COLUMNIST: KATIE REYNOLDS
I have assumed that this border is south facing so has a good amount of sunshine, and has a pH of 6.5 (slightly acidic) which applies to many of our Scottish gardens. In terms of size, the plan is 10m x 4m but you can scale this up or back, depending on the amount of space you have.
When designing a planting scheme, it is best to start with the structural plants, and I always begin by thinking about what the flowerbed will look like in winter, and then build up the layers of planting so that there is interest and variety through the year.
If there is space, I would recommend a small tree such as a crabapple, Malus ‘Evereste’, which is a great variety. It has pretty white flowers in spring, and great autumnal colour accompanied by the fruits, so it works hard in terms of bringing interest through the year. It will also create height within the bed. For wildlife, the nectar rich flowers attract bees and other pollinators, whilst birds will feast on the crabapples.
The tree will create some shelter, but something with thicker cover will provide a key habitat for small mammals and birds. I would introduce a few evergreens like Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ whose berries particularly attract robins and finches. To accompany this, a number of Pheasant’s Tail Grass, Anemanthele lessoniana, dotted through the space, provide movement which is an effective contrast to the evergreens. The year round colour will particularly complement the reds and oranges of the crab apple in autumn and winter.
Once key structural planting is in place, the border can be built up with seasonal interest. For spring, I have used an abundance of Crocus truscus ‘Zwanenburg’ which are nectar rich so loved by pollinators. I have planted them in groups of 25 for maximum impact and have laced them through the border, providing a burst of uplifting purple.
Using foxgloves will create variation in height to contrast with the low lying crocus. Digitalis ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ has a soft peachy tone with flowers from May to June, and will work well with the purples in the scheme. Foxgloves are an absolute must for a wildlife garden - bumble bees simply love them.
Ground cover is also important to consider - both for you as a gardener to cut down on weeding - but also for preventing soil erosion, and providing a habitat for wildlife. Vinca minor ‘Bowles Variety’ is an evergreen spreading perennial which will provide year round cover, and has dainty purple flowers in spring which are great for bees.
Moving on to summer, a generous amount of Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ is dotted through the border. Alliums are a magnet for bees, hoverflies, butterflies, and wasps so a great addition to the scheme. These are then followed by the later flowering and smaller, Allium sphaerocephalon which lengthens interest for pollinators. They look particularly good in amongst the grasses.
To create a variety in form, both for wildlife diversity and interest to the design of the border, Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ is an essential plant to include and I use it a lot in my designs. I choose it as an alternative to lavender which tends to get leggy very quickly in our Scottish climate. Nepeta repeat flowers from late spring to late autumn and is an absolute magnet for bees.
This is then balanced with the colourful Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ which brings a burst of orange against the purple. It has a small but open flowerhead making access easy for pollinators to this nectar rich plant.
Finally onto late summer and autumn. The plant choices for this time of year are key because those with good structure will continue to hold their flowerhead as they turn to seed so that they provide a food source into the winter months. I would start with Sedum telephium 'Purple Emperor’, with its beautifully rich, purple foliage, and rounded clusters of pink flowerhead which the butterflies absolutely love.
To complement this, add Achillea millefolium ‘Terracotta’ to continue the orange hues. The open structure of the umbel-shaped flowerhead makes it easy for insects to access the pollen and nectar, and it is one of the best producers of nectar for the size of plant.
Finally, to ensure that there is variety of form in the flower bed, the slender spikes of Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavendelturm' are perfect to finish off the space, the tall spires elegantly rising up from the foliage. Bees, butterflies, and moths love them and again, the seedbeds are valuable for birds and small mammals over winter.
So there you have it, 13 fully hardy plants, repeat planted through the border to create a scheme that is rich in form, has a considered colour palette of rich purples and terracotta hues (see my article on how to use colour in the garden), but most important of all, will be an excellent habitat for wildlife, improving biodiversity, and ensuring you are doing your bit to protect our environment.
Katie Reynolds Design offers garden and interior design services across Aberdeenshire and the North East of Scotland. She is qualified in both sectors, having trained at KLC School of Design in London, and the National Design Academy.
Gardens and interiors are often treated as separate entities in the design world but Katie is passionate about integrating the two disciplines, believing that together they define your home.
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