Garden guru weaves border magic

Everything in the garden is flowering fit to burst at this time of year. But behind it all is a woman with a plan...

The Main Borders with their wonderful colour combinations are really coming into their own just now. Bees, butterflies and hoverflies jostle for space among the tall-flowering spikes... but they're not the only ones who're busy.

Salvia, Eryngium and Helenium at RHS Garden Hyde HallSarah Bell, Floral Team Leader, works hard to achieve these stunning borders. She beavers away all through the season recording which colours work and what combinations ‘could do better’ and ‘must try harder' so that it looks a seamless blend of colour. She's often seen bobbing up and down, camera in hand, recording colour, form and texture.

The nitty-gritty happens later on in winter when a montage of her photographs appears on the desk for further editing. Then it’s on to the nurseries to see what’s new and exciting for future planting plans. Honestly, sometimes you can see the light bulbs flashing on top of her head!

To stake or not to stake

Visitors certainly appreciate these Main Borders at RHS Garden Harlow Carr. We get many positive comments about them, both written and verbal. Visitors are often curious to know if we support some of our plantings. I'm happy to report that none of them are staked - they're all self-supporting. We interweave lovely grasses in with the herbaceous perennials and they all help to support each other.

Calamagrostis around seat with Cortaderia in backgroundA fine example of one of our favourite grasses is Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (feather reed grass) with its deep purple flowerheads.

Sarah has placed this around one of our semi-circular benches, half way down the main borders, nestled into the bed itself.

There's a lovely feeling of intimacy when you're sitting there. The grass cloaks you, tall and elegant, gently swishing in the breeze. As autumn rolls on, the whole grass turns to a bronzy golden shimmer, only serving to enhance this intimate seating area.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.