6 Stunning Garden Borders

Six clever ideas that will help you frame your garden in memorable and imaginative ways

Try using seasonal plants to add vibrant colours to your borders

Just as you might approach designing a home interior, you can create sensational garden borders with a little planning

For the most impact year round, combine bulbs, perennials and shrubs. Where to start? Take photos of borders that catch your eye when you are out and about, and of your own garden through each season. Then mix it up!

If you need help, consult the staff at your local garden centre on a quiet day. Thinking of adding zest in summer or a flourish in fall? You may not be able to buy everything at once. Mark your calendar to pick up spring bulbs in fall and winter-blooming shrubs in early spring, for instance.

Here are six strategies for creating border plantings that will never be boring:

1. Seasonal Complements

By juxtaposing complementary colours (red with green, blue with orange, yellow with purple), the vibrancy of each is heightened. Here a narrow, sunny strip in front of shrubs is planted with late-blooming tulips and ornamental onions, such as these Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ (zone 4, sandy soil). The onions have starburst-like seedheads that are dazzling in their own right. If left on the plant, little seedlings will spring up below.

2. Be Colour Conservative

If a calm retreat is your aim, constrain your colour palette to greens, whites and soft pastels. Here a clump of white Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum cultivars, zone 5) adds substance without showing off. They are complemented by the silvery-green leaves of lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, zone 4) just in front of the pond. Clumps of hostas (zone 3) carry the theme with their palest purple flowers.

3. Or Go Colour Crazy

Sometimes only a blast of colour will do. Iris was the Greek goddess of the rainbow, hence German bearded irises come in every colour except bright red. They are named for the “beard” on their lower petals, often a bright contrasting colour. Hardy to zone 3, irises revel in hot sun and sandy soil. Siberian irises (Iris sibirica, zone 4) are beardless and more muted in blue-violet or white; they are at home in average soil with other sun-loving perennials.

4. Form A Picket Line

Use a fence to provide structure to a breathtaking multi-layered display. Crowned by pink shrub roses, this border bed is stuffed with lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, zone 4) and hybrid flowering sage (Salvia sylvestris, zone 5).

5. Bloom On

One sure way to get bang for your buck is to choose long-blooming perennials. The daisy-like yellow flowers of tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora, zone 4) are the epitome of summer. Give this trusty perennial full sun and good soil with regular water and fertilizer so it doesn’t tucker out. Don’t be shy about adding long-blooming annuals to your border too. Calibrachoa (MILLION BELLS) cascade into any gap in a sunny border, and fuchsias thrive in part shade, flowering right up to the frost.

6. Be Nostalgic

Many of us grew up gardening and particular plants give us sweet memories. Peonies (Paeonia officinalis, zone 3) are sometimes thought of as traditional border plants, in part because they are so long-lived and end up being passed from one generation to another. Japanese peonies have a central cluster of petals that hold up better during drizzly summers. 

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.