Ornamental Gardening Ideas and Borders

Ornamental Gardening Ideas

Ornamental Borders

A border that contains a mixture of different types of plant — shrubs, herbaceous plants, bulbs and annuals — is usually the most practical type of border for a small garden. It is easy to create year-round interest and, at the same time, encourage wildlife.

ornamental gardening ideas - ornamental borders

Shrubs form the backbone of the border and provide winter interest: plant evergreens and deciduous shrubs in roughly equal proportions, including some that have fruit or berries. Climbers like clematis (z 3-9), climbing roses (Rosa spp. Z 2-7) and honeysuckle (Lonicera spp. Z 2-10) are also useful for height and shelter for wildlife. Train them on stout posts or fences.

Herbaceous perennials provide summer colour and are the best sources of nectar and seeds for wildlife in autumn. Bulbs are most important for spring flowers, bringing a welcome splash of colour: use dwarf bulbs such as snowdrops (Galanthus spp. Z 4-6), crocuses (z 4-8) and scilla (z 5-9) under deciduous shrubs or through ground cover; plant larger narcissi (z 4-9) at the back of the border where other plants will cover up the dying foliage.

Use annuals to fill in any spaces in the border, particularly in the early years while the shrubs mature. You can even plant pots of half-hardy bedding to fill a temporary gap.

Growing conditions

There are ornamental plants to suit almost any garden situation — dry, wet, sunny or shady — therefore, sites that would not be suitable for fruit or vegetables can be put to good use. However, the widest range of plants will grow in sunny, sheltered places, and beneficial insects will favour flowers in such spots.

An over-rich soil can encourage leaf growth at the expense of flowers. Use compost to improve the soil before planting, or leafmould on heavy soils. Manure is only essential on very poor soils and for a few plants such as modern bush or climbing roses which are pruned hard and need to make a lot of vigorous growth each year.

Clear the ground thoroughly before planting — once weed roots get among herbaceous plants they are almost impossible to eradicate.

Obtaining plants

Grow hardy annuals from seed, sowing them directly outside in their growing positions. They will often self-seed in future years. Half-hardy bedding plants need to be raised in trays or modules in a greenhouse and planted out each year. Some herbaceous plants can also be grown from seed, although you will generally have to buy plants of named varieties.

Be wary of accepting clumps of plants from friends and neighbours, as soil diseases and persistent weeds are easily transmitted in this way. Cuttings from shrubs are generally healthy, although even these can sometimes carry virus diseases. Specialist nurseries are more likely than garden centres to have a range of herbaceous plants and shrubs suited to particular conditions, and they should also carry varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases.

Revitalize clumps of herbaceous plants every three to four years by lifting and dividing them; dig a fresh supply of compost into the soil and plant young pieces from the outside of the clump. Similarly clumps of spring bulbs benefit from being lifted and the best replanted before they become overcrowded. Most shrubs last for many years. If you replace old roses, do not plant new ones in the same place.



Disturb the soil in an established border as little as possible. Mulch in spring to protect the soil surface and help control weeds. Leafmould is an ideal material among herbaceous and annual plants where the mulch is likely to become incorporated into the soil when you divide and plant. Fine-grade bark looks attractive in areas where there are groups of small shrubs, and coarse bark or shredded prunings can be used round large shrubs. The mulch should be sufficient to feed the plants, but top-dress with compost or bonemeal on poor soils if necessary.


Hand-weed or hoe weeds that grow through the mulch. Do not give any perennial weeds the chance to become established.

Watering In dry spells, water new plants individually using a watering can until they become established. Otherwise, try to avoid watering: overhead sprinklers can flatten the stems and spoil the blooms of flowers. In dry areas, choose drought-resistant varieties of plants.

Pruning and tidying

It is important to remove diseased foliage or debris regularly — the fallen leaves of roses with blackspot, for example. However, do not be too neat and tidy as this will deter wildlife.

Deadheading some annual and herbaceous plants during the summer can encourage more blooms, but as autumn approaches leave some flower heads on the stems to form seedheads. Remove these only when the birds have had a chance to eat the seeds.

Leave the foliage of spring and summer bulbs to die back naturally. If you cut it off while it is still green then you prevent plant foods going back into the bulb to build up next year’s flowers. In late autumn or early spring pull up dead annual flowers and cut back the stems of herbaceous plants.

Remove any dead, diseased or damaged wood from shrubs as soon as you spot it. In addition, prune the shrubs annually if necessary so as to keep them in shape and encourage flowering.

Pests and diseases

Barriers that are used against pests on organic vegetables are rarely useful on an ornamental border, which you want to be as attractive as possible. Generally speaking, if the plants are growing strongly, most pests and diseases will not cause enough damage to look unsightly so there is no need for action. Sometimes ornamentals can even act as useful nursery plants.

04. February 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Boundaries - Hedging, Fencing, Garden Landscapes, Gardening Ideas, Organic Gardening | Tags: , | Comments Off on Ornamental Gardening Ideas and Borders


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