What is Plant Layering?
Plant layering is an art form to fill all the gaps between plants. It's fantastic for so many reasons, namely it fills all the gaps in the soil. This is the best way to reduce weeding significantly. Just crowd them out!
It's also a way to introduce different heights to a planting scheme which adds a sense of rhythm, as well as filling the garden with plants that flower at different times. It means one small patch of earth can become a never ending succession of gorgeous flowering beauty from February to first frosts and even beyond.
Lets take a look at how a narrow border can be transformed by using plant layering. In the picture below looking from plan view (from above) this narrow border is well planted using good plant spacing between these Echinacea plants, but it's clear there are many gaps in the soil.
Looking straight on (elevation view) we can see the repetition of this Echinacea is a bit one dimensional and flat looking and will only flower for a few months of the year. So much more could be happening in this space.
Going back to plan view, lets fill in all the gaps in the soil, it's fine to see a bit of overlapping on the plants. Here we've added a lavender hedge at the lawn side, giving good mid to late summer flowering and fragrance. Bees will love that. Some grasses have been added (tan circles), I'd go with Stipa Tenuissima for shape and movement and looks good all year round. Two large Verbena Bonariensis for height (large pink circles) and a large white Leucanthemum to complement the daisy shape of the Echinacea.
From early summer to late summer this soil is going to be covered in foliage. Weeds will have some stiff competition. Any bare soil is an invitation for weeds. Something is going to grow there may as well be something you choose.
Now we can see a more dynamic planting scheme with height layering and rhythm. This will give flower and scent for an extended time. Plants will flower at different times so the border is no longer static, there is good repetition of the same plants which always looks polished.
This is going to look nice in summer, but apart from the grasses all these plants will disappear into the ground for winter. But please do not worry! This is where an 'all year bloom' garden comes into it's own.
The addition of a Bulb Lasagne transforms a patch of earth that will flower for months starting in February right through to summer.
Not only beautiful in their own right, they are lifesavers for our precious pollinators who often emerge on a mild spring day to find nothing in flower.
There's nothing complicated about adding bulbs. Even if you plant them upside down they will still find a way to flower. Pick a nice day in November to January. The rule of thumb is a minimum planting depth of 3 times the bulb. The await mother nature performing her magic.
Digging in those bulbs in winter to give you spring flowers is a job you'll never regret. The joy of those first flowers after a long dark winter is salvation for the soul. They signal the end of winter and for that they are the most welcome flowers in any garden. Plus you've had your blonde grasses tossing their golden locks about all winter, more than earning their keep. Never forget to add grasses.
The earlier flowering Crocus and Dwarf Iris can be planted in the lawn - there are many other early flowering spring bulbs suitable for naturalising in lawns. Take a look at our Epic Bulb Meadow for some ideas. Tulips and Alliums are perfect bulbs to sprinkle through your borders. We have selected the best and most reliable varieties in our Spring Flowering Bulb Lasagne.
Jan to March
March to May
As your tulip foliage dies back the emergence of your summer flowering plants start to return to disguise this. The addition of large Alliums and Lily bulbs add so much more to a garden border and are well worth including. Bulbs grow around other plants so they don't take up much space at all. Check out our Bulb Lasagne page for more inspiration on using bulbs.
The wider the border the more interest it can have but with gardens getting ever smaller it's not always possible to have metre wide borders.
I hope this helps to demonstrate that even narrow borders can be transformed using the power of plant layering.
Another brilliant gap filler are direct sow annuals so check out Seed Collections
These are literally 'throw and grow' seeds. The easiest and most pleasing of all gardening. Cheap and easy and no less gorgeous for it.