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Written by Mitzi VanSant   
Sunday, 01 February 2009 02:05

#35 Plants for the Front of the Mixed Border

This will be my third column devoted to the design of a mixed shrub and perennial border in the garden. This week we will discuss lower growing plants, 6 inches to less than 3 feet tall, which will create the final layer that ties the whole to the lawn or pathway.

While it is important in the taller layers to group multiple plants, as opposed to dotting them about here and there, in the front of the border it is even more critical. I like to create long swathes or bands of low growing plants that may “knit” together a series of plantings behind. It looks better if these bands vary in width, rather than simply installing a long straight row of them at the edge.

This edge is a good place to introduce bulbs and annuals to the collection of small trees, shrubs, and perennials in the border. I often plant bulbs in groups of a dozen or more in the fall, then overplant with winter flowering/cool season annuals. In the spring, after the bulbs sprout and bloom, I then interplant warm season annuals that will conceal the dying foliage of the bulbs, and provide color once the bulbs go completely dormant.

Following are some lists of plants suitable for this front of the border treatment:

Abelia prostrata Prostrate Abelia White to blush flowers over a long spring-fall season
Dalea frutescens Black dalea Violet flowers in summer, native to the Edwards Plateau
Ilex crenata ‘Helleri’ An evergreen that grows from 1 to 3 feet tall and wider, black berries follow
inconspicuous white flowers
Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ Dwarf Yaupon Holly Drought tolerant native evergreen shrub, can be
shorn or allowed to grow naturally
Polyantha or low growing Floribunda Roses ‘Marie Pavie’, ‘Pink Pet or Caldwell Pink’,
‘Seafoam’, ‘The Fairy’, ‘Popcorn’, ‘Rise and Shine’, ‘Sunflare or Sunsprite’ ‘Katherina
Zeimet’, ‘Little White Pet’, Roses are the longest blooming shrub we can grow here
Yucca pallida Paleleaf Yucca Pale blue-green leaves and white summer flower spikes
Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’ 2 ft high and wide, purple foliage and yellow flowers in
early spring
Lantana montevidensis Trailing Lantana White and lavender flowers over a long season
Pittosporum tobira ‘Wheeler’s Dwarf’ Evergreen shrub with fragrant white flowers in spring

Aquilegia canadensis Red Columbine Red/yellow spurred flowers in spring
Rudbeckia hirta Black-eyed Susan Yellow daisy like flowers in summer/fall
Coreopsis species and hybrids Yellow flowers from spring through fall
Thelypteris kunthii River fern Deciduous fern native to our area
Dryopteris erythrosaura Autumn fern New foliage has pink tints Evergreen here
Iris germanica Bearded Iris There are now reblooming forms available by mail-order
Stachys byzantina Lamb’s Ear Grey green foliage and purple flower spikes
Stachys coccinea Texas Betony Spreading plant with coral red flowers continuously
Scutellaria suffrutescens Pink Skullcap Mostly evergreen foliage and pink summer flowers
Tulbaghia violacia Society Garlic Spring to summer bloom, most often violet color
Liriope species wide variety of variegated and green grass-like plants with purple or white
flower spikes.
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides Leadwort Plumbago Deep blue flowers in late summer and fall
Agapanthus ‘Peter Pan’ Dwarf Lily of the Nile Blue flowers in summer

Narcissus species including poeticus, jonquilla, tazetta, triandrus, and bulbocodium Daffodils
I have listed several of the fragrant older varieties, but many modern hybrids will also
add color in early spring. I choose those which grow to about 16” or less in height. The
dying foliage is less obvious than that of larger varieties
Leucojum astivum Summer Snowflake White bell like flowers on long stalks in early spring
Crocus species Very early spring bloom in white, yellow, blue, purples
Muscari armeniacum Grape Hyacinth Grass-like foliage and purple flowers in early spring
Tulipa Darwin Hybrids Tulips Fussy, must be dug and refrigerated, but these hybrids are the
most successful in our low winter chill areas

For sake of space, I’m going to list by common name the best low growing annuals for our area.
Warm season: Ageratum, Wax Begonia, Impatiens, Vinca, Petunia (early) Dwarf Zinnias, Wishbone Flower, and Salvia hybrids
Cool-season: Dwarf Snapdragon, Flowering Cabbage/Kale, Dianthus/Pinks, Alyssum, Stock, and Pansy

Obviously, this is an incomplete list of low-growing plants, but contains a good start on those that work best in our area. Please consult garden books and websites such as Central Texas Gardener (www.klru.org/ctg) for suggestions and links to our local County Extension Service.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 March 2009 20:41


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