How to care for herbaceous perennials in a gravel garden

Herbaceous perennials are very easy to look after, and they are happy to grow in a variety of conditions.  Here we’re growing a selection of sun loving plants which are enjoying the well prepared but free draining soil.

Initial planting

Soil preparation is key when planting a new bed or border, and this garden was no exception.  The 300mm of clean, screened top soil was brought in mechanically and organic soil improver was added and dug in to the soil.

The photographs below show the garden just after planting and mulching with gravel.  Photo to left below mid May 2018, photo to right below June 2018, but they would have been better planted in late March.

The plants arrived in 2L pots and were fed with a slow release organic fertiliser at the time of planting.


Just 3 months later in September…

… and the plants had already put on a considerable amount of growth.  The plants were watered daily in their first week and then were watered weekly through till September.  The odd loss did occur, mainly the Astrantias, but the rest grew well in this short space of time.  Most flowered in their first year of planting, and although later than normal, corrected their flowering time as normal in their second year.


Second year success (June 2019)

In their second summer, the borders were pretty much filled out and no gravel was visible within the planted areas.  The plants were fed in late march with a general purpose slow release fertiliser and any weeds removed as and when necessary.  These weed seeds had blown in from the surrounding fields, as the gravel is doing a great job of keeping down the weeds!


How to care for herbaceous perennials in their 3rd and 4th year

In the autumn of 2020 some of the plants will need to be removed where others are taking over and weaker plants thinned out.  Some will require splitting (dividing) and can be moved elsewhere in the garden.  We’ll carry on feeding annually in spring, and some of the Lavender and Stipa grasses will need refreshing, but we’ll be taking cuttings and growing from seed (although with the stipa, its usually pretty happy to ‘wander’ if you let it.

How to care for herbaceous perennials in winter

The planting show below is the winter of 2018/19, just 8 months after planting!  The frost sits on the faded, dried flowers and foliage and looks wonderful.  Many ‘tidy gardeners’ cut back their herbaceous plants too early (in November), but I think that is a real shame, because they lose this beautiful ‘decay’.  Some see this as ‘dead and messy’, other beauty and structure – for me, I’d rather see this than a huge bare patch of soil or gravel.


Feeding and general how to care for herbaceous perennials

We cut this planting back to the ground every February, so its not long before the cycle starts all over again and we can once again look forward to the fabulous colour and textures this magnificent garden provides.

To discuss a planting scheme for your garden, contact us today and we’d love to share our magic

For more information about this project click here