Jo Arnell strips back the foliage to put in the groundwork for beautiful borders

When we look at a beautiful garden border, packed full of shapely shrubs and perennial colour it’s hard to imagine that they haven’t always been there and even harder to imagine that we could create such a thing in our own gardens. Few things (let’s make an exception for Mary Poppins and Father Christmas), appear fully formed and we all have to start somewhere. The soil is the best place to start, as this will dictate the basic growing conditions, but there are other considerations too and it pays to think about these before you start planting. It is daunting if you’re looking at a bare patch of earth right now, or worse; an inherited space filled with brambles and wayward bushes, but time and tide – and all those weeds – wait for no man, so grab your fork and spade and let’s get started.

TEST Adding a mulch in spring will help the soil structure, conserve moisture and help to keep the weeds down

Adding a mulch in spring will help the soil structure, conserve moisture and help to keep the weeds down

TEST A joyful jumble of cottage garden plants

A joyful jumble of cottage garden plants

TEST A lovely combination of spring flowering plants beneath a canopy of trees and shrubs; Annual Cosmos ‘Purity’ is a great border filler

A lovely combination of spring flowering plants beneath a canopy of trees and shrubs; Annual Cosmos ‘Purity’ is a great border filler

TEST A lovely combination of spring flowering plants beneath a canopy of trees and shrubs

A lovely combination of spring flowering plants beneath a canopy of trees and shrubs

In the Night Garden

Jo Arnell explains how to make the most of your outdoor space once darkness falls Some enchanted evening you may see me outside – mainly searching for slugs in the garden, because the cool hours of night are when they...

Contain your excitement

Jen Stuart-Smith discusses how to get creative with your pots and planters My love affair with plants started with houseplants when I was a child. As my bedroom windowsill overflowed – resulting, occasionally, in waking up with compost under my...

More than just a pretty face

Jen Stuart-Smith explores the multiple uses of some easy-to-grow garden favourites When you grow flowers for their beauty, shape and colour it can be easy to forget all the other qualities they have to offer. Some are edible, others provide...