Designing a Mixed Border

Designing a Mixed Border

Part of Ep. 1501 Garden Design

At Olbrich Gardens in Madison horticulturist Jeff Epping shows how rose gardens draw spectators year round.

Premiere date: Mar 03, 2007

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Normally, when we rose gardens, we think of just roses.  But a rose garden can be so much more.  We’re at the rose garden of Olbrich Gardens in Madison.  And I’m with the Director of Horticulture, Jeff Epping.  Jeff, what you’ve done here is just incredible.  Tell me about this. 

Jeff Epping:
Well, thanks.  It’s a garden we just started up a year ago, so these plants are brand spanking new.  It’s about a two-acre garden.  The whole idea was to highlight disease resistant, hardy roses.  There are so many roses out there we wanted to test them for all our visitors and show them the very best ones. 

Shelley:
You’re highlighting more than just roses in this.  This is more of a mixed border or mixed beds. 

Jeff:
It really is.  I’ve been to England a couple times and saw some gorgeous rose gardens there.  They mix all the plants together.  It makes so much sense for us in our climate, because our growing season is short.  So, you want to highlight all the types of plants so that you can get the most out of your garden. 

Shelley:
Well, let’s talk about some of the different things you’ve done in here.  You’ve got a backdrop.  It looks like you’re trying to create a colorful wall.  The purple back there is beautiful. 

Jeff:
Right, one of the purple leaf barberrys will create a nice backdrop for other flowers to be seen against, as well as the other shrubs we’ve used.  So, we want to put the taller plants towards the background. 

Shelley:
And create that backdrop. 

Jeff:
Yeah, roses like a lot of sun.  You don’t want to put them all in the foreground to create lots of shade.  You want to create a stage for all the roses and other plants to be seen against. 

Shelley:
What’s the next one beside the purple leaf? 

Jeff:
The next one is a shrub called 7 sons flower which has beautiful flowers late in the season; nice, colorful pedicles that are also as showy, and that beautiful bark during the winter months. 

Shelley:
Winter interest again.  One of my favorites, is called a red leaf rose although to me they look more blue-gray.  They have gorgeous foliage on that. 

Jeff:
It’s a rose that’s planted primarily for the foliage, but it has nice, small pink blossoms.  It’s done, the fruit are forming now.  Again, it’s a nice backdrop for other plants to be seen against with that nice sort of slate gray. 

Shelley:
I just love it. 

Jeff:
A beautiful thing. 

Shelley:
Again, because this is a mixed bed and not just roses you’ve started to interplant perennials in there.  You’ve got some purple cone flowers starting to look nice back there already. 

Jeff:
Right, and when we planted the roses we left spaces in between them so that we could plant those other plants in with it.  At this point, we have more spaces than we’d like to see because, of course, the roses are going to grow.  In some of those interspaces then, we’ll plant annuals. 

Shelley:
Excellent.  And then they’ll be there as long as you need them.  When you don’t need them, they go away. 

Jeff:
You can put perennials in there, too because they’re easy to move to a different section of the garden. 

Shelley:
We wouldn’t be complete without talking about some of the roses in the rose garden.  Some of your favorites?  Some of the ones that have proven to be hardy. 

Jeff:
Over here, we have Carefree Wonder, which is an upright growing rose.  We have pink Knockout, which is in the Knockout series.  It’s been so successful for us in our climate, because of disease resistance. 

Shelley:
And it’s bred by a Wisconsinite. 

Jeff:
Yeah, Bill Radler, right in our backdoors.  So that’s nice. 

Shelley:
You have one little rose right here on the border.  You said you would never have a garden without this. 

Jeff:
Definitely, every garden I’ve ever had has "The Fairy."  It’s a small shrub rose.  It’s super disease resistant, completely root hardy, and very floriferous.  That beautiful pink color just combines in with everything.  It’s only about two feet high, and three feet wide. 

Shelley:
Perfect in a border, too. 

Jeff:
Perfect for the front of the border. 

Shelley:
Something else you have in the border that I don’t think people think of in a rose garden is boxwood. 

Jeff:
Right, and again, it’s nice to think about what the garden’s going to look like in the dormant season. 

Shelley:
Winter! 

Jeff:
And spring.  You know, how long until we start to see color.  So, those evergreen or coniferous plants arbor vitae we have in the garden-- We have chamysiferous.  And we have a lot of boxwoods dotted here, there and everywhere, which kind of blend in right now. 

Shelley:
They add a little formality, too, which is kind of nice.  Now, another favorite combination is the lavender.  The lavender is in full bloom right now.  It works fantastic as an edging plant.  And the contrast with the roses, I mean, what more do you want? 

Jeff:
It’s a real classic plant for rose gardens.  And what’s important about it and many of the other perennials that we select-- It’s very drought tolerant.  So, the perennials or other plants you select should be at least as drought tolerant as your roses.  You don’t want to be dumping water on the perennials at the expense of the roses. 

Shelley:
Drowning out the roses. 

Jeff:
You can get black spot, or powdery mildew.  Those types of diseases love the excess moisture.  We don’t want to give the edge to those diseases. 

Shelley:
When we’re thinking about designing a mixed rose garden not just full sun, but drought tolerance.  Now, one that doesn’t look drought tolerant that is absolutely gorgeous, is the lady’s mantle. 

Jeff:
Isn’t it beautiful right now with the water droplets on the leaves and beautiful chartreuse flowers? 

Shelley:
Look at how it contrasts with the rose. 

Jeff:
You have that nice foliage that lasts the season for other flowers to be seen with. 

Shelley:
And you have another-- What a color contrast going on here-- It’s what’s your doing all over the garden, isn’t it? 

Jeff:
You try to use those backgrounder foliage plants to your advantage.  So we have a light pink flower with Carefree Wonder seen against the dark burgundy foliage of Physocarpis Diablo, which is a good hardy shrub that’s actually a native shrub, or a derivative of it.  It’s beautiful in flower, and with fruit and fall color on it’s own.  But why not take advantage of that now?  We do it with gold flowers against that dark background.  We even have bright yellow foliage shrubs, and we put a red against that, and it really pops. 

Shelley:
This is a place where people just need to come and walk all four seasons of the year to see what your rose garden looks like.  Thank you, Jeff. 

Jeff:
You’re welcome. 

EPISODE SEGMENTS+
EPISODE RESOURCES+

Buy DVD »

Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.