There is a knack in creating a beautiful and long lasting border. You need to consider the textures, habits and silhouettes, various heights, flowering times, aspect and shapes that compliment each other. And of course the colour scheme of the foliages and flowers. Contrast is good, but random and total chaos not so good.

The perfect border requires time and experience and a lot of trial and error.

Here are a few tried and tested, winning plants combos for summer to late summer loveliness. Remember, the simplest combinations make the best ones.

The perfect herbaceous combo

Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s low’, Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’, Anthemis tinctoria ‘Sauce Hollandaise’, Anthemis tinctoria E.C. Buxton and Achillea credo.

The cottage-style dappled shade border

Blue, white purple and pink, (lovely)

Geranium “Brookside”, Nicotiana “Whisper Mix”with Digitalis purpurea “Sutton Apricot” or D. laevigata

The bright and fun border with vava voom

Achillea millefolium “Walter Funcke”, Knautia macedonica, Alcea rosea nigra and Perovskia “Little Spire”. Perovskia likes free draining soil so work on improving your clay soil before even considering it.

Another bright and fun border with vava voom

Orange, yellow and purple, yes it works.

Perovskia “Little Spire”, Phlomis russeliana, Achillea “Walter Funcke”, Echinacea “Arts Pride”, Geranium “Rozanne”

The shady border but not dull, oh no.

Matteucia struptheris, Astrantia major, asarum europeaum, hakonochlea macra or Liriope muscari with box balls. Box balls are not cheap but they are a great investment and a great foil to most herbaceous planting. They anchor and structure planting beds and being evergreen will provide shape and structure when the herbaceous plants have gone down.

The border that brings a bit of the English Countryside charm to South London

Alchemilla mollis, Geranium “Johnson Blue”, Euphorbia characias, Vinca minor “La Grave”, Penstemon “Raven”, Erigeron kanvianskanus

The “I don’t want the summer to end” border

Sedum matrona, Aster frikartii “Monch”, Verbena bonariensis “Lollipop,” Calamagrotis acutiflora, Knautia mecedonica and Erigeron annuus (if you can get hold of it, that is. I discovered it last year at the Alleyn Garden Centre in West Dulwich. It’s a fabulous plant but turns out not to be widely available. It’s worth spending time sourcing it though as it’s a plant that works hard and will flower well into the winter. It has the charm of an annual but it’s a perennial plant so will come back every summer.)

The white border

A white border shouldn’t be all white otherwise it would look flat. You need to inject hints of blue or purple and possibly some lime green.

Hydrangea Annabelle or Little Lime or Viburnum opulus, Verocanistrum virginicum, Nicotiana sylvestris, Cosmo bipinnatus “Purity”, Ammi majus, Campanula lactiflora “Pritchard’s variety”, Geranium “Orion”, Alchemilla mollis.

Plant of the month: Nicotianas (Tobacco Plant)


Nicotianas are a great family of half hardy annuals that are long flowering, many of them release a lovely scent at night. So perfect for your summer evenings. Here are 2 very good ones:

Nicotiana “Whisper Mix”

Will flower for 4 months, is moth pollinated so will pour out a lovely scent in the evening and night.

Nicotiana “LimeGreen”

Makes an excellent and unusual cut flower.

Barbara Samitier is a garden designer who lives in Peckham Rye.

This feature first appeared in the August 2015 issue of SE22 magazine.