Five ways to create a stunning herbaceous garden

Five ways to create a stunning herbaceous garden


Posted 20th Apr 2018


Newby Hall Gardens has one of the longest double herbaceous borders in the UK

The border is an amazing 172 metres long and packed with 6,500 plants, which means staking plants in the spring will take three days alone, whilst cutting it back in the autumn will take over a fortnight.

In charge of keeping the garden looking its best is Head Gardener Mark Jackson, who shares his tips on recreating a stunning look (albeit on a much smaller scale) in your own back garden...

1 Plant choice

You should opt for plants that grow in the natural conditions you have in your own garden. Sun-loving Mediterranean plants will not suit a damp shady border. And, it may seem obvious, but only grow plants you like, and try to get a colour theme going. However, keep it simple - 'less is more' is definitely applicable here.

2 Structure

You should also think of the different shapes and structures of the flowers. Use a vertical-shaped bloom like Delphinium, Lythrum (Purple loosestrife) or Aconitum (Monkshood), alongside cluster-shaped umbels like Eryngium (Sea holly) and Selinum, to provide contrast and interest. You should mix in heights by bringing taller, airy plants to the front, and selecting one or two plants which can be repeated along the border to create flow and cohesion to the planting. Newby uses the thistle-like Cynara (Cardoon) and Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) at the back; Anthemis and Echinacea (Coneflower) in the middle, and Geranium and Agapanthus (African lily) at the front. However, be careful when handling monkshood as it is poisonous.

3 Seasonal planting

It can be hard work to have a border at its peak all year round, so some compromises will be necessary. Consider a few early summer flowers, such as Paeony, Cirisum or Euphorbia (Spurge) with a bias to mid through to late summer, using plants such as Anemone, Monarda or Phlox. This prevents the border looking tired from faded blooms.

4 Give plants a hidden hand

As herbaceous plants have non-woody stems, they will need support early - once they have started to flop, it will be too late. You can use birch or hazel sticks by weaving them to form an open dome structure for the plants to grow through. These can then be placed near the front of the bed to create a pleasing natural effect. Newby uses 125mm plant support netting to help the larger perennials - if you missed the staking this year, be sure to make a note so you will remember for next year.

5 Nurture your border

Monitor your individual plants for feeding and division, as each plant will have different specific needs. Be sure to avoid overfeeding, as this will produce lush foliage at the expense of flowers and will divide perennials when they are less floriferous or have a hollow centre. Remember to look after the soil, add organic matter (including homemade compost or leaf mould) to maintain soil structure and nutrient levels, and be sure to keep off the soil in wet conditions.

Tips courtesy of Newby Hall Gardens





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