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Plant Types : Border Perennial Flowers

Using perennial flowers | Planting

Herbaceous plants do not have a true woody structure. The taller herbaceous plants, ranging from about twenty five centimetres to over two metres, are used as border perennial flowers. Pampas grass, goatsbeard, ornamental rhubarb and giant kale are all capable of over two metres.

Border perennial flowers are big enough for mixed planting with trees and shrubs, the smaller ones towards the front, taller ones to the back. There are perennial plants that tolerate the full range of garden soil and climatic conditions. There is a choice for every set of conditions, but the more extreme the conditions, the smaller the choice.

Herbaceous plants that like dry soil are best associated with trees and shrubs that like similar conditions. Often, they originated in the same plant communities. Apart from growing well, they also look well together because their special adaptations complement each other. For example, plants that like dry soil often have waxy or hairy, grey or silvery leaves; those that like wet soil tend to have lush, broad green leaves.

Using perennial flowers

In natural plant communities, herbaceous perennials form the ground layer of vegetation along with annual plants and bulbs. They can be used in the same way in the garden, filling in between shrubs. The tallest perennials are probably too big for small gardens, unless a virtue is made of their size and they are used in place of a shrub to lend dramatic effect.

Border perennials, with a few exceptions such as bergenia, acanthus, libertia and francoa, almost all die back completely in winter. This factor must be taken into account when using these plants to avoid having large gaps in a border during the dormant season.

For variety of size, outline, foliage, and flowers, border perennials easily outdo all other plants. They are at their best during the summer and autumn. Border perennials are softer in growth, more lush, and more graceful than woody plants. The two plant types used together create lovely subtle combinations of softness and strength.


In the same way as shrubs, border perennials must have the correct conditions. Some prefer dry soil, or moist soil, but most kinds do well in a sunny position in good soil. Some perennials, such as phlox, aster and helianthus, flower best if lifted, divided and replanted every few years; others, such as paeony, greatly resent being disturbed!

Some sorts will need to be supported with canes, or wire, in windy locations. However, if the most wind-prone sorts are avoided, and the others are given the shelter of shrubs, this problem will be lessened.


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