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Width for Low Upkeep

Instead of planning the narrow borders 12 to 18 inches, or even 2 to 3 feet wide, try to make them 5, 8, 10, or even 12 feet wide. To many American gardeners this is a radical idea received with horror. Yet it has long been accepted practice in England and, if there is one thing that should be adopted from the English, it is their wide herbaceous border. A wide well-planted border is a superb garden expression, completely satisfying for the entire season. Such borders provide space for larger plant groups, a more complete succession, greater variety in plants, and they also cut down maintenance. Wide borders do not need the meticulous care required by small beds and intricate patterns. Consider the man-hours necessary for edging and trimming them. Remember how difficult it is to keep edges neat, unless a permanent curbing is provided.

plate 13
Plate 13. Basic Structure of the Herbaceous Border

If you feel that the extra-wide border is difficult to cultivate, weed, spray, and otherwise manage, let us assure you that large plant groups are much more self-sufficient. Their shade discourages weeds and conserves moisture, the main purposes of cultivation. Usually two complete and thorough cultivations of a larger border, one in early spring and another in late summer, or possibly early autumn, are sufficient. Of course, the edge and foreground, especially if bulbs and annuals are used, will need more work, but these areas are easily reached. To make cultivation easier at the rear of the wide border, place a few flagstones through it to walk on.

They will never be noticed. Anyway large, well-established plant groups will stand considerable walking among them, even without your using stones. Ordinarily you will not expect to use the border for a supply of cut flowers.

The most effective way to display flowering plants in a border is to have the lowest in front, next to the pathway or lawn, and gradually grade up to the tallest in the background. Where the border is faced on both sides by a pathway, or there is a pathway on one side and open lawn on the other, the tallest plants should be in the center and the lowest along both edges. (Plate 13.)

Although such an arrangement seems obvious, it is not always carried out. Sometimes it is necessary to stand on tiptoe to admire a low-growing plant tucked in among taller ones. Sometimes, of course, this was not the way things were planned. Plants, supposedly low and compact, on occasion become giants. Stray seedlings of phlox and other tall perennials have a knack of developing unnoticed among low-growing clumps. It takes character to remove these, but removed they should be. You can console yourself that most of them would not come true to color and would only mar the effects you have so carefully planned.

The best way to design wide borders is to divide them into five or six longitudinal strips, varying in width according to the type of plants they will contain. These strips, like lines on a musical staff, are the frame on which the theme of the garden is set down and developed. (See lists of plants by height.)


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