DENVER — The perennial border is an English invention to group and display perennial plants. It can be adapted to almost any climate and works beautifully here. A perennial border can be straight or undulating and can be any shape or size. Here are some border basics:
1. While borders mainly contain perennial plants that return every year, they can also host shrubs, such as roses and annual flowers.
2. The plants are supposed to touch and intermingle. They shade the earth to conserve moisture and prevent weeds from sprouting.
3. Plant the tall things in the back and short things in the front. Take the height and spread specifications on the printed plant labels with a grain of salt. These dimensions aren't usually achieved in our climate so you can cut the spacing of plants down by a fourth.
4. Bark mulch is highly discouraged. It isn't good for plants. Top dress with compost as your border becomes established. This achieves the same objectives--water conservation and weed suppression--but compost actually enriches the soil, which bark does not.
5. Shop and plant throughout the growing season. If you shop only in May and June, you'll end up with a border that's pretty dull in July, August and September.
6. Group plants according to their sun and water requirements. The plants in my main borders all thrive on about an inch of water each week but this has to be adjusted depending on extreme heat or wind. There's no such thing as a "watering schedule" since it all depends on the weather.
7. Strive for diversity. Seek out plants with contrasting shapes and differing shapes, sizes and colors of the leaves.
8. Select plants that want to grow in your soil and your conditions. Don't try to defy nature; work with it.
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