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The “How To” for Planning Dynamic Mixed Border Gardens!

June 03, 2013 2 min read

The “How To” for Planning Dynamic Mixed Border Gardens!Gone are the days of rigid garden rules. Today, gardeners are mixing perennials, annuals and hardwoods to create dynamic displays that extenuate walkways, paths and define spaces.

Mixed borders are different than formal borders in that that they mimic nature. Using different plant categories helps create patterns that you might see growing ‘in the wild.’ Space, climate and sun conditions will put limitations on what types of plants you can use, which might not be a bad thing, since even with these restraints the possibilities are endless!

Tips for planning a dynamic border garden…

  • Start with shrubs and/or small trees. These will take up the most room, and eventually cast shade. Landscape designers most often plant hardwoods in odd numbered groups. (Read Learn the Basics of Landscape Design for more tips)
  • Rarely, if ever, in nature do you see plants growing in straight lines. So group your plants in bunches. For instance, plant several clusters of Black Eyed Susans, never in rows.
  • Group taller plants in the back of your border where they will not block the viewing of shorter growing plants.
  • Select your perennials to maximize bloom time, picking spring, summer and fall flowering selections if possible. Consider the foliage and contrast the color and texture to your selected shrubs. Using ornamental grasses is a great option that offers vibrant interest over the entire year if left standing through winter!
  • Groundcovers can’t be beat for adding more consistent color and contrast. Plan for these last and use near the front wherever the space affords.

Don’t rush it! Starting with your bigger plants and letting them fill in a little, will help you judge what other plants you will need to add diversity. Overcrowding by planting too soon and too quickly induces stress and can even cause them to die back. It’s better to go slow and steady… filling spaces with mulch or annuals until it all comes together!

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