Gardening / Perennial attraction to flower borders

A mix of Dianthus with purple Loropetalum “Plum Gorgeous” in the rear.

A FLOWER border is really a loose expression and has no definitive width or length.

Cedric Bryant.

I have received comments regarding recent illustrations of long flower borders with readers bemoaning the limitations of the standard small garden in Canberra.

But home gardeners can have a border as small as three metres long and one metre wide.

It’s important to keep in mind the height and spread of plants, which are much easier to predict with perennials than shrubs.

Anyone with the time might like to take a sheet of graph paper and draw circles in the squares representing 50 centimetres, then draw a line for groups of three or five of the same plant. These will represent the particular plant for colour effect and flowering in the various seasons.

Here are a few suggested perennials (height x width) for a small garden or border that should be available at local garden centres. All are hardy in Canberra’s climate extremes and most have been grown in our garden for many years.

There are also many varieties of the same plant, as an example Dianthus can range from pure white to deep crimson or pink.

  • Dianthus “Sugar Plum”, 30cm x 30cm.
  • Dianthus “Memories”, 30cm x 30cm.
  • Geum “Flames of Passion”, 30cm x 40cm.
  • Lychnis “Passion”, 45cm x 45cm.
  • Limonium “Perezii Blue”, 60cm x 40cm.
  • Salvia “Blue Mound”, 45cm x 45cm.
  • Salvia “East Friesland”, 50cm x 40cm.
  • Stokesia “Purple Pixie”, 40cm x 40cm.
  • Tulbaghia “Border Stars”, 30cm x 20cm.

Equally, these can be planted into a 2m x 2m garden keeping the tall ones at the back

Perennials feature in the Horticultural Society’s garden in Bruce.

NORMALLY, I am wary of mail-order plants because a buyer doesn’t really know the quality of plants until they arrive.

However, there is one mail-order nursery, Lambley Nursery of Victoria, that I have visited and the standard is excellent with an enviable reputation (

THERE are few, if any, new books on native plants specifically about the Australian National Botanic Gardens. That is until now with the publication of “Discovering Australian Flora – Australian National Botanic Gardens Experience” by Fanny Karouta-Manasse (CSIRO, rrp $35).

It is a pictorial record par excellence of life at the gardens – from the living flora to fauna, from trees and shrubs to birds, hedgehogs and water dragons, all worthy inhabitants of the gardens.

With a degree in plant biology and a PhD in marine biology, the author is well qualified to present this highly professional photographic record of our country’s incredible biodiversity. Karouta-Manasse joined the Friends of the Gardens and is a volunteer at the National Seed Bank.


  • Check out the “Fairy Wings” selection of lavenders at garden centres.
  • It is not too late to sow sweet pea seeds.
  • Feed, feed and feed every plant in the garden now!

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