A couple of weeks ago, I bored you here with a detailed description of my oldest mixed border. I call it the rock wall border because it is fronted with a stone retaining wall and is some 35 years or so old.
Today I am going to bore you with a like description of another of my mixed borders, this one somewhat deceptively called my red border. True, many of the ingredients are indeed red, but there are some oranges and strong yellows there, too.
I would love to have more perennials in it than I do, but red perennials are not plentiful, so I have been reduced (if indeed it is a reduction) to adding into that red border foliage plants and some few annuals.
It is mostly a summer attraction, but this year it has come out much earlier, probably because I have continued to amend it with more of those foliage plants, shrubs and bulbous plants for early effect. Most of the color in the border comes later, with such hot weather contents as cannas, perennial hibiscuses, a few other red perennials, etc. Let’s take a look at what it was like in mid-April, way earlier than its color peak to come later.
The border is backed by a wood fence some 5 feet high, on which apple and pear espaliers have grown for some 20 years, with fruitless result but good effect from their tracery of branches. It is about 60 feet long and eight feet wide.
At its top (north) end, there is a big boxwood anchor, with a couple of coral colored azaleas (one is ‘Fashion’). Then, at its front, is a dwarf maroon leaved barberry, ‘Concorde,’ and back, closer to the fence, a grouping of standard nandinas for fall and winter berry color. Moving along, there is another dwarf barberry, the fairly new ‘Orange Rocket,’ with really red-orange leaves. I love it.
A few heucheras are in the border, the most dependable one being ‘Caramel,’ a hybrid of our native heuchera but with sure enough large caramel colored leaves. Further along is an old variety, ‘Palace Purple.’ Both of these have been dependable for me for many years.
Another barberry, ‘Rose Glow,’ has variegated leaves early on, which morph into a dull but good red later. I cut all these barberries back to more or lesser degree, in late winter, as new foliage is of the brightest.
We’re now right at the center of the border, which is marked by a tuteur with a red reflective gazing ball atop it. Redneck to the limit, but, hey, it’s my garden. Now, if you haven’t upchucked after viewing that gazing ball, we will continue. There is another ‘Orange Rocket’ barberry in this vicinity, another heuchera, ‘Sweet Tea,’ continuing the red theme, a purple leaf sand cherry grown solely for its red leaves and cut back a few times during the growing season to keep them that way, then one of the queens of the border, a ‘China Girl’ holly with red winter berries, grown as a standard and given to me by a special friend. It is about 4 feet tall with a head about 3 feet across.
Just in front of it is a reblooming (I hope) red azalea, great in April and we’ll see about rebloom later. The south end of the border is anchored by another grouping of nandinas and, at both ends there are large pillars of field stone hand-laid by yours truly.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.