'Zagreb' threadleaf coreopsis is a tough sun lover. Elissa pairs it with the spires of blazing star for contrasting flower color and plant form.
Tips For Creating a Gorgeous Border
- While many gardeners strive to arrange the plants in their borders like a choir, with tall ones in back and short ones in front, Elissa had the benefit of a gentle slope. "I'm blessed with elevation," she says. "Most gardeners make people look down. I want them to look up and across."
- Elissa practices a "no-bare-earth policy." She says, "If you've got room for weeds, you've got room for perennials." Properly spaced plants will shade the soil below without competing with each other for light. (When they reach full size, their leaves should just touch.)
- Instead of planting one of this and one of that, Elissa masses her perennials to create sweeps of a single color.
- Perennials, such as balloon flowers ( Platycodon grandiflorus), shown at right, are the mainstays of Elissa's plantings, but there will always be room for annuals. They bloom longer, and those that reseed fill any gaps. Elissa particularly likes growing annual poppies, calendulas, bachelor's buttons, and cleomes. Because mulch eliminates reseeding annuals, she recommends pulling back mulch in the fall to reveal bare soil in areas where you want seeds to sprout. Any extra or stray seedlings can easily be removed in spring to be replanted or shared with friends.
- When planning her border, Elissa thinks of her plantings as having "layers in time," she says. "Anyone can have a good bed in May; the challenge is having one year-round." She relies on bulbs such as autumn crocus, cyclamen, and sternbergia for blooms in fall. Interesting bark is important, particularly in winter. Lenten roses begin to bloom in January. One layer rises up to supplant the previous one throughout the year, so the season continually unfolds.
- Leaves are even more important than blooms. "Flowers are fluff--here today and gone tomorrow," Elissa says. She relies on foliage to bring the season-long interest of color, form, and texture to her plantings. Examples include the myriad shades of hostas; the fingerlike leaves of Lenten roses; and the bold, swordlike foliage of crocosmias, shown at right.
- Although it seems like an oxymoron, Elissa plans surprises. She likes contrasts and loud colors combined in nontraditional ways, such as yellow with pink, orange with red, and pink with orange. For example, in her garden, yellow 'Zagreb' threadleaf coreopsis blooms beside pink spires of blazing star. She likes to mix the different selections of bee balm together, mingling the pink, red, and burgundy blooms.
'Komachi' balloon flowers can be purchased from Park Seed Company, 1-800-213-0076 or www.parkseed.com. Sternbergia is available from Brent & Becky's Bulbs, (804) 693-3966 or www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com.
This article is from the March 2005 issue of Southern Living.