Plants For Front Of The Border

A garden is only as fine as its edges”
an old adage

What is one of the first things to consider when growing a perennial flower border? Color? That is where most of us begin, but savvy gardeners plan with height uppermost in mind, as well as shape along with the all important consideration of flower color, along with bloomtime.

garden plan

That is quite a puzzle to piece together, but that challenge is one of the reasons garden planning can become addictive. At least it was for me, early in my growing passion for creating flower pictures with living plant material.

Borders aren’t the only reason to have a handy list of low growing plants for your region.

Knowing ultimate perennial plant heights will…

  • Ensure all the plants are visible and exposed to enough sun for good growth
  • Provide choices for other garden planning situations: along pathways surrounding features like mailboxes, etc.
  • Specialized use such as for rock or fairy gardens, flowering containers, underplanting shrubs and trees.

“Sea Thrift” Photo credit: Penywise

This post will try to give you a few ideas to use and a list of choices for the midsummer season in a temperate region like that of my garden in Ohio.

Tips for Choosing Low Growing Summer Perennials

 Perennial Border Johnny Jump-ups (purple/yellow) Turkish Veronica (blue) Coral Bells (red) Photo by Patrick Standish

Photo by Patrick Standish

Perennial Border Johnny Jump-ups (purple/yellow) Turkish Veronica (blue) Coral Bells (red)

When planting perennials, there are always variations in vigor (some will be invasive in your yard, while others will sulk and never live up to their potential).

Tips
  • Whenever a plant is classed as a “groundcover”, it is likely to be aggressive. That isn’t bad, but you should be aware before you plant it in your garden.
  • Just because your nursery or garden center carries a plant does not guarantee its vigor or hardiness.  Also check plantings in your city or neighborhood, parks, or nearby Arboretum to gauge how a plant grows in conditions similar to your yard.
  • Plants can move. If a plant doesn’t perform well, just move it. Famous gardeners like Vita Sackville-West often did. Even with research we don’t always get the planning right the first time. Gardening is much more successful on paper, in real life it is always in flux.

Low growing” can mean anything from ultimate height of 3 inches to upwards of 18 inches. It is something of a relative term.

Many plants of normally taller heights have dwarf varieties for the places where the taller ones are not appropriate. There are dwarf Shasta daisies, monardas, astilbes, and a number of others. Think about using low growing herbs, such as lemon thyme, dwarf lavenders, etc, and low growing shrubs, as well. These might work in place of herbaceous perennials, or alongside them.

 

photo by Patrick Standish

photo by Patrick Standish of yellow Potentilla and Veronica repens

Which Low Growing Plants Bloom During Late June, July, and Early August?

Here is my short list for a Zone 5 landscape:

Low Growing Summer Perennials

Name | June BloomsColor and HeightName | July BloomsColor and HeightName | August BloomsColor and Height
Plants for sun
Viola cornutaVarious, mostly blue and purple, 3-5 inchesGysophila repensWhite, 4-6 inchesDaylily ‘Happy Returns’Yellow, 18 inches
Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Firewitch'Hot Pink, 6 - 12 inchesGaillardia ‘Fanfare’Orange, 10 inchesSedum 'Cherry Tart'Pale Pink with dark foliage, 6 inches
Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant'Blue, 3 - 5 inchesCoreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'Pale Yellow, 12 inchesHelenium ‘Short n Sassy’Orange, 18 inches
Armeria maritimaPink, 4 - 8 inchesCampanula carpatica
'Blue Clips' 'White Clips'
Blue, White, Pink
8 inches
Erigeron glaucus (not entirely hardy)Lavender, 6-12 inches
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'Pink, 4-10 inchesNepeta x ‘Psfike’
'Little Trudy'
Blue, 8-12Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue'Blue, 12"
Potentilla nepalensis
‘Miss Wilmott’
Light Coral, 8-12 "Stokesia laevisBlue and purple, 12-18 inchesCeratostigma plumbaginoides,
Plumbago
Blue, 8- 12 inches
Oenothera speciosaPink, 6- 12 inchesMonarda 'Pardon My Purple'Fuchsia, 10-12 inches
Plants for shade
AjugaBlue, 3- 5 "Hosta lancifolia and others, various cultivarsWhite and lavender, check heightsHosta lancifolia, various cultivarsWhite and lavender, check heights
Viola CornutaBlue and purple, 3-5 inchesAstilbe simplicifolia 'Sprite (must have moisture)Pink, 10-12 "Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’Mauve, 12"
Chrysogonum virginianum, has long bloom periodYellow, 3-4”
Plants with short heights featured for summer bloom

Others to try include more of the Coreopsis verticillata, such as Coreopsis “Zagreb” or the pink ‘”Rosea“.  Many Campanulas are low growing, even creeping or trailing, including C. poscharskyana “Blue Waterfall”, and C. portenschlagiana.

 

Resources:

Handy Reference Book

A Pictorial Guide to Perennial Plants


Campanula Tussock Bellflower Seeds

Featured photo by A Holmstad