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Garden thoughts: New design for the large border

As I wrote back in August, my ideas about gardening and garden design have changed quite a lot over the last few years. When I first moved to this climate, I wanted to grow all the things I wasn't able to grow back in Europe. I loved all flowers all the time. The bigger, the better! No grasses or succulents for me. I thought they were boring.

But I've come to realize that a grass or succulent that is happy, is much prettier than a half-dead flowering plant. My taste has also developed over the years. And of course being ill, means I'm not able to spend as much time and physical effort on gardening as I used to.

While I've been ill, I've been watching British gardening programs. It started with The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. It's about six garden designers who compete about getting to design a garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The show was great! Very inspiring. As a result I've been rethinking my design choices for my own garden, specifically for the large border.

Here's an overview. There are three arches. The first one contains Rosa 'Pink Perfume', the other two hold Salvia canariensis. It looks pretty messy in the photo and also in person. I'd like something a lot more designed.
Overview of the large border from the south


Here's the hard landscaping I've got to play with. The soil is clay. The bed faces west. There's a shoulder-high wall there. The path in front is plain concrete.
Garden Plan: Hard Landscaping

This is a simplification of the current design. Even in this sketch, you can see that there's not much cohesion.
Garden Plan: Current State

Starting from the left, the perennial foxglove, Digitalis thapsi, is worth saving. I think I'll keep it here.
Digitalis thapsi

In the first niche between the arches, Senecio serpens, blue chalkstick, was supposed to be the star. It's outdone by self-sown Salvia coccinea 'Brenthurst'. The Senecio is pretty leggy. I'm thinking it's getting too much water and not enough sun. It would like better drainage, no doubt.
Salvia coccinea 'Brenthurst', Senecio serpens

Between the second and third arch, Viola tricolor is thriving. They are wonderful in spring but don't last once it gets hot.
Viola tricolor

As you could see from the plan above, Nepeta tuberosa was supposed to fill the area between these arches. There are three plants in this niche but they're clearly outclassed by the salvia. That's the greyish plant on the right.
Nepeta tuberosa

Looking down the front of the border, the ice plant, Delosperma lavisiae, has potential. It loves the location and flowers a lot of the year. The rest of the time, it forms a tidy, green mat. The pelargoniums at the far end are doing well, so far, but the middle of the border just looks muddled.
Front of large border.

In among the muddle, an Agastache rupestris is struggling in the heavy clay soil. It's a great plant and deserves a better spot. The plants in the background are self-sown Lychnis coronaria. In my garden, they produce a lot of leaves and not many flowers, even when planted in less fertile soil. It doesn't look anything like on Annie's Annual's web site.
Agastache rupestris needs to be rescued from this heavy clay.

So this is the new plan.
Garden Plan: Future

I'm going to propagate the ice plant, so that it covers the entire front of the bed. That's going to take a year or two. While that process is going on, I might just move the plants in grey to the right so that the soil isn't bare. The agastache goes into a pot, probably permanently. The rose in the first arch has always been a disappointment, so I'm going to swap it for the Salvia canariensis that I've kept behind in a pot. With the same plant in all three arches and the same ground cover across the front of the border, the look is going to be much more cohesive.

I'm not sure what to do with the two niches yet. The salvias in the arches are big and unruly. So the niches need to either compete with focal points in large containers, or be covered with low-growing ground cover that doesn't mind the shade and competition. For now I'll probably keep the senecio where it is. I might try and improve the drainage for it. I am definitely going to move the catmint out of the border and into a pot for now.


 
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