Meet Elliot Forsyth from Cambo Estate

August 15th 2016

Getting the most from your Herbaceous Borders

One of the foundations of the way we garden at Cambo is to ensure our borders are not only beautiful but hardworking throughout the seasons, too.  A way to achieve this is to divide the season into three distinct growth phases, these are:

  1. Pre flowering
  2. Flowering
  3. Post flowering

Isolating these three growth phases provides us with a filter to evaluate our borders and the performance of individual plants throughout the year.  I feel it is always important to get the most from borders and especially when gardening in a domestic situation where space is limited and plants have to be as hardworking as possible.

Getting the most from your three growth phases:

Pre Flowering Phase

Herbaceous Borders - Pre Flowering Phase

  • Choose plants with good leaves
  • Vary your leaf shapes contrasting and echoing them
  • Avoid too many late emergence plants as this can leave holes early on
  • Consider bulbs

Flowering Phase

Herbaceous Borders - Flowering Phase

  • Choose plants which flower for at least 2-3 months
  • Choose plants with beautiful flowers
  • Aim for no more than four months of flower in individual borders

Post Flowering Phase

Herbaceous Borders - Post Flowering Phase

  • Choose plants which can stand throughout the winter and don’t turn to mush
  • Select plants with good seed heads
  • Don’t rush to cut back in autumn, enjoy the tones and cut back in February instead.

These three phases of growth are present in every plant and every garden.  It is important to use these different phases as opportunities to extend the interest throughout the year. This makes borders work harder through good plant selection and creative placement.

Elliot Forsyth is the Head Gardener at Cambo Estate in Fife, a founding member of Discover Scottish Gardens