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Here is a real beginners question!

I have a sunny border I'm planning, it's my biggest bed to date and is also being planned from scratch as it's currently bare. It's about 8m by 2m wide and I'm envisioning a country garden style with hollyhocks, lupins etc... Here is my question though, how do you decide how many of each plant you want? Now I've written it down it sounds like a really silly question! It's just that I've read that you should plant in threes but does that mean 3 groups or 3 plants? Is this also true for planting in 'drifts'? 




  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,431

    In a formal big border, clusters of plants give more impact than dotting them about. Group the three or five together. If you are planting choice perennials, and can only afford one, use cheap annuals or biennial to fill the spaces until something like a phlox gets bigger and can be split into several to fill a space. Cosmos, dahlia seedlings, lilies,foxgloves, make good fillers. A dozen or so cosmos through a border will give a cohesiveness to it. If you have loads of money, buy three or five of each sort of perennials. in six inch pots, cluster together, and watch it go. Most of my long border, first year was cheap fillers, three years later, I don't know what to do with the cosmos, the border is full. 

  • I'm in a similar position.

    I'll be looking at height/spread and putting the pots on top of the border to see if i get an interesting combination. I'll probab change my mind several times before I plant them in though! 

  • Guess, then move them when dormant if they don't work! image

  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,431

    My "wild flower and grass" bed I did a matrix, so the plan was that a flush of hesperis was followed by a flush of ox eye daisies, etc. I had about six different sorts and spread them all through. Only one lot collapsed on top of another, some seeded too much and became thugs and it all became a bit of a mess. A bit more order in the border I think. The Poet Oudolf borders at Trentham appear very naturalistic, but if you look in spring before they get too big, they are patches of 20or so of each plant, a foot or two apart, knitting together late in season to become a large clump.

  • Ah, the planting in clumps bit is what I think I was getting at! I have already started sowing seeds in trays ready to plant in autumn because it will be so expensive to plant.

    I am planning for succession so I like your matrix plan fidgetbones. There will be a good deal of movement I'm sure Finch, I've done that in every bed I've planted so far!!! 

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,350

    I have no idea. I bung 'em in and if the effect doesn't please me they get moved, or in more drastic cases chucked/given away.

    At the moment my evil eye has fallen on that Deutzia with the double pink flowers, it stands out like a sore thumb amid more subtle planting.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Cambridgerose12Cambridgerose12 Posts: 1,138

    If you're into books, here are two I've found tremendously helpful on precisely this topic:

    Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, Designing with Plants

    Christopher Lloyd, Garden Flowers

    It sounds from your description as if you are interested in different kinds of plants but the suggested principles in the first book, in particular, are really useful and some of the plants overlap.

    Happy planting! Lucky you!

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,728

    I'd lay out what you've got. If you like the look of it: plant it. As has been said, you can always move stuff later. it's all part of the fun and it's certainly an education seeing what's worked and what hasn't. Just don't be put off by so called " mistakes". It's the best way to learn. Just enjoy it.

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,497

    Don't worry too much at first. You can research plant heights and flowering times and get it all just so and still be confounded. Plants will do their own thing in different parts of the same garden and in different years and your careful plans will gang agleyimage

    This year is a case in point. My euphorbia griffithii and my doronicums have flowered together for more han 20 years, but this year the doronicums were nearly over before the first euphorbias appeared. My lovely English iris, which stand tall and give a burst of blue to the borders before other things really get going, flowered this year as little dwarfs huddled amongst the leaves and made far less impact than usual. I expect things will be back to normal next year (at least in the gardenimage) but if I were growing them for the first time I would probably be planning a change or two by nowimage

  • Joyce21Joyce21 Posts: 15,489

    I frequently move plants when dormant to avoid having static borders and it's simple to divide them at the same time.

    SW Scotland
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