Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Shrub Blog Series - Part Four - Border Plantings and Edging

Whether for appearance or functionality, there are a variety of beautiful plantings you can use to edge your beds. Border plantings not only distinguish the edges of your flower and/or mulch beds, but they can help to keep your beds from eroding away due to the elements, and keep specimen plantings from overgrowing their boundaries. There is definitely intersection between border plantings and foundation plantings, so we will focus on some of the more unique choices in part four of our shrub series. Oftentimes you will want to pair plantings to create a variegated look; a common pairing is that of herbs.

1. Lavender – There are about 47 species of lavender, but for our region, English Lavender is one of the better choices; so chosen due to its endurance in colder climes. Lavender grow on spikes with gray-green leaves and lilac-blue flowers. They are extremely aromatic and attract butterflies but repel ants and deer. Most cultivars grow up to 3 feet and can spread up to 6 feet. They require well-drained soil, so bear this in mind while planning.

2. Sage – Many varieties of sage exist, but the easiest to grow is Common, or Garden Sage. It flowers for about a month in the spring with lovely pale purple blooms. The leaves are a gray-green color and are covered with fine hairs called trichomes; these give an interesting velvety texture to the leaf surface. Sage is a highly functional plant as well, with notable uses in the medical and culinary fields. The size of a mature sage plant will vary depending on your cultivar, but they can typically grow up to 2 feet high and 2 feet wide. Full sun and regular watering are preferred but these plants are relatively hardy and will tolerate drought, cold, and a variety of soil conditions.

3. Heather – There are over 500 varieties of Heather available in a range of colors. One of the most colorful varieties is known as “Firefly.” Firefly’s foliage changes throughout the seasons. “In summer the foliage is a bright mix of lime, chartreuse, and primrose yellow highlighted in late summer with spires of bright purple-pink flowers. In early autumn intense orange and terracotta tones slowly work their way down the stems deepening in color until late fall and early winter when the entire plant becomes a shocking, vibrant brick-red” (www.greatplantpicks.org). We love that Firefly has dramatic interest in winter, which is important when planning out a New England landscape. Firefly requires full sun and regular watering, and will grow to 2 feet high and 4 feet wide.

4. Red Barrenwort – Barrenwort is a popular choice due to its tolerance of drought, rocks, and pests. It also does nicely in shaded spots and is very easy to grow. The Red Barrenwort variety arrives in spring with heart-shaped, pointed leaves tinged with red which turn to shiny green for the summer and red in the fall. Pale clusters of flowers can be seen in mid to late spring. They grow up to 15 inches tall and 2 feet wide, spreading fairly quickly after initial growth. Watering and sunshine are preferred for best results, but it will still grow in drier soils or in shaded areas.

5. Fountain Grass – Ornamental grasses can be used in many classes of planting, but fountain grass in particular lends itself to creating soft borders for your beds. There are many varieties, each presenting different levels of spread and color. Burgundy Bunny Fountain Grass is a great choice to spice up your borders. The grass is highlighted with red throughout the summer, which changes to intense burgundy in the fall. This plant also boasts a number of cream-colored plumes reminiscent of bunny tails. Bonus: these grasses are tolerant of a number of conditions including slopes, clay soils, hot conditions, dry conditions, humidity, sand, and more. They like lots of sun and prefer moist soil. They will typically stay under 16 inches in height and spread.

6. Sedum – With over 470 species and being primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, you have many options with sedum. For a border, the creeping varieties are an ideal choice. We like the “Sunset Cloud” variety. It emerges green in the springtime, then darkens to a dusty purple. It will not grow much taller than 8 inches, but will spread up to 18. Pink-red flowers bloom in late summer to autumn. Sedum is sustainable in rocky terrains and loves the sun, but keep up with regular watering. Sedum can also tolerate cold temperatures.

7. Lady’s Mantle – The multi-purposed Lady’s Mantle is a gardening classic. It features scallop-shaped leaves in a gray-green color. In late spring to early summer, the plant produces chartreuse blooms. It thrives in shaded areas, but does prefer moist, fertile soil. Do not overwater and be mindful of humidity as it is susceptible to fungal problems. You can expect it to grow a foot tall and wide under proper maintenance. Be aware that deadheading is an important process to follow if you do not want this plant to spread far. It will stay evergreen throughout the winter, but make sure to remove brown leaves to stimulate growth.

In part five, we are going to talk about ground cover. Happy plotting!

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