On the 15th May we enjoyed a talk on herbaceous perennials from Anne Harrison, recently retired lecturer from Reaseheath College. Anne was trained at Kew and bought her extensive knowledge to provide us with a very entertaining as well as informative evening.
She began by describing how herbaceous perennials, first brought into fashion in the nineteenth century by famous gardeners William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll, were enthusiastically taken up by the owners of English country gardens and some of the best examples can still be seen at places like Arley Hall, Waterperry Gardens, Newby Hall, and Levens Hall, as well as at Wisley and Kew.
However these types of borders on such a large scale were labour-intensive, and herbaceous borders gradually fell out of fashion during the course of the 20th century – gardens were turned over to vegetables during the two world wars, then busier lives demanded more easy maintenance gardens, using shrubs, conifers and more recently grasses.
However perennials still have much to offer the modern gardener, though today we are much more likely to use them as part of a mixed border combined with shrubs, roses and bulbs.
Anne discussed how perennials have a reputation for being a lot of work, but many are very easy to care for and when carefully chosen can, with evergreen perennials for winter, and underplanting for shrubs and roses, provide us with an extended season of interest in the garden.
She went on to discuss how to combine plants for interesting contrasts of shape and colour, and provided us with some lists of plants suitable for different kinds of soils.
This was a really enjoyable and instructive talk and we thanked Anne for inspiring us to continue with our perennials and perhaps try a few more unusual ones as well!