As we ease into fall here in Northern California, I thought I’d share with you one of the most beautiful late-season perennial borders that I’ve seen in a long time, located at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.
The original designers Glenn Withey and Charles Price, designed the border in 1991, but as often happens over time, the garden needed refreshing. In 2008, the NPA, with its community of dedicated (and talented) volunteers, worked alongside the designers to give this border a complete overhaul.
I have to laugh, as one of the group members asked me to offer any advice (from a designer’s standpoint) of ways to improve the border. Seriously? This is about as close to perfection as I can imagine and there’s nothing I would do differently! I hope you enjoy the tour…
I’m always a sucker for rudbeckias, and this variety has quickly climbed to the top of my wish list. R. subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ has zillions of 2-inch flowers with thin, delicate petals at the tip of towering 4-foot stems.
While I haven’t yet tried this in our area, my initial research says it’s drought tolerant. You can be sure I’m planting some in my garden next year! Oh, and don’t you love how it’s combined with the dark foliage of black mondo grass? Divine…
This monochromatic pairing took my breath away.
Creating a one-color border is difficult to do, as it can quickly become messy and jumbled looking. One of the solutions is to focus on each plant’s shape and form to make sure there’s enough contrast within the combination.
In this instance, the tall and wispy False Hemp in the back of the border (datisca cannabina) commands the eye to stop and take notice, while the waving thread-like flowers of the solidago and the puff-ball flowers of the shrubby hare’s ear (bupleurum fruicosum) add much-needed visual contrast.
Here you can see the impressive False Hemp planted in other areas of the border. I particularly like the way it forms an archway over the pathway. Even though it can tower to heights of 8-feet, its base remains fairly compact at 2-feet wide. These dimensions, combined with the airiness of the stems, make it easier than you’d think to tuck within a border and you can be sure I’m on the hunt to find one for my own garden.
Another stately, in-your-face beauty, is the Variegated Giant Reed Grass (arundo donax var. versicolor).
The burnished shades of an epimedium’s fall foliage usher in the changing seasons, as do the various rose hips, fruits of the dogwood and Harlequin Glorybower (clerodendrum trichotomum) and a hydrangea’s changing colors.