Arley Hall’s Double Herbaceous Borders In Their Summer Glory

Arley Hall's double herbaceous borders in full bloom
View of the double borders in summer with The Alcove (left) and the entrance (right)

The grand sweep of the double herbaceous borders at Arley Hall Gardens has been delighting gardeners for about two centuries: this is one of the oldest examples of its type to be seen anywhere in the world. Exuberant summer perennials fill long, parallel borders, the garden’s brick wall and formal topiary hedging providing a traditional backdrop.

When you first walk in through the huge, decorative gates in summer and turn to see the flower borders stretching out before you, behind you, to either side, it’s hard to know where to look first.

Helenium, phlox, crocosmia and sedum in Arley Hall's herbaceous border
Helenium, phlox, crocosmia and sedum in a corner of the border

The garden is close enough and has a strong enough allure to draw me in at least once or twice each year, foraging for my floral fix like an oversized, earth-bound bee.

Lythrum, leucanthemum, phlox and echinops
Lythrum, leucanthemum, phlox and echinops

This won’t be a text-heavy post – I’m trusting that these pictures will give a good enough flavour of the plant combinations favoured at Arley Hall, and the scale and depth of the planting.

Blue geraniums in a perennial border
Hardy geraniums help get the season off to a great start

You’ll most likely find some choice examples of your favourite summer flowers here including, in my case, these purple-blue geraniums. If you missed my recent post about geraniums as companion plants, you can find it here.

Achillea ptarmica (white sneezeweed)
Achillea ptarmica’s folk names include sneezeweed, Fair-maid-of-France and, surprisingly, goose tongue.
Bees foraging on Echinops ritro
Bees foraging on Echinops ritro

The borders are a magnet for pollinators of all kinds making it almost harder to get a picture without an insect than with. Bees seemed particularly drawn to the spiky blue echinops’s small, starry flowers although, to my puny human senses, they didn’t seem laden with pollen.

Border with clumps of brightly coloured perennials
Sedum, crocosmia, lythrum, inula, phlox and solidago bathe in the sun

In truth, my senses tend to be overwhelmed by the sensations provoked by Arley’s double perennial borders when sunlight radiates not just from the flowers, but the leaves and the grass too.

Bright pink and white phlox
Phlox packs a punch

By making a conscious effort, it is possible to focus on this or that cultivar, but your eye soon returns to the whole sweep.

Arley Hall perennial border
Sequential planting ensures colour through summer and into autumn

Phlox runs into Kniphofia, then back again, with Helenium, Crocosmia, Sedum, Salvia, Astilbe, Lysimachia, Scabious, Achillea, Veronica and architectural thistles all claiming their slot. Classic perennials predominate here – tried and tested plants that can be relied on to produce their share of flowers as rent for the space.

Variegated loosestrife backlit by the sun
Variegated lysimachia punctata looks beautiful backlit by the sun

In the summer, the garden is like a swan, floating serenely, showing few signs of the furious paddling that goes on underneath the surface, but this is not a low maintenance garden. Most winters, our wet Northern English climate means that some of the plants have to be replaced. Arley’s watchful gardeners have learned to anticipate and plug any holes with new plants.

For a glimpse of the herbaceous border as it is in January (quite a contrast) check out Arley Hall’s video of Dave Groom working in the border while the plants are dormant and if you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands, all my posts about Arley Hall Gardens are here.

This rainy day post was triggered when today’s weather upset our plans, sending me back to thoughts of summer. I hope these flowers will bring some brightness to your day.

42 Replies to “Arley Hall’s Double Herbaceous Borders In Their Summer Glory”

  1. Beautiful! I’d love to visit in person, but your photos are gorgeous and capture the loveliness of this place well.

    1. It is a treat. At different times in the season, different parts of the garden come to the fore and I often find new things when I visit. I was amazed to find swathes of tall fritillarias in woodland earlier in the year. They were the foxy type, and I was drawn to them by their scent.

    1. Have you had a chance to visit, Margaret? They have a lot more than I’m showing here – the twin borders are actually on the other side of a large walled garden.

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