What is a Mixed Border?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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A mixed border is an attractive assortment of plants planted in a bed designed to border a particular garden or architectural feature such as a lawn or walkway. Though sometimes heavy on the maintenance, part of the mixed border will take care of itself. Other parts may require replanting or pruning, since the border may represent combinations of bulbs, perennials, shrubs, and annuals. Those who love to garden can definitely be rewarded by creating a mixed border, since it not only provides the opportunity to support the garden through the year, but it also gives gardeners the chance to have an arresting visual display that features the best of the different types of plants available.

For those not familiar with gardening, it may help to understand the different types of plants that could be used to create a mixed border. Perennials are flowers that tend to bloom yearly and can live for many years, provided they’re planted in the right locations and receive good care. Annuals will usually only live for a single year, and will need to be plucked and replanted the next year. Bulbs include mid-winter blooming plants like crocuses, tulips, and daffodils, and they also include some flowers like gladiolus that bloom in the spring. Shrubs can be short to tall bushes, like roses and rhododendrons.


A goal in planting the mixed border is to have as much bloom time as possible. A generous scattering of bulbs helps herald in the very beginning of spring, or may provide great color before many other plants begin to flower. In early spring, people can add additional terrific color to their border by planting lovely annuals such as pansies, impatiens, or others.

Meanwhile, perennial plants could be spreading through the garden, such as calendula or others, providing green ground cover and tiny blossoms. Later, bulbs like gladiolus may start to emerge in mid spring, and perennial plants can begin to flower while wildflowers make their appearance. To extend the blooms into summer, perennial roses or other summer flowering shrubs might be useful, and for fall color more annuals such as chrysanthemums could replace earlier spring annuals.

One of the keys to a successful mixed border is making certain that plants are going to be equally healthy in the same area. It’s not a good idea to mix shade and full sun plants because one set of plants won’t do well. Another important element is judging the friendliness of plants. Planting overly aggressive plants that will compete with others can become very challenging. Choosing plants that tend to respond to similar types of food or soil can also be useful.

To get some ideas for creating the mixed border, gardeners can consult gardening books, Internet sources or chat with local nursery owners. Some people also join gardening clubs and become very wise in the way of plants. These borders are for those who love the work, as they becomes flexible changing things that need attention on a regular basis to create the most beauty.


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