Last post, I wrote about the importance of enclosure in creating a garden space that feels like a sanctuary. Today, I will talk about mixed borders and how to use them along with the “mounded bowl technique” to achieve a sense of enclosure in a garden.
Mixed borders are garden beds that contain different types of plants. By this I mean, evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, perennials, and perhaps annuals and bulbs too. The advantage to these mixed borders over hedges of a single type of plant, is the variety that can be incorporated into the beds. Basically you can create an interesting landscape scene just in the border.
The disadvantage to these beds if you are not careful or don’t know what you are doing, you can create a jumbled mess (trust me on this).
Your biggest ally in creating a great looking mixed border is planning. Buying plants one at a time with no plan and just sticking them where you can fit them is a lot of fun (again trust me I know this!). It is however, not the best approach. It is much better to plan.
Here are some of the questions you should consider when planning a mixed border.
What will be the shape of the mixed border?
Draw it out on paper to scale or get some hose out and lay it out in the yard where you are thinking of putting it. Areas where you think you want your border plants to grow taller, such as to block a neighbors two story house, should usually be wider. The reason is that plants that grow tall usually also grow wider.
There are exceptions such as columnar plants, so if you can’t widen the bed out for a reason you can use narrow plants to block tall views, but usually wider plants will be needed.
What do I absolutely need to screen the entire year?
The old man that reads his paper naked on the back porch. OK that needs to be blocked year around. You are putting an evergreen there!
Where will I put the small trees and large shrubs?
These have the most visual energy throughout the entire year. They should be balanced in the bed.
This does not have to mean that you put one every 20 feet, but if all you were planting were these, how would it look? Would it look balanced or would one area of the border look over planted and another area under planted?
How to achieve maximum sense of enclosure with mixed borders
There is a technique called the “mounded bowl technique” that can be used with mixed borders to create a highly secluded garden area. This technique involves adding a berm of soil around the entire perimeter of the garden area except immediately next to the house. Basically you create a “U” shape berm that with the back side of your house encloses your garden.
Then you plant a mixed border of trees, shrubs, perennials in the berm. The plants are raised in height, so they immediately create a taller screen then if they were planted at the level of the original ground. The mound of soil itself also acts as a screen and noise block.
Using the mounded bowl technique can achieve a fantastic level of seclusion. It does however require a lot of soil moved around and a blank slate of a landscape.