Newby Hall Gardens is one of the North’s finest gardens, boasting one of the longest double herbaceous borders in the UK. The sheer scale of the border, at 172 metres long and packed with 6,500 plants, means staking plants in the spring takes three days alone, whilst cutting it back in the autumn takes over a fortnight. Now you can Create a stunning herbaceous border in five steps…
Plant choice – Choose plants that will grow in the natural conditions you have in your own garden. Sun-loving Mediterranean plants will not be happy in a damp shady border. It may seem obvious but grow the plants you like, try and get a colour theme but keep it simple. The old rule ‘less is more’ works!
Structure – As well as associating different flower colours, think of their shapes and structure. Use vertical-shaped blooms like Delphinium, Lythrum (Purple loosestrife) or Aconitum (Monkshood)*, alongside cluster-shaped umbels like Eryngium (Sea holly) and Selinum, to give contrast and interest. Also mix heights by bringing taller, airy plants to the front. Select one or two plants which can be repeated along the border to give flow and cohesion to the planting. At Newby we use the thistle-like Cynara (Cardoon) andEupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) at the back; Anthemis and Echinacea (Coneflower) in the middle, and Geranium and Agapanthus (African lily) at the front. *Monkshood is poisonous so please wear gloves when handling.
Seasonal planting – It is hard work to have a border at its peak, month after month, so some compromises are necessary. Consider perhaps a few early summer flowers, such as Paeony, Cirsium or Euphorbia (Spurge) with a bias to mid through to late summer, using plants like Anemone, Monarda or Phlox. This will prevent the border from looking tired with faded blooms.
Give plants a hidden hand – Herbaceous plants have non-woody stems so need support early – once they start to flop it is too late! Use birch or hazel sticksby weaving them to form an open dome structure for the plants to grow through. You can place them near the front of the bed for a pleasing natural effect. Larger perennials further back can be supported by 125mm plant support netting which is what we use at Newby. Tip – If you have missed the staking this year, make a note to remember earlier for next year.
Nurture your border – Monitor your individual plants for feeding and division, each plant is different with specific needs. Don’t overfeed as you will produce lush foliage at the expense of flowers and divide perennials when they are less floriferous or have a hollow centre. Remember to look after the soil, add organic matter, such as homemade compost or leaf mould, to maintain soil structure and nutrient levels. Also keep off the soil in wet conditions!
Newby Hall Gardens is marking the ‘Year of the Border’ during 2018 as its flagship double herbaceous border – one of the longest in the country – reaches peak flower power and begins to hit full maturity. The border has been a highlight of Newby’s beautiful 25-acre gardens since the 1920s and five years ago refurbishment work began to make sure it continues to wow for years to come.
Over several growing seasons, thousands of new plants were propagated or grown on and carefully planted up in a new, more naturalistic design by Newby’s expert team. This summer will see the hard work pay off when the plants mature and start to claim the stunning spacious border, which runs from the magnificent 17th century house down to the River Ure, for their own. For more information visit www.newbyhall.com