Creating a Life of Plenty

The Making of a Herbaceous Border


herbaceous border

I have been working diligently in the garden this spring on revamping the back flower border.  Years of neglect had allowed the once beautiful border to descend into a giant mess of struggling flowers and a bulk of invasive planting.  However, with the addition of the bees this year, my interest in the perennial border has been renewed.  Providing a beautiful border for me and a variety of nutritious fodder for the bees was just what was needed to kick start the renewal.

My partner Will and I have been selecting, placing and planting many things into the border to bring about its renaissance.  Here are some highlights


Elderberry Bushes, many of you read the blog I did on adding elderberry bushes to the border, these lovelies are now flowering and putting on quite a show for their first year.

Yellow (Golden Shower) climbing rose:  This plant is just getting started and I will begin training it up a trellis to complement the existing red rose and honeysuckle. We selected this rose for its color and the fact that it is a single bloom rose which makes the pollen and nectar accessible to the bees.

Now that the hard planting structures were in place, we set about seeking, designing and planting a selection of perennial and annual plants that would create a stunning, long lasting border.

  •  Rudbekia, also known as black eyed susan (of course her eyes come in many shades of brown as I have found).  I selected three varieties with varying color combinations but the basic repeat of yellow down the border.
  • Veronica: large pink blossoms along a cone bud provide height and beautiful color…the bees have gone mad for them.
  • Bee Balm (Monarda), large spikey flowers in shades of mauve, purple and pink to attract pollinators and to provide nectar.
  • False Indigo (Baptisia australis) is a stunning columnar stem with purple/blue blossoms along it, also a favorite of bees.
  • Aster x frikartii: Delicate-looking flowers on ultra-tough plants tolerate just about any soil type. ‘Mönch’ grows to 2 feet-tall and pumps out 2 1/2-inch lavender-blue flowers almost all year if spent ones are removed.
  • Yellow Allysium, this is one of my favorite and once established will put on a showy yellow display most of the spring, also a favorite of the bees!
  • Blue Delphinium, a striking upright stem with lovely blue, pollen and nectar rich flowers all along the multiple stems it shoots up.
  • Provencal and English Lavender: no bee habitat can be without lavender, we planted three to five of these along the border.
  • Pink Yarrow: This is a holdover from the last border that stayed…I love it and both bees and hover flies cannot resist it!
  • Pink Dianthus Firewitch has low-growing, bluish-gray leaves that stay evergreen in most climates. Its flowers are bright purplish to magenta pink and bloom for weeks in mid-spring.
  • Yellow Loostrife is another bee favorite, this is also leftover from the last border.  It is terribly hardy and spreads if you are not careful with thinning it.
  • Digitalis (Foxglove):  We added three healthy specimens to the center of the border, these will provide showy blooms and height for the middle section of the border.  The bees adore it.

I have taken several pictures of the entire 12-14’ border this year and will continue to document the progress as the year goes on.  I want to know what is in it and what comes back after the next winter as I have plans of adding a couple of warmer colors such as orange with butterfly weed and alstromeria next spring.

We utilized four pots with purple annuals to add color this year and will probably continue to use pots to augment this border as it grows and fills in.  Since purple is a color that is not widely used in the border, these will probably continue to be studies in purple.

It has been a lot of fun to design and construct this border.  It is still in its infancy, I cannot wait to see how it progresses in the coming years!

Happy Gardening!

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