Who knows? Some people think of borders as formal and edges as informal. If this is so, I guess mine are all edges.  I have lots of paths wondering around so that I can stay off the soil as much as possible.  Mostly I use edges as homes for the small plants that would get lost anywhere else.

          Storms have taken a number of my trees or their older, lower branches so I don’t have as many shady spots as I did before.  One of my favorite edge plants is CORAL BELLS (Heuchera sp) and I still have ‘Palace Purple’. These dark bronze red plants with jagged leaves were in the shade 20 years ago, but now are quite sunny and seem to be doing just as well.  The secret is for CORAL BELLS seems to be damp soil.  They come in all sizes and the smaller ones drape nicely over the edges of the path.  Lately the plant scientists have been coming up with ones of every color from almost white to nearly black.  They all seem to push their woody roots up above the soil line making it easier to divide in spring as they snap off with a few roots ready to move. I have one dark purple that has been in a pot in full sun for several years and gets a little ragged during winter but after I cut it off, it comes back better than ever. I was worried about its hardiness in a pot. The white ones have not proven so hardy for me.  It may be lack of enough chlorophyll.  The flowers come up every tall, skinny and dainty.  It would take many to make a bouquet. The veins are outstanding in all of them.  Their hybridizers have given them neat names such as ‘Rain of Fire’, ‘Splish Splash’, ‘Chocolate Ruffles’, and ‘White Cloud’, etc.  Hope Robb started a package of seed and brought me a few babies that I think are all going to be dark ones.

          In a hot dry area, LAMBS EARS (Stachys sp.), also known as BETONY or HEDGE NETTLE, won’t survive in a wet area.  Most of the species are creeping and will root where they land and their leaves are fuzzy, about 3 inches long.  Now in the last few years there are several who have leaves ten inches long. ‘Big Ears’ is an example.  One summer I noticed a few kids out there in the parkway “petting” the sheep! One girl about a year older was explaining the plant to her friends.

          If you have rock edges as I do, the “HEN AND CHICKS SEDUM likes to be up there where their roots won’t stay wet. But be sure and set them back a little ways, as the hen has chicks all around her that can get in your path. They are hardy here in Lincoln .  The little short MARIGOLDS and ZINNIA (some of them actually creep) like these same dryish, sunny edges.  The MARIGOLDS need to be deadheaded but my favorite little ZINNIA ‘Profusion’ in red, orange, pink, or white does not.  It seems to take care of itself.  Both of these you can start from seed yourself after the ground warms up.  Both are fast growers and can be put in after you cut the bulb foliage off.

          In the shady or partially shady areas, FIBROUS BEGONIA’S never get so big they would cover your path, but they will hangover a bit to make it seem less rigid.  They are also a little less fussy about the amount of shade than are the tuberous ones. Neither one can stand frost so should not be planted too early. Also, neither one can stand soil that is constantly wet as they like damp, slightly acid soil.  Plant breeders have been working with the rhizome ones to produce some that can stand more sun.  The bulbs should be dug before frost hits them.  The fibrous ones are generally abandoned and new plants bought in the spring.  In the tropics there are BEGONIAS 5 feet tall. Another group that is grown for foliage (REX BEGONIA) usually are pot plants. They are expensive compared to the others, but those leaves are gorgeous in a north window!

          If you have HOSTA in your shady area, the JAPANESE PAINTED FERN (Athyrium sp) looks good in front with their colored midribs.  There are various “paints”, usually purple or red, sometimes in the stalks. They like a loose soil, a mixture of sand, soil, and leaf mold. They reproduce from spores under the leaves or they can be divided in the spring.

          Probably the easiest edger to find in spring is the ALYSSUM which will be about 6 inches high without spreading wildly.  The more common colors are white, pink, and purple.  Other colors are advertised in catalogues and you can start your own mid-February to April on well drained soil. Do not cover the seeds. Too much water equals root rot as they do well in rock gardens and crevices between rocks.

          There are dwarf SNAPDRAGONS that you can get in a number of colors that never get over 12 inches.  They tend to sprawl a little which is what I want in my rock edges.  They bloom fairly early, take a rest period during heat, and then bloom again until frosted rather heavily.  I also have a dwarf purple MONARDA that likes high shade and spreads slowly by its roots.

Copyright 2009