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Thematic borders

The circles in the border design are themed to reflect the botanical and horticultural science at the heart of Kew’s mission.
31 May 2017
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Herbaceous borders

Traditional herbaceous borders are often planted against a wall or hedge, with shorter plants near the front and taller further back. But the borders along the Broad Walk can be seen from all sides.

The circles in the border design are themed to reflect the botanical and horticultural science at the heart of Kew’s mission.

Some beds are based on a single plant family or group. Others highlight various characteristics of plants.

Below are the themes of each border (with examples of star plants) from the Orangery towards the Palm House pond.

Hybrids and cultivars

Star plant: Penstemon 'Schoenholzeri'

The largest circle filled with long swathes and bold groups of colourful cultivars that have been well-proven as garden worthy plants. Lots of inspiration!

Penstemon 'Schoenholzeri' (Firebird)


Star plant: Perovskia 'Blue Spire'

Here you’ll find members of the mint family (Lamiaceae), like sage (Salvia), lavender and catmint (Nepeta), many with aromatic foliage. These are an important group of plants for Kew’s research as they have underlying medicinal uses.

Perovskia in the Lamiaceae bed


Star plant: Heliopsis 'Summer Nights'

The daisy family (Compositae) is one of the largest families of flowering plants with over 32,500 species. They are great for summer colour. The Herbarium houses around half a million dried specimens which we use to identify and classify this huge family.

Heliopsis 'Summer Nights'


Star plant: Red hot poker Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’

Germinating seeds grow either one or two seed leaves, those with one seed leaf are called monocotyledons. They make up a quarter of all flowering plants including day lilies and crocosmias. Kew carries out research on a wide range of monocots, from the classification of orchids to the evolution and economic uses of grasses.

Kniphofia cultivar in the Monocots bed

Plant life cycles

Star plant: Verbascum 'Spica'

Here we have annuals, biennials as well as perennials. Annuals and biennials produce large amounts of seed to ensure their continued survival as unlike perennials they die after flowering.

Verbascum 'Spica'


Star plant: Milky bellflower

Insects are crucial for many plants because they need help from pollinators to produce seeds. Kew scientists are developing technology which could help commercialised bees become more efficient and ensure they do not take food from wild pollinators.

Bee entering Codonopsis

Seed dispersal

Star plant: Geranium 'Rozanne'

Plants have many ways to disperse their seeds, allowing them to colonise new ground. Many seeds are dispersed by wind ike dandelion and some anemones. Other plants have seeds that stick to animals' fur and a few, like geraniums, shoot out their seeds, throwing them a long distance.

Geranium 'Rozanne'

Shade tolerance

Star plant: King's lily (Lilium regale)

Here, in the shade of the tulip trees, we have plants that are tolerant of lower light levels. These include ferns, epimediums, arisaemas, foxgloves, hellebores and Japanese anemones.

Lilium regale