and beautiful fall foliage. When choosing a tree or shrub, keep in mind the mature size of the plant. An over-sized shrub can quickly take over a planting within a few years time.

Using plants in odd numbers of three, five or seven plants of the same variety is more important when planting a border than any other type of garden. Depending on the length of your border, you should choose four or five varieties of flowering perennials and a few varieties of foliage perennials. Pick tried and true perennials for easy care in years to come.

I love tall garden Phlox and Monarda to attract hummingbirds. Heuchera and Hosta are wonderful foliage choices. This is also a wonderful time to see what you have in other gardens that need dividing. Try to choose varieties of varying heights and textures to create interest. Purchase or dig three or five of each variety, again depending on the length of your border. Your local perennial farm or nursery will be able to give you advice on plant choice and ongoing care.

Once you have chosen all of your plants, they should be placed in the planting area with the trees and shrubs placed first and then the perennials placed randomly down the length of the border. You may have to move the plants around a few times until you find the look you desire. By placing the same variety of plant in numerous locations it keeps the eye moving down the border giving that “flow” effect. You may want to fill in with some colorful annuals for the first year until the perennials and shrubs fill in.

When you have achieved the effect you were looking for, it is time to plant. Each plant should go into the ground at the same depth as they were in the containers. The entire border should be mulched and watered well. As with any new planting, you should keep the border well watered for the first month or so.

Cindy Creps and her family operate Meadow Ridge Perennial Farm, Back Street, Hebron. For more information, call Cindy at 577-1612 or visit