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How many different plants in a main border?

mathewdavidbrownmathewdavidbrown CambridgeshirePosts: 35
'Try to keep to just six types of plants when you plant a border,' says Matt Jackson

I love my rules of thumb, yet regarding amount of plant types in a border this is the only information I'm able to glean from a Google search (props to themiddlesizedgarden). Six seems a few too little for my liking. I'm thinking more like nine to ten for a repeated but diverse look. Any other members on here stick to an upper limit which they swear by?
Thanks
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  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 6,038
    Plant whatever you like, and don't worry about what other people think :). If I stuck to the "rule" of planting in groups of 5 or 7, I wouldn't have space for all the different plants that I want to grow. And I probably have a few dozen different plants in each area. It's your garden so you can grow as many (or as few) different plants as you want.
  • mathewdavidbrownmathewdavidbrown CambridgeshirePosts: 35
    JennyJ said:
    Plant whatever you like, and don't worry about what other people think :). If I stuck to the "rule" of planting in groups of 5 or 7, I wouldn't have space for all the different plants that I want to grow. And I probably have a few dozen different plants in each area. It's your garden so you can grow as many (or as few) different plants as you want.
    But I enjoy rules, Jenny. :wink: I like adhering to the rule of thirds, the golden ratio and such. Nifty design tricks which to a casual observer may not be apparent. As tempting as it can be to go full smorgasbord sometimes (like every time I visit a garden centre and fall in love with a bunch of new plants), I'm just a sucker for underlying order in my design scheme.
  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,729
    Any other members on here stick to an upper limit which they swear by?
    Thanks
    7. It’s been my direction of travel and guiding principle for a few years now:

    https://forum.gardenersworld.com/discussion/1013799/no-more-than-seven-plants/p1

    I haven’t got here yet. And I have one ‘cheat’ for seasonal plants. This is my latest target:

    Front Garden

    1. Roses
    2. Cotoneaster  
    3. Laurel
    4. Dogwood
    5. Taxus baccata,  yew
    6. Star jasmine
    7. Seasonal colour: Primrose, Snowdrops,  Muscari, Rudbeckia
  • mathewdavidbrownmathewdavidbrown CambridgeshirePosts: 35
    JoeX said:
    Any other members on here stick to an upper limit which they swear by?
    Thanks
    7. It’s been my direction of travel and guiding principle for a few years now:

    https://forum.gardenersworld.com/discussion/1013799/no-more-than-seven-plants/p1

    I haven’t got here yet. And I have one ‘cheat’ for seasonal plants. This is my latest target:

    Front Garden

    1. Roses
    2. Cotoneaster  
    3. Laurel
    4. Dogwood
    5. Taxus baccata,  yew
    6. Star jasmine
    7. Seasonal colour: Primrose, Snowdrops,  Muscari, Rudbeckia
    A man after my own heart. Nice one. 
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 4,436
    It depends on the size and the style of the border. As a general rule I think the idea of repetition and not having a total pic-&-mix of different plants creates a more harmonious effect. Six types might be a bit dull though, if you include plants that perform early in the year and then fade into the background a bit during late summer (think Brunneras, Pulmonarias, Primulas etc). Maybe six spring performers, six summer performers, and three or four autumn highlights. Good to have that sort of thing to aim for; in reality no one can resist adding a few extras that catch our eye along the way. That article is full of good advice, like not planting dense plants at the front (whereas airy plants like Verbena are fine at the front, irrespective of height).
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 18,379
    I am more like @JennyJ. I like a variety with flowers for every season. The rules I stick too are to plant where plants like to be, shade lovers in shade, right sort of soil to suit the plant etc.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,196
    How big is your border? It sounds very dull if there is loads of space. If I were you, I'd make my own rules, not stick to someone else's idea of what looks good.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,025
    I agree with @Loxley. It comes down to size and what you like, plus your conditions and climate. 
    If you have a huge border - as in our grand stately homes, repetition of planting is absolutely the way to go [it's been done for hundreds of years because it works] because it creates a harmonious effect. There's scope to have plants in flower for many months.
    It's not possible to do that to the same extent in a small suburban garden, but if you opt for one of everything, and  they're all of a similar size and type,  it also looks wrong. It jars. The way to tackle that is to stick to a more limited colour palette, in the same way as you would with hard landscaping. Having some variation in height, leaf shape and colour, all helps. If you add a few evergreens, or shrubs/trees which have good autumn colour, berries etc to give some interest in winter, that extends the season and interest, and generally gets a more harmonious look.

    In the end though - it depends what you like though. I have one small border which has strong, clashing colours to give a lift on the many dull, grey days.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • For me the 3 most important things are balance, repetition and colour.
    Because my garden is on a hillside there are points from which I can see more than one border. I use clumps of C. Lucifer at the ends and Alchemilla along the front to give some visual cohesion. I like my colours to merge and blend and sometimes contrast and use plants of differing shapes and sizes to achieve this.  My biggest border is 12m long and on 2 tiers so reducing  plant numbers to single figures would be boring and make gardening here less exciting! I like to repeat foliage and flower shapes - iris, day lilies, crocosmias,  lots of daisies, tall spires etc, and use dahlias for and sometimes roses for colour impact.
    I don't want strict symmetry, but having more than one of visually important plants helps balance. This year my crocosmias have flowered superbly and the colours are lovely but the clumps have grown far too large and desperately need splitting so the balance is not there. I need more blues and pinks and less red and my soft yellows have almost disappeared so I need to address this. Looking forward to lots of splitting of plants for duplicates, mainly Crocosmias, Hemerocallis and Heleniums this autumn, and Agapanthus in the spring, plus one or two other things.  Some moving around as well, and adding/replacing new plants, such as Anthemis and Coreopsis 'Moonbeam', which aren't very long lived here but make a valuable contribution. I also want to add Rosa mutabilis as a centrepiece because it flowers through 2 seasons and combines several of my colours in one plant, so should help the border make sense.  Lots of salvia and nepeta cuttings on the go, and Dahlia 'David Howard' has done so well this year and grown much  taller than before, and I now have 3, not one, so I need to re-think his positioning...
    It's all part of the fun!
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,560
    Depends what you mean by six!

    In my big sunny border I have one type of tree, three of shrubs and six of perennials. Think that 1-3-6 ratio sounds reasonably restrained and harmonious?

    Well, of the perennials I have six different named varieties of salvia, three of both helenium and dahlia and one variety each of agastache, echinacea and achillea. Likewise with shrubs I have six different shrub roses, three of berberis and one variety of nandina.

    So is that 6 perennial plants or 15, three shrubs or 10? Then there are all the different heights, shapes, colours and textures. So what seems like a rigid 1-3-6 rule is, in reality, a totally unrestrained riot!
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