Diploma Of The Royal Botanic Society

Soil Preparation - Gardens for Many Seasons - Colour-harmony - Flowers All the Year Round Planting and Care of Herbaceous Borders

Recent years have seen the development of the artistic side of the flower garden proper to such an extent that it is now possible for the small as well as the large owner to be provided with that most beautiful feature of English gardening, the herbaceous border.

The herbaceous border is associated chiefly, if not, strictly speaking, entirely, with hardy perennials; that is, with plants whose stems die down more or less entirely in winter, while their roots are permanent, and increase from year to year. The scope of the herbaceous border, however, is extended so as to embrace bulbous plants and bulbs (whose stems and leaves are, of course, herbaceous, i.e., soft-wooded), annuals, which last, as the name implies, for a season only, and, lastly, a certain number of tender and half-hardy plants.

Preparation Of The Ground

The essentials in making an herbaceous border are, first, a suitable aspect, and, second, a piece of ground which has been deeply trenched and liberally manured. A clay subsoil is preferable, but the surface soil in which the roots should find their home must consist of a foot at least, and two feet if possible, of mellow, friable loam, the gardener's ideal soil, further enriched and lightened by incorporating plenty of mould from a two-year-old leaf heap. A background of good shrubs, or an old wall against which creepers may be trained, will form an excellent background to the border.

In trenching the ground, mark out a space across the border between two lines, thrust in the spade, and dig out the soil to a depth of eighteen inches or two feet, unless it is extremely poor, in which case the soil below the first spade's depth only must be removed, and more material be added to increase its bulk.

All the soil dug out will be removed in barrow-loads, and deposited either at the farther end of the border, where the work will be finished, or on a plot near by. The soil at bottom of the first trench is loosened, the next trench marked out and chopped down with the spade, and turned into the first empty trench. When this has been done, manure should be added on the far side of the trench; this will have been either spread over the whole ground at starting, or be added gradually as the work proceeds. More manure, or leaf-mould, should be sandwiched between the first and the second spit, and a suitable fertiliser, such as basic slag on heavy, and superphosphate of lime on light, soils should be added. Gradually the entire border will be dug over in this way, and it should then be allowed to sink and settle down during the following week or two. If soil is known to be sour or deficient in lime, this may be added before trenching at the rate of a pound to the square yard. Ordinary quicklime may be bought and slaked, or specially prepared garden lime be used. It is well to sprinkle a soil fumigant for the destruction of vermin when trenching, especially if lime has not been applied.

In a general way it may be said that spring planting is as suitable as that of autumn, and in certain cases more profitable, for planting in cold, wet soils is very apt to result in death to a plant which demands a warm, light medium in which to establish itself happily.

Gardens for Many Seasons

Ideally, the flower garden should contain many herbaceous borders - or, rather, many flower gardens, since a border requires the right succourings and adjuncts to bring it to its best. Some of these should be gardens for special seasons - the spring garden, composed largely of bulbs and spring bedding plants; the early summer garden, blooming, roughly, from May to June; the full summer garden, which gives the main show of flowers, and will last with greater or less effect till October passes. Special "gardens of colour" can even include most beautiful garden-pictures in winter, for here can be enjoyed winter blooming shrubs and the catkin-bearing trees, and shrubs also in winter berry. A perfect colour scheme can be devised in country gardens by having a foliage arrangement only in a single border where a wealth of golden-green or grey-green (glaucous) leaved plants are available, even throughout winter, and trees and shrubs are planted with an eye to the effect of white and coloured bark at that time also.

As in the majority of cases, however, a herbaceous border in country gardens is required to be at its best throughout the months of July, August, and September, a succession of flowers, leaving as little time and space vacant as possible, must be arranged for those months. A definite colour scheme will then be decided upon, and here it is that the skill of the artist-gardener will be seen at its height.

The border should begin with the low-toned colouring of grey-green, pale yellow, and snow-white, with masses of pure blue shading to mauve to follow. Then pale pink will be introduced gradually, to be succeeded by stronger tones of pink and crimson, merging through deep yellow and orange into scarlet. It is from these last that the eye will demand respite in a repetition of the paler hues, and pass with pleasure from the strong and rich colouring of crimson, scarlet, orange, and yellow, through palest pink again, creamy yellow, pale mauves, and thus to white, ending again with a groundwork of greyish-green plants.

A scheme such as this would include the following plants, or others of similar colours arranged as indicated in the plan (page 4647)'.


1. Eryngium giganteum (foliage). Perennial.

Aug. (8 ft.)

2. Lavender (foliage). Perennial. Aug.

3. Achillea, the Pearl (foliage grey, flowers white). Perennial. Aug. (I 1/2 ft.)

4. Marguerite carnation (foliage grey, flower white). Annual. July.