Last year, my wife and I began smothering large sections of lawn in the house we moved into. We decided to create two very different garden zones on each side of the house. On one side, we’d have a traditional perennial border—an area we could constantly fuss and change. On the other side of the house, we are planning a native garden inspired by a woodland opening. The two gardens will be a kind of yin/yang—one fussy, self-conscious, and highly maintained; the other simple and evocative of particular moment in nature.
So while the future native garden is being smothered, we are busily adjusting the border. For perennial borders, my formula for creating them has gotten simpler over the years. First, I start with a handful of simple base plants (typically filler plants like grasses and reliable perennials) and then add accents plants with annuals, bulbs, and ephemerals. What I like about this formula is that I don’t have to replace the entire border to do something new. But with annuals and bulbs, I can change enough of the accents so that the border looks entirely different from year to year.