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Hi all,

I've just moved and am going to try and make a cottage style border in my garden, but I'm unsure of the growing nature of the following - Iris', Papavers, Verbena Bonariensis, Gladioli and Alliums. Do these plants require their own designated growing space, or will they compete and climb up through other plants? I really want to fill my borders up and would love to have these plants, but just don't know the habit of their growth.

Also, geraniums, do they only have a small crown? I thought they were more of a scrambler and didn't have much of a base, so wondered, when it says spread 45cm - 60cm, does this mean I shouldn't fill in the ground in between, or can I plant up against them and they'll grow over over plants?


Hi Adam

Alliums will come through anything that's not too thick or tall. Verbana bonariensis will need a space. What sort of iris and papaver and gladioli? Geraniums vary in their habit. Some spead by roots, some expand slowly, some spread far and wide in summer and it all dies off in winter to starts again next year. Any idea what sort you've got?



You need to allow space for perennial plants to spread-so when you set up your border you will have gaps -in the first year as plants are getting settled rather than bare soil fill those gaps with annuals-iris,aliums, gladiolis being single stemmed flowers will just grow though.

I'm going to grow stuff roughly 2/3 the recommended planting distance for non-sprawling plants, as I need to cram in the plants. But help is appreciated in knowing what can be grown through.

Geranium-wise, I'm going for a few, Rozzane, Splish Splash, Versicolour, Pratense Purple Haze, Rise & Shine, Buxton Blue & Oxonianum Pink Lace (obviously not all in the same border).

Papavers - Pink Fizz by T&M, Orientale Royal Wedding & Grape.

Irsis' - Haven't thought of any yet.

Gladioli - Yet to have a look, but figured they could be squeezed in due to their upright habit, though I realise they will look a little dis-jointed if dotted rather than grown en-masse.


Geranium Rozanne is one of the annual growth and die back ones, lovely, weaves through other plants, pratense is taller and stiff but inclined to fall over for me. Splish splash is a pratense. versicolor is quietly nice not dramatic front of the border likes bit of shade.  I haven't grown the others.

Oriental poppies are spectacular in their moment then die back and need something in front of them to hide the dying leaves. Don't know pink fizz. 

Lots of different species of iris, all different requirements

Think carefully about glads, they are spectacular but to my mind don't 'fit in' easily


I know what you mean, Nutcutlet.  The smaller ones might go nicely with some of the other plants listed, byzantinus or butterfly glads (?)

Know what you mean about Glads, but thankfully there are enough varieties to match colours, etc. So Papavers - do they need their own space or will they grow through? I know about the life of the plant, as in short lived, dies back, can re-bloom if cut back to ground, but will eventually leave an empty hole. The point is, do I have to make room for them initially, or can they be planted right up against perennials when dormant? Hope I'm making sense

Also, just to give you an idea of scale, the border is an 'L' shape, with one part 3.3m x 1.5m and 3.1m x 1.5m. They were going to be based on thirds at 1.2m, but I wouldn't have been able to use the space hungry Lupins, Digitalis or Delphs. As it is I'm gutted because I know I just can't fit in Acanthus Mollis Bears Breaches


The papavers will need space like everything else. They spread their leaves out and so will the next plant the strongest will win and the weakest get swamped.

Gardening Grandma

I have papavers growing cheek by jowl with vigorous plants. The flowers come through and show up well and the leaves, which are not particularly beautiful, are hidden by the other plants. I do think they'd do better and have more impact if they had more space, and I'm trying to give them a bit more. However, they don't much like being moved, so it is the other plants which will probably have to be moved.

Bearded irised need to bake in the sin and don't look wonderful in a crowded border, I think. They don't flower for long, either, and I'm thinking of taking mine out.

I have also planted things closer than the recommended distance apart. It works, but there is a need to be vigilant and cut back at least the outer leaves of plants that would usually be allowed to die back naturally. Otherwise, you just get a disorganised mess. That cottage look is a lot less haphazard than it appears and is actually quite a lot of work.

Thanks guys. I think based on advice, I'm not gona bother with Iris', Papavers or Glads. I'll make room for Bonariensis as it's more transparent, and I'll make room for Alliums, as the advice is they'll grow up through less vigorous plants.

Looking forward to May time when I can start planting up the beds. I've never grown in a garden bigger than 7', so am very excited, even if there is a lot of work involved, but hey, ait's all part of the fun! Cheers guys!!


It is a shame you can't make space for Delphiniums; I cannot resist them in my tiny flower beds, they survive, they get hacked down after the first flowering and bounce back for a late summer blooming. I quite like the overcrowded look.


Have you got any spring flowering bulbs coming through now? If so, and you want to keep them, I'd recommend you mark where they are befor carrying on with the rest of the planting. And if you haven't, I'd maybe consider getting some, as it struck me that with your list of plants you won't get much flowering till late spring at the earliest. Bulbs can be slotted into the gaps between herbaceous perennials, and will start to die down as the herbaceous stuff gets going and hides their leaves.

Just a thought...


I think I'm going to plant some bearded irises just so I can watch them grow in the sin (see Gardening Grandma's advice).  For the rest, I've piled most of these into borders in a haphazard way and it's all produced a gorgeous jam-packed cottage garden.  What I'm not so keen on is having to stake plants - artjak - does hacking them down mean you don't have to stake delphiniums?



If you don't yet know what will come up in your garden the best advice is to wait for a whole growing season to see what grows.  Take photos and make notes of gaps to fill and plants to replace/lift/divide/remove and have some annuals on standby to plug gaps.

All plants have an optimum size or eventual size and, to do their best, need the space to get the light, water and nutrients they need to produce decent foliage and/or flowers.   Once you know what's there and can improve the fertility of the soil with mulches of good garden compost, you can think about layering plants for a succession of blooms so that, for example, daffodils get replaved by aquilegias or hardy geraniums and they get replaced by late flowering plants such as rudbeckias and heleniums.

Don't try being too ambitious too soon as you may end up spending money on plants which don't get established and die or are weak.  




KirstyB2; sadly, you still have to support them, especially here in the breezy Fens. I use those spiral metal thingys which I stab into the ground right next to the plant the moment they start growing in the spring, they then more or less look after themselves. Just check that it is all growing within the spiral.

Gardening Grandma

Kirsty, it would definitely brighten up having bearded iris if they did a bit of sinning. Recently, on a thread about the insulating  value of plants, I told people to discuss insulating their houses with pants.

I'm impressed with those who can protect their delphiniums adequately from slugs.  

Maybe Artjack stabs them with his spiral thingys.

Figrat, Artjak is a laydee!! and G. Grandma, I have never had problems with slugs on Delphs. In fact I almost never put slug pellets on the flower beds unless it is for Sweet Peas and Morning Glory, the latter being real slug magnet. I save the slug pellets for the veg; but this year am making an exception as there were SO MANY slugs when I gardened yesterday.