Friday 7 October 2011


Herbaceous plants are soft stemmed plants whose leaves and stems die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level.  They have no woody parts above ground and are dormant during the winter.

Herbaceous plants can be annuals, biennials or perennials. Annual plants will die completely at the end of the growing season, and will grow again from seed. Biennial plants such as foxgloves survive the winter until the second growing season, when they flower and die. New growth develops from living tissue such as roots or underground stems. Perennial plants such as peony and hosta survive from season to season. 

Herbaceous borders are steeped in tradition, and large country gardens often had pairs of herbaceous borders flanking long grass paths.  They were very popular right up until the Second World War when lack of labour led to many borders being dug up. Often, these borders were later replaced by lower maintenance mixed or shrub borders.

Borders are traditionally backed by tall hedges, often yew, to protect the herbaceous planting against wind and provide a stunning backdrop. They provide a succession of colour and flower for four months of the year, and are at their best mid summer to autumn.  During the winter period the borders will appear bare as the plants will die back to their rootstock.

Herbaceous borders within country estates were traditionally large, measuring 6m wide by 20 m long.  The size of the border can be scaled down to fit in a modern garden but in order to make a impact the border should be at least 1.5 m wide.

Plants within the border will require regular maintenance such as regular weeding and dead heading. Taller plants will require staking and all plant material will need to be cut down in the autumn.  Every three years many of the plants will require lifting and dividing to prevent bare patches in the centre of plants

For related articles click onto:
How do I attract bees into my garden?
How to build a cold frame
How to make compost
How to propagate using division
How to propagate from seed
Plants for free
Preparing a seed bed
Soil structure
Watering plants
What is a potager?
What is green manure?
Thinning and transplanting
Vegetable crop rotation

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