Designing mixed perennial meadow plantings is all about choosing plants that work together well over an extended period of time by uniting into a living community where each has a part to play.
Books will tell you that such plantings are low in maintenance and possibly need no more than an annual tidy-up. This can be true, but mostly mixed perennial plantings need knowledgable maintenance to keep them up to the standard of the original design intention. See my earlier post on Community Planting.
Looking around my gardens at the beginning of July examples of this are to be seen.
The small entrance border that was a delight in spring is now taking a rest.
The wild geraniums and Lysimachia that flower there now have arrived spontaneously. They are charming at the moment but in a couple of weeks time this border will have its mid season tidy-up. These weeds and the wild aster that grows here will be pulled out. Some of their roots will remain behind and make a welcome return next year, but these plants are not going to be allowed to take over this border.
The two borders in the middle of this garden are low and filled with drifts of bulbs in spring. In summer they become green and restful, building in height to a late summer crescendo when eventually drifts of yellow rudbeckias and large clumps of miscanthus start flowering.
Some replanting was needed to redefine the edges here and stop the area looking abandoned and wild. These changes were made a few weeks ago during a period of rainy weather. With such a dense mix of large and spreading perennials this part of the garden is very low in maintenance indeed.
In early summer two long, narrow borders draw attention with the combination of the purple spikes of Veronicastrum sibiricum ‘Red Arrows’ and the flat umbells of Cenolophium denutatum. The veronicastrum will continue to contribute its seedheads to these borders for the rest of the year, but the umbell will start to form seed and create a seedling problem if I don’t intervene. Also by mid July these borders look over full and the rigorous cutting back of the umbells creates space for the grasses and heleniums which will come to dominate this area in a few weeks time.
Maintaining perennial meadows is as much about removing things as it is about putting plants together in compatible associations.