English Mixed Border / Cottage Gardens

The MIXED BORDER is a proven horticultural concept, which originated in England, and advocates a natural, less formal landscape approach. It is one of our most popular garden styles and we have practiced it in the Mid-Columbia for nearly 25 years. Small trees, dwarf conifers, and deciduous or evergreen shrubs are combined with dense plantings of suitable perennials and bulbs, to form a harmonious plant community. Annuals and climbers may also be included. The trees and shrubs provide the structure and vertical elements of the border. Perennials, ornamental grasses, and ground covers furnish flower color, later season interest, and the ground layer. The focus is not just on color, but also texture and shape of plants and garden features. Both harmony and contrast, and the balance of the two in a planting, are essential. Dwarf, columnar conifers, and garden ornaments can be focal points. Ideally, mixed borders promote year-round interest, but may favor one season, such as summer or fall. Certain plants are repeated throughout the planting area or even the complete garden, and several varieties are used in larger drifts or sweeps. This results in visual continuity and moves the eye along the border. The plantings can display an analogous color range, favoring just a few related colors, or present a rainbow of colors, expressed in a polychromatic, joyful color scheme.

MAINTENANCE AND SOIL PREPARATION: Mixed borders are spectacular to look at and provide interest throughout the year, and can also be low-maintenance if designed correctly. While dead-heading is important to prolong the flowering season, choosing long-flowering, robust plants with improved pest and disease resistance will ease maintenance requirements. If the soil has been amended and prepared thoroughly prior to planting, the plants will form a solid, continuous plant community within two years of installation, resulting in reduced weed growth and water loss. “Soil wants to cover itself” to prevent moisture loss and provide an environment beneficial to the soil food web. Well-designed mixed borders densely cover the soil during the growing season, resulting in a happy soil life and year-round enjoyment for the gardener and viewer.

The ENGLISH COTTAGE GARDEN consists of floriferous, abundant plantings, combining edible and ornamental plants. Color is a focus, and often a diverse variety of perennials and annuals are included. The plantings frequently are informal and can be naturalistic. While this is a decorative, attractive garden style, and appropriate for the avid gardener, it can be quite high maintenance, especially if self-seeding flowering plants are included. A combination of mixed border, in conjunction with a decorative vegetable garden or potager, is similar in style, but lower in maintenance and may look less busy.

Please also refer to Naturalistic Gardens and Edible Gardens.

 English Cottage Garden

In 2003, the garden depicted in the photo below was awarded a Merit Award from the Perennial Plant Association  View announcement. View article.

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Soft colors and abundant plantings harmonize with the colonial blue exterior of the residence

Soft colors and abundant plantings harmonize with the colonial blue exterior of the residence

 English Mixed Border — Marion’s Garden

This long border, separating the owner’s residence from the company’s nursery, is visible from many directions, including the home’s kitchen sink (always an important view!).  It displays changing color schemes throughout the season.

 BEFORE PHOTO
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The border prior to planting. The barbed wire fence is giving way to a custom-designed cedar fence and an English Mixed Border, owner’s garden, May 1997.

The border prior to planting. The barbed wire fence is giving way to a custom-designed cedar fence and an English Mixed Border, owner’s garden, May 1997.

 AFTER PHOTOS
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Lush plantings surround a copper birdbath in early June, owner’s garden

Lush plantings surround a copper birdbath in early June, owner’s garden

Traditional Mixed English Border, with Pencilpoint Junipers as vertical focal highlights, owner’s garden, in August

Traditional Mixed English Border, with Pencilpoint Junipers as vertical focal highlights, owner’s garden, in August 

 

Private Residence, Mt. Hood

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This long mixed border frames the south side of the landscape, and is set off by a gorgeous view of Mount Hood (on a clear day!).  Its floral bounty delights from inside the residence, and delivers abundant cut flowers.

This long mixed border frames the south side of the landscape, and is set off by a gorgeous view of Mount Hood (on a clear day!). Its floral bounty delights from inside the residence, and delivers abundant cut flowers.

 

Private Residence, Hood River:

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The entrance area to this home displays particularly vibrant fall colors, and invites the viewer to sit down and enjoy, in October

The entrance area to this home displays particularly vibrant fall colors, and invites the viewer to sit down and enjoy, in October

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