Mixed borders combine herbaceous perennial and shrubs. In plain English: a variety of colourful foliage and flowers have something of interest all year
Mixed borders developed in England in the early 20th century to combine shrubs and herbaceous plants for a great show of colour.
Over time they have extended to include grasses, and there is a greater emphasis on herbaceous perennial plants (which come back year after year), to reduce the cost and labour of planting annual plants and bulbs.
Mixed borders are by definition a mix of plants, not a formal garden feature such as a parterre, therefore they can be suited to any space, even a rustic environment or a small city garden where a formal parterre would be out of place or boring over time.
Their constant change over the seasons is part of their appeal, but they require a certain skill in planning to be successful. It's hard to imagine the space that will be taken up by plants as they grow, and resist the urge to overplant.
Plants are chosen for their appeal throughout the year, for their overall shape, flower and foliage, and for how they play off against each other.
I create mixed borders suitable to the Mediterranean climate which do not require permanent irrigation, since I don’t like wasting water, irrigation pipes crawling everywhere, and to keep down the mosquito popolation which thrives in wet areas.
Succesful mixed borders must balance variety with consistency, with some elements of repetition to avoid looking ‘bitty’, but avoiding monotony.
I have experimented with many plants in my own gardens, inevitably losing some to cold or drought, and each year I test out more plants, so I am very familiar which the plants I suggest for my own clients.
I have become attached to some favourite plants, or plant combinations, which always do well, but since each garden has its unique exposure, soil and setting, it will also suggest its star plants and happy mixes.