Friday, 18 December 2009
Building an Herbaceous Border
Shortly after taking up a position to run the garden at Wadhurst Castle in Sussex, I was tasked with the renovation of the south facing herbaceous borders, backed by the old kitchen garden wall.
The border was about 50 metres long by 4 deep and hadn't seen any care since the 1950's.
All that was worth salvaging was an old Magnolia and some ancient climbing roses.
Since the land was pure clay,I wasn't concerned with the roses in the least, perfect ground for them. Just a severe prune and they could be brought back to life.
Magnolias are a little different, they are very slow growing so pruning had to be judicious.
The Lady of the House had an idea of what colour schemes she required and then pretty much left it to me.
Fortunately I was given a reasonable budget to bring the site back to life.
When dealing with clay, it is pointless to dig it, you are simply doing work that you can get nature to do for you.
Having cleared the ground in the Autumn I laid down a bed of spent mushroom compost, to a depth of about four inches and then in the early Winter a six inch layer of well rotted horse manure. 22 ton which I barrowed to the site by hand, I was a fit bugger then!
Simple after that, I just let the weather get at it and was ready for planting in the Spring.
Come that time, I used a mix of perennials and annuals to ensure a strong first year showing, with the intention that year by year perennials would replace annuals, but still achieve the colour combinations that the Lady wanted.
So if you love gardening, but are terrified of the potential work or the poor soil conditions, just think about nature.
Plant for the conditions that exist in your area.
Think about a colour scheme that you want and then find plants that will work in your local conditions, rather than seeing something at the local garden centre, which looks great, but may not work where you live.
I know this is easy for me to say, since I'm a plantsman, but there are any amount of quality gardening books that will tell you where plants come from and what conditions they need to grow in.
I would recommend publications by The Royal Horticultural Society as probably being the best.
Just one final comment, don't be worried about shovelling horse shit! If it's well rotted it has virtually no smell!