Beautiful borders can be the result of careful design rather than back-breaking labor if you follow our pointers.
Begin with the soil. Exert at least as much effort creating good soil as you do selecting the plants for your garden. Most gardeners find that their soil benefits greatly from the addition of high-quality compost, which helps soil retain moisture yet drain more evenly, and also adds nutrients and beneficial soil microbes. If in doubt, get a soil test from your local county extension service or garden center to determine what soil amendments your garden needs to thrive.
Be picky about plants. Give your garden the best chance for beauty by selecting plants that are well-suited to your climate and soil. Plants that are not cold-hardy in your garden, or are stressed by your droughty or rainy conditions, will be less attractive and more work in the long run. Look for native plants or their close relatives for the basis of your garden, opposite, and ask other experienced gardeners in your locale for their recommendations.
Weave in woody plants. Use flowering trees and shrubs for structure and fullness, to add height and dimension, and to visually tie your border bed to the rest of your landscape. Spring blossoms, fall leaf color, and wintertime landscapes will be more interesting with woody plants. Shrubs or small trees with edible fruit, such as crabapples, will also attract birds to your garden, which in turn will help reduce insect populations.
Consider color. Develop a color theme — two or three colors that harmonize, above, or two colors that contrast, right, are more visually effective than a jumble of all the hues of the rainbow. Green foliage can be one of those colors, or it can be a neutral that ties the garden together. Look at magazines, go on garden tours, and visit display gardens for color combos that stand the test of time.
Annuals are all right. If perennials do not have the color impact you prefer, don’t hesitate to use annuals in your mixed border. Insert a few annuals to keep color charged all summer; add low-growing annuals for greater impact along the edges or plant some to fill bare spots throughout the season. Consider planting a few self-seeders that will come back year after year.
Change can be good. If you find you have planted something that is now hidden behind taller plants, or perhaps a shade-lover is shriveling in the sun, it’s permissible to move it. It’s best to make that move in spring well before the plant blooms, or in the fall before freezing weather begins.