Flowers to delight - and available for cutting throughout the summer

No matter what one plans to do in the garden, we are continually subjected to the vagaries of the British weather. So although we had planned to create our new flower patch kaleidoscope during this last week, it is still under construction. Part dug over, part still weed-infested (and none of them edible!) Seedlings were potted on; pots were placed in impervious trays to soak up moisture added from the rain-water barrel. Down came the rain (torrential at times) and they nearly drown! As do I as I rescue them into trays with drainage holes. The kaleidoscope will be a long time coming.

Alternative actions:

A quick fix when the herbaceous plot is late in flowering
Pots of colour add interest in an herbaceous garden not yet in flower

We could not even resort to visiting other gardens for inspiration. Our desire for utilising perennial herbaceous plants in our flower patch kaleidoscope was a new venture. My husband is unfamiliar with plants and tends to categorise by colour. I wanted something else. Rather than look in a book, I had thought to introduce him to herbaceous borders, albeit it on a grand scale. He could pick what he liked the look of for a late Spring display. We could order what we needed from the excellent selection on offer in the latest Dobies catalogues. That would at least provide the backbone to the project …. the rain continued; we would have to tackle this is different way.

An interesting exercise:

June border that could easily be copied in a small garden
Easily fitted into a small garden, this flower patch kaleidoscope is simple and colourful

So, Plan B. How to speedily transform one elderly husband from a botanical ignoramus into a gardening genius? How come that we have visited so many National Trust gardens, worked at so many major RHS flower shows, and yet he cannot recognise the majority of what he sees? It came to me that he is always looking though a camera lens, creating for me the sort of shots that I would need, often years later, for articles and blogs and artwork transformations. No wonder; he’s not assessing the plants, but the direction of the light, or lack of it. I gave him all the recent Dobies catalogues and suggested he wrote down what he liked the look of.

Flower Patch Kaleidoscope?

A perfect example of shape and structure in this herbaceous 'herbal' border
Herbs in their ‘green’ state – before flowering – are as attractive as any perennial border in full flower

Looking through a lens, and subsequent computer manipulation, poses different criteria. Rather than wandering, as one does when visiting gardens and shows, maybe he sees patches of colour, much as an artist might see a patchwork of paint. I don’t know – I haven’t asked him. As this is HIS flower patch, he should have the choice of what to grow (much as he does in his vegetable plot). We have different opinions, he and I. As probably have most partnerships. We look through his garden photo-library so that I can ascertain his likes and dislikes. Then in goes our Dobies order, taking advantage of some excellent special offers. I sneak in one or two ‘must-haves’, that I know will appeal to us both.

Selection Strategy:

Yellow and orange predominate in late summer and early autumn
An autumn herbaceous border filled with sunny colours

For those new to gardening, or anyone wanting to diversify from any current gardening practice, it’s worth considering your flower patch kaleidoscope strategy for what you will select. For a start, working with perennials will save time in the long run. There’s seasonal tidying of course, occasional division of clumps that outgrow their size, but no more digging (once the ground is prepared), and less weeding thereafter. Annuals and biennials can be left to self-seed, so that in effect they become perennials, too. When working out a master plan, think seasonality (plants that flower or are at their best in Spring, Summer, Autumn – and Winter).

All manner of decisions:

Exuberance in the herbaceous flower patch
An eclectic mixture of tall and low-growing herbaceous perennials

Other considerations are shape, height and form. By form I mean a plant’s structure – spiky or bushy, tall or compact, climbing or scrambling, statuesque or frivolous. When all those little plug plants arrive, and you’ve potted them on, make sure you divide them into their potential heights. Who wants an Angelica gigas at the front of a border, or trailing campanula hidden behind giants? Conditions are important – nature of soil, dry or damp, sun or shade? You can’t expect a plant to perform for you if it’s in the wrong place! Finally colour; although many will think of this before all else.

Herbaceous perennial planting photographed on many a garden visit
A flower patch kaleidoscope of Ray Quinton’s images – many ideas for herbaceous perennial planting

Consider the colour wheel (an earthly rainbow): red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – and all shades between. Opposites attract, and a touch of a colour on the other side of the wheel add dynamism to an otherwise one-colour scheme. A touch of orange in amongst the blue, perhaps. Colour matching is a topic for another day. It’s something we may well look out for this weekend. For high pressure is building the forecast is good, we have friends coming to stay, and a visit to the National Trust’s Hidcote is on the cards.

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