Choosing the right position of planting marginal plants

Your choice of plants will naturally depend upon the style of planting you have chosen. Native plants go with a natural or wild garden, but you are likely to choose more colour and form for a more ornamental planting. However unless you are after something that creates a very formal atmosphere, as with an occasional clump of very upright Irises then a mixture of habit, form, leaf shape and colour is essential in the choice of plants.Any way these plants are worth collecting just for their names.

Who can fail to be impressed when you ascribe such flora with such appellations as Butomus umbellatus, Lysimachia nummularia, Myosotis scorpioides, Myriophyllum proserpinacoides or even Veronica beccabunga.Using the dual tolerance of some marginals to tolerate both wet and dry, the world immediately outside the pond can be blended in with the water. A rock edge can be softened by the likes of Creeping Jenny (Lysamachia nummularia) and Brooklime (Veronica baccabunga) or the small Sisyrinchiums (S.californicum, S.burmudianum and ‘Balls Mauve’) clambering down into the water.For those of you with smaller pools it is a chance to give an impression of a larger wet area than there is in reality. In the vicinity of the pond plants like Hostas, Houttynias, Iris sibirica, Lobelia cardinalis and Mimulus are just some plants that can introduce the herbaceous border right to the pool edge. Combined with Primula and Ferns, Astilbes, Ligularia and the like, you extend the boundaries of the damp patch as well as the seasons of interest. Simon Harmen for Lilies Water Gardens, Peace of Mind, in 2004 at Hampton Court and Lilies Water Gardens with Time to Reflect in 2005; both gardens show the seamless divide between the watery margins and the plants on dry land.

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Because many marginals are spring flowering, your interest can be maintained for the rest of the season with some variegated varieties and an assortment of leaf shape and plant form. There are variegated forms of Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus variegata), a yellow clumping Rush is Carex ‘Bowles Gold’ and the popular yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus has a variegated form. A bit of a conversation piece is the ‘zebra striped rush’ Scirpus zebrinus that has horizontal stripes. For a bright splash of lush variegated foliage there is nothing to beat Scrophularia auriculata variegata (Water Figwort), with its large soft sage-like leaves.The Lythrums are one of the few later flowering graces along with the very sedate Arum Lilies like Zantedeschia aetheopica. Lobelia cardinalis with its dark red foliage and bright red flower makes a striking sight if it has survived the ravages of snail and wind. After this in early August you must turn to the Lilies in the deepwater department for your florid entertainment. Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicifolia, on the banks of the pond at Lady Farm, Chelwood, Somerset.

Instead of then planting them in rows try and get some depth to the planting even on the marginal shelf by having some in front of others. Then try using the ground cover qualities of plants like Brooklime, Parrots Feather, Creeping Jenny and Mimulus to run through the baskets as cover and basket disguise. A water garden is not a particularly low maintenance part of the garden. You may not have to mow it every week like the lawn and it only needs an eye kept on it most of the time. But when there is work to be done it is a lot of work and generally at the worst time of year. It is your choice to have a water garden and any of the work you do will be more bountiful if it is done with premeditation and with a grander scheme in mind than presenting the world with the row of sorry soldiers trying to stand to attention around the edge of the pool.

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