The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Planning the extended borders


Photo: June border 2009 at the cottage

Photo: June border 2009 at the cottage

I have spent the whole day in bed. Not snoozing though. I’ve been planning the make over of our herbaceous borders. On the south side of the garden they measure 21 yards long and are 7 yards deep. On the north side the borders are 21 yards and will be about five yards deep when I extend the borders on that side this week. I’ve finished the digging on the south side and the mysterious wall turns out to be just that. Some sort of soak away. So we haven’t journeyed to the centre of the earth just yet.

When I started to plan the new borders in my mind there was too much information to hold onto. Initially I signed up to Shoot voted the best online gardening software by Which in December 2009. It does have an amazing database of plants but not so good on the vegetable front. But then I began to realise that I needed all the information on all my plants in one easy to read place so I decided to make a chart in Excel. This would contain all existing shrubs, plants and bulbs. With height, best aspect, flowering period and so on.  By noting the latter I should have decent drifts of flowers all along the borders for the summer and autumn – rather than haphazard pockets of colour.

I discovered that a lot of our established perennials could be moved to the shadier side of the garden which will release space for the sun worshippers which are queuing up pleading for a warm place.

Then I set about adding the new tubers, bulbs, perennials and annuals to the list. They have been divided into colour categories as the general plan is to have the brightest colours and white near the cottage and then graduating the colours so the darks and blues are near the yew hedge.  I have extended the borders so that they are narrower at the yew hedge end this will add extra to the false perspective and make the border seem even more generous. I’ve been meaning to do this for years but until now just didn’t have the time.

The existing hedges and shrubs set the stage for the new borders. Perennials can be moved around over the next month or so. As long as they are in position by mid May they will not need extra watering all summer.

My head is now reeling but I’m no longer feeling overwhelmed by the project. Just hoping for a sunny summer with a bit of gentle rain, regularly at dusk.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Paula

    The cottage stands on a third of an acre. This is a big garden these days in the UK and we really appreciate what we have!

    I love Peonies too. BTW you can get small lilac trees – my mum has one in her city garden.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    It’s great fun planning and dreaming.

    Hi Cookie Girl

    Yes it will be a joy, I’m really enjoying having more time to “farm” as Danny calls it.

    Hello Audrey

    Perhaps next summer!

    Hi Mandy

    Thanks for the tips. Now I have a list of all the plants and shrubs that I have and will be growing I’ll use your idea to plot the final positions. Exciting stuff.

    Hi Kate

    The rain stopped play in our garden – hence the planning in bed.

    Hi Su

    It will be fun seeing what pops up when the time comes!

    Hi Toffeeapple

    The brain work was quite tiring as there is so much information for each plant. It’s been fun though.

  2. Toffeeapple

    Crikey, such brain work! Well done Fiona, I look forward to seeing the finished garden in pictures.

  3. Sounds like you’ve been very busy. I created a new bed last year where an old shed had been. I just wish i could remember what I’d planted where – I guess it will all add to the excitement when things reappear though!

  4. kate (uk)

    Fiona, you are welcome to some of our ‘gentle’ rain….

  5. when i first started my border I did a plan on a simple graphics programme and applied coloured circles relating to each plant. The colour obviously matching the colour of the flower when in bloom and on each circle wrote a number ( relating to height) and month ( relating to flower in bloom).
    This has been added to over the years but has really helped me in arranging colours in the garden all through the year and stopped me digging up places where in early spring there is no evidence of what is about to grow. My hubby thinks its just another excuse for my endless ‘list making OCD’ but now he see’s the benefits and wonders at how there is always ‘things out’ all through from march to november and they all seem to be varying in colour.
    A day in bed sorting out your borders sounds the perfect type of gardening to me fiona 😉 LOL

  6. Wow, you will have to have an open garden one of these days.

  7. Cookie Girl

    WOW ! You’ve been busy in that bed. Must be a sense of relief to have it all written down, and oh, the absolute joy you will have of seeing it all come to life. I look foward to the updates. Well done.

  8. Magic Cochin

    Well done! Don’t over do it though – sounds like you deserved that rest.

    What a lovely project to get lost in.

  9. Holy cow! You guys must have a yard that goes on forever! How much property are you sitting on? I only have room for one little border, and it’s only forty feet long by three feet wide! And I have to cram everything I want into it, although it’s mostly for growing bee forage. I did plant some peonies, though, just because they are my favorite and I’ve always wanted some. I bought some seeds this weekend, so I’m looking forward to flowers. Next fall, I’ll get some bulbs. I’m also thinking that I should try a lilac in there somewhere, just because I can. I loves flowers!

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