All About Martha's Border Garden, a Continual Show of Gorgeous Blooms
I saw my first proper perennial borders decades ago, in England. My then-husband had just published the garden book Visions of Paradise, and I was anxious to see the iconic landscapes in its pages first hand. The incredible examples at Sissinghur, Upton House, and Hidcote took my breath away. Their long, deep beds were packed with plants of varying sizes, colors, and shapes. They were often designed in front of high walls, along allées of trees, or against the foundations of huge, ancient buildings. I was smitten and knew I wanted to plant my own version one day.
Years later, I thought of those borders when I was constructing the 300-foot-long pergola along the driveway at my home in Bedford. I dug six-foot-wide beds on both sides of it and left a grassy path underneath to encourage strolling from one end to the other. Then I started planning. The first step was easy: choosing the colors. I had always wanted a garden rich in mauve, lavender, violet, purple, and blue, and I picked flowers in those shades. I planted clematis at each granite post in the pergola, then filled the beds with hundreds of alliums of all sizes, as well as nepeta, or catnip (which ended up being a mistake, because it spread like an invasive weed and eventually had to be moved). I also added ring-blooming bulbs, including crocuses, Camassia, and grape hyacinths, along with some comfrey.
The plants did very well, but I realized I wanted more color, so I sprinkled in a few kinds of orange poppies. Then I had another realization: The border looked beautiful for a month but stopped blooming in mid-June, which left it without flowers for two months of the summer. I decided to plant hundreds of orange tiger lilies, which we dug up from other areas, and now they explode into fat rows of tall, sturdy stems just as everything else begins to fade.
I continue to find ways to improve the garden. I recently edged it with 250 small boxwood shrubs, which delineate the beds and emphasize the blooms in summer. For a closer look, visit my blog and Instagram throughout the season, and see how a garden can be a work of art—or at least a labor of love.
By the end of May, the pergola border bursts with an array of purple flowers, including wisteria, allium, and Camassia.
A Perfect Mix
Camassia provides ground coverage, alliums add height, and wisteria covers the structure.
Alliums planted along the border include the tall 'Ambassador', giant 'Globemaster', and magenta 'Purple Sensation.'
Martha's pergola stands on eight‐foot‐tall antique granite posts from China. She wrapped each one with copper wire so clematis varietals in blue and purple hues—such as C. 'Rhapsody', C. 'Parisienne', C. 'Blue Ravine', C. 'Betty Corning', and C. 'Arabella'—can climb up easily.
Martha grows a dozen or so varieties of spiraling clematis on her farm.
Clematis for Color
By planting several different varieties of blue and purple clematis along the border, there's always more color to see.
Hundreds of tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) unfurl their spotted petals at the end of July, transforming the border into a sweep of orange, punctuated with an occasional volunteer lily or two.
Bright and Bold
Orange tiger lilies ensure color come July, and their unique shapes make for a stunning display.
The addition of sporadic pink-and-white lilies make for an unexpected pop of color against the sea of orange.