Garden border ideas: beautiful planting schemes for the garden

Love lies bleeding growing in a mixed border next to a path

Creating beautiful planting schemes for your border is simple if you follow some key rules. The main tip is to choose plants that are suited to the conditions in your garden. If you want a spectacular border, your plants need to be able to thrive and that depends on factors like whether they need heat or cool conditions, heavy or free draining soil, six hours of sun or two. There are also decisions to make around what style of border you want, including the colour scheme and the shape – it’s worth taking the time to do some research before making a dash for the garden centre. And how much time will you have? Do you need plants that are low-maintenance? Visit other gardens to get some inspiration on the type of border you want, whether that’s a free flowing cottage type border or a formal border with topiary and neat lines.

You may be constrained by things like budget, time or space and these will all affect your plant choices. If you need to save money, try growing easy annuals from seed. If you have a small garden you will need plants that are long-flowering or have several seasons of interest. For those short on time it’s important to choose plants that don’t need lots of pruning or deadheading.

Garden border ideas

Garden borders can be used in many different ways – from dividing an outdoor space into rooms, softening boundaries or making a front garden wildlife friendly. They can be curved or straight, huge herbaceous affairs or made up of a few select plants. The easiest way to make a border if you haven’t created one before is to stick to a limited palette of plants and repeat a pattern, depending on how much space you have. Choose a colour scheme to keep your display looking cohesive and make sure all the plants you pick will grow in the same conditions.


How to get started on your border

Use curved borders to create a more informal look
Use curved borders to create a more informal look

When designing a border, first decide what size the border will be. This will depend on the type of garden you have and the effect you want to create. In a small garden you might want a curved border to make the space look bigger. In a long garden, you might want to avoid narrow borders to prevent your lawn looking like a landing strip. Instead, break your garden up with the border going across the garden to act as a screen. This will help divide the garden up and create more interest as you walk through it. Once you’ve decided on a shape and size, try marking it out first before digging, to make sure it looks right. You could use a string line for a straight border or a hose for a curving one.


Think about the aspect

Shady border
Shady border

To ensure a beautiful planting scheme, the key to success is choosing the right plants for the aspect of your border. If your border is south facing, choose plants that will thrive in sun and can cope with heat in summer. ‘Right plant, right place’ is one of the most useful guides when deciding on your planting scheme.

Even if you have a north-facing border, where plants will get a lot of shade, there are still plenty of attractive plants that will flourish in this location, from foliage plants such as hostas to evergreen shrubs like Christmas box, Sarcococca confusa.

West facing borders get some shade in the morning but still get a lot of sun in the afternoon, so plants will need to be sun loving to cope with summer weather. East facing borders get morning sun and afternoon shade, which means you can choose plants that thrive in partial shade or are shade loving.


Choose your planting style

White themed border with tiarella and hostas
White themed border with tiarella and hostas

Before rushing out to buy plants for your border, think about whether you want a particular style or colour scheme. Buying with a style in mind will help avoid a hotch potch of colours and bitty planting. If you want something with big impact, you could try exotic plants with architectural foliage like bananas and palms or perhaps you like a more subtle approach with the soft colours of a cottage garden scheme. Keeping to a colour palette can also help improve the look of your display, whether you want to keep it simple with one colour or combine hot shades for something more vibrant.

Take a look at some different border styles:


How to position your plants

Kew borders. Richard Wilford
Kew borders. Richard Wilford

Once you’ve got your plants where should you put them? It’s worth placing your plants first without planting them, to see how they’ll look alongside each other, keeping in mind design tips like planting in threes or fives, and placing tall plants such as delphiniums or fennel at the back, which will also help cover boundary fences or walls. Don’t forget to take into account each plant’s mature size, when working out how many plants you can fit in. Once your border is established, if there are gaps throughout the growing season, try filling them with annuals, which will provide colour. You can sow some yourself and have small plants ready or buy plug plants as you need them.

Find plant suggestions here:


Top plants for borders in problem spots

Shady border
Shady border

Planting up a border in a problem spot such as shade or in soil types, like clay, can be tricky, but it can also be an opportunity to explore different plants. With a bit of research, getting the right plants for your problem area can transform a border and create a spectacular display. Shady borders can be filled with dramatic foliage and light coloured flowers to create a calm, peaceful part of the garden.

Choosing plants that thrive in your soil type will make gardening easier and save you money on replacement plants. Plants in the right location will also need less care and time spent on them.

Find some inspiring plant choices:

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