Popular flowering plants for your herbaceous borders
The plants I am going to explore are popular for good reason; they are colourful, easy to grow without much intervention and persist in their flowering year after year. Two of them are the backbone of many borders especially in late spring and early summer and are beloved of plant designers who make the show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show as spectacular as they are. The third of the plants we will look at in more detail, is a stalwart of the autumn garden when most other herbaceous plants have finished their main flowering period, extending the season considerably.
The Linklaters Garden for Maggie’s Darren Hawkes
The first of these species is the Siberian Iris, which form clumps of perennial plants which flower each year in late spring (early to late May depending on the season). Their amazing delicate flowers come in a wide range of blues and purples although there are also new cultivars in whites and reddish purples. The flowers stand by themselves over the long greyish- green strappy leaves and need no staking, they bulk up into a decent clump and then provide annual flowers for you. At the Chelsea Flower Show, they are used to provide dazzling pops of colour.
Iris sibirica are easy to grow, performing best in full sun or part shade, in moist soils, shade is tolerated but the flowers are delayed beyond those in full sun. In dry years, they are not so happy but can be helped along by watering well and then applying a mulch. The plants need moisture during the peak growing season to produce the best flowers. After flowering, the stems can be cut down or left to be enjoyed as they die down naturally. They are fully hardy (H7, which means colder than -20C ie very hardy) and need little attention after flowering. They are best propagated by division, the ideal time to do this is mid- summer to early autumn. The clumps should be lifted and divided using two forks back to back applying gentle action. Plant the newly divided plants into well composted soil and water in well.
This easy plant will give you endless pleasure rewarding your inattention with beautiful flowers.
Another very easy plant for your herbaceous border is any one of a large family of hardy geraniums. They are also known as Cranesbills. There are a huge number of varieties and the choice you will want to make relates to the spot you wish to fill in the border. There are small low growing hardy geraniums, middling height ones and also taller varieties. Colours can be bold with stunning magentas through to soft pastel pinks, blues and whites, but they will all enchant you and provide low maintenance plants which are easy to grow, attracting very few pests and diseases with endless flowers for weeks on end. They are ideal for most growing conditions, sun, shade, wet or dry spots or straight into the ground. They are hardy and whilst they die down in autumn they will vigorously regrow and start to flower in late spring. Some of the taller varieties such as Geranium macrorrhizum will need to be staked so they do not flop over hiding other plants. The foliage is very varied too, so the fresh foliage as it grows in spring will give you another period of pleasure before the flowers appear.
To increase your geraniums, you should lift and divide them in autumn, as they start to die back in the border until next year. The clump can be simply split into several different plants and the new plants re-located to an area of your choice or given away to your friends.
The final plant for you is another significantly easy plant species which flowers in autumn, and that is a group known as Japanese anemones. Many cultivars are available, mostly in white or pinks in various shades. My favourite is a single white called Honorine Jobert but there are also many named single and double pinks. A relatively new and very attractive variety is named Wild Swan and is widely available. Each petal on the flower has a blue/grey streak on its back, so when they are in bud, the flowers look blue. However, they open to pure white. A very useful plant for dappled shade although they are also happy in full sun.
The saucer shaped flowers of all the Japanese anemones are around 8cm across and generally look at you with a circle of stamens in the centre. The flowering stems stand to around one metre tall, but they stand by themselves and need no staking. They are popular border plants needing little attention meaning they get on with it by themselves although some of the pink ones are considered to be vigorous. They are suitable for sun and shade and are happy as long as they are not waterlogged. They are best planted at this time of year (late spring), ready to flower in September and October, when you have been able to choose the one you like at the garden centre or nursery. Before planting into their final growing position, the ground should be prepared with garden compost into the bottom of the planting hole, and some spread around the general area. Make sure that they are watered into position and depending on the weather conditions after planting may need to be watered again regularly until they are settled in.
These plants are just some of my favourite ones for the herbaceous border, easy and non-complaining as they are, but there are many more to explore which we will do in subsequent blogs to fill your borders with flowers covering the whole year!