How to plan a colourful border

Plants growing in a colourful border

by Garden News |
Published on

We all dream of billowing borders packed with colour like a show garden at Chelsea, but getting them requires some careful planning. They don’t happen by accident!

Firstly, think about colours that will go well with any existing plants. If you have orange plants, team them with blues for a dramatic effect.

Great orange plants include crocosmia, geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, potentilla fruticosa ‘Tangerine’, achillea ‘Terracotta’, helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ and euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’.

As far as blues are concerned you need really strong shades – nothing wishy-washy. Try Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’, Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’, Echinops ‘Veitchs Blue’ and Salvia ‘Carradonna’.

To tie it all together include some greens, for example an ornamental grass or two, such as Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, a lime green euphorbia like Euphorbia cornigera or ceratocarpa or a similar coloured hosta, such as ‘Sum and Substance’. You then add plants as and when. For example, really dark blue delphiniums, tall bearded iris, agapanthus or lupins would all look great.

The simplest approach for a small border is to go to a good garden centre and fill a trolley with what catches your eye. Then, find a quiet corner and place the pots out. See what goes well together, what contrasts well and what needs to go back on the display! If you want to plan from the comfort of your home several nurseries produce catalogues designed to make the job more straightforward.

Four border stalwarts for colour

Phlox paniculata

In the past phlox had a reputation for being prone to powdery mildew, but not so with the newer varieties


Orange heleniums

For colour in autumn you can’t beat heleniums. Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ is one of the best


White and pink cosmos

Although it’s an annual, cosmos self seeds (but not too much to be a pain) so you’ll have plants year after year

Hardy geraniums

Purple hardy geraniums
Purple hardy geraniums

These are the plants for the front of the border, flowering for weeks and weeks on end over summer

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