In the first of a series of updates, the Broad Walk team review the busy summer months when they prepared for the official opening of the Borders.
The Great Broad Walk Borders were officially opened on 30 June 2016 and many visitors commented on how mature the borders looked in their first season.
The Borders had actually been showing themselves off since May with the emergence of the first flowers on plants such as Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’, Salvia ‘Caradonna’ and ‘Mainacht’, Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’, Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ and Kniphofia spp. (blooming remarkably early).
As the summer progressed there were waves of colour starting with the blues and purples of Salvia and Cynara reaching skyward with its purple thistle-like flowers. Then came the hot colours of high summer with yellow Rudbekia fulgida var. deamii, orange Helenium ‘Rubinzwerg’ and bright red Penstemon ‘Firebird’. These sizzling swathes were complemented by white fluttering Gaura lindheiremi, aptly named ‘Whirling Butterflies’, the billowing white heads of Selinum wallichianum and pure white petals of Echinacea ‘White Swan’.
There was plenty for us to do. Some of the plants had been growing so well that staking had become a necessity. Ideally, this should be done before the plants come into full growth so that they are not damaged by putting up the stakes - and we have created a staking list for next year so we can prepare this well ahead of time.
In this first season we observed and noted which plants would need stakes and we are devising novel and attractive ways of keeping plants upright. Natural materials can be used to fashion practical but good-looking stakes, including willow, hazel and dogwood stems.
Irrigation was an important consideration in this first year. We have an automated system for the entire Broad Walk which we can control for each bed. When plants are establishing it is important to provide them with sufficient water to give them the best chance for survival.
Next year we won’t be so generous with the irrigation as plants will grow better if they become used to less rather than more water. It makes them stronger and more adaptable during times of drought and more resistant to pests and diseases.
With our team of volunteers, students and apprentices we kept on top of day to day maintenance tasks such as weeding and deadheading through the summer. Deadheading ensures a steady supply of flowers throughout the season since removing spent flower heads encourages the plant to put its energy into producing new flowers and not seeds.
As autumn advanced we left some attractive dead seed heads, for example Agapanthus species, which extend the season of interest and provide food for birds and insects when times are tough.
- Maija Ross and Lucy Bell -
Kew horticulturists, Great Broad Walk Borders team