‘Designing a Border from Scratch’ with Lucy Hartley

Lucy Hartley

On Tuesday 17th November Lucy Hartley, an award winning Garden Designer based in Stratford-upon-Avon, joined us via Zoom to talk about the principles and pitfalls of designing a border.  Lucy started her talk by advising that a border should be viewed from different angles  She went on to say that borders should combine restfulness with interest.  The principles of designing a border are the same as those involved in painting a picture.  Lucy illustrated this by showing us an example Van Gogh’s painting of  “Starry Night.” 

In this painting there is a balance of visual mass or weight and drifts of colour leading the eye to a focal vertical point, surrounded by horizontals and some fuzziness.  The painting has restfulness through similarity and interest through contrast – this is what makes a good composition.  If the composition is right it will look good when depicted in black and white.  We were shown black and white photos of well designed borders.

Lucy went on to talk about balance, contrast and uniformity when designing a border and illustrated this with four different well known gardens showing photographs of each one in a different season.  Winter structure is important and can be achieved with  a bench, an obelisk, a bird bath, a small deciduous tree or shrub or evergreen plants, sometimes in topiary form, or grasses.  These provide the skeleton which holds the border together in the winter.  The structures give a vertical axis around which perennials can be planted.  Plants which follow one another in their flowering or foliage become the stars in different seasons and give prolonged interest.  As one collection of plants go over others come to the fore – Gertrude Jeykyll was well known for her drifts of planting which did exactly this.  

Colour is important, the more vibrant colours look well at the front of the border with the more muted, pastel colours providing a background foil.  It is always useful to take note of the colour spectrum when looking at colour combinations.  Red is a difficult colour as it can pull the eye.  Lucy showed examples where a particular colour stood out and destroyed the harmony of the border.  There are many different shades of white so, in an all white border, it is important to note that not all whites mix well together.  It is not always necessary to have flowers.  Foliage borders can be interesting.  Leaf colour is important – variegated leaves can look good and Lucy suggested that lime and glaucous greens do not go well together, choose one or the other for a more harmonious impact.

A very interesting talk and as most of us have borders in our gardens there were a lot of questions from members.  Lucy suggested that, after planting, borders usually take the first three years to establish and that after five years or so one may need to thin out or rethink.  Oh dear – there’s always something to be done in the garden!  However, enjoy your borders before they get out of control.

Photos from Lucy’s Talk:

Please join us for our pre Christmas meeting on 15th December and on January 19th 2021 when two of the BGA members will talk about their own gardens in Biddenham.  Details can be found on our website.  As usual this meeting will be open to all members and visitors.    Linda Truscott  

New members and visitors are always welcome. 
For more information contact:     Linda Truscott on 01234 270747


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