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One of the only disadvantage – well, ok, the only disadvantage – to being a professional gardener is that you never get to spend any time in your own garden. I had a lovely morning weeding through a border and sorting out an overgrown pampas grass for a client this morning – and now I don’t have time to plant the wonderful box of new plants which was on my doorstep when I got back, sent from Great Dixter’s nursery in Sussex.

There’s something truly wonderful about getting mail-order plants from a specialist nursery. It puts a smile on my face every time. My resolution for this year is to make sure they get in the ground straight away, rather than – as in previous years – languishing in some siding somewhere, usually stuffed into a pot and slowly starving while I dither about where to put it. No more! The plants currently sitting on the floor of my kitchen will be in the garden by sunset, come what may!

This is the first tranche of my shameless strategy to nick the border design from Christopher Lloyd’s Long Border and adapt it to my own main herbaceous bed. The plants are three Achillea “Lucky Break”, a Viburnum opulus “Compactum”, and three Phlox “Long Border Mauve”. These last won’t be found in any other catalogues as they’re an otherwise un-named variety which just turned up in the Long Borders one day – they’re a lovely shade, though, so I can see why they wanted to keep them. I have my doubts how it’ll manage in my sandy soil, but I’ll put loads of organic matter in the planting hole, mulch them well next spring and keep my fingers crossed.

The Viburnum will be a gorgeous focal point, though Christopher Lloyd’s book says airily “easily kept to 6′ high with pruning” which makes me gulp a bit. Not very “Compactum”, then. At the moment it’s a tiny 1ft or so – hard to imagine it in its full glory.

Right-hand herbaceous border in October 2006

This is what my very own “Long Border” looks like at the moment – can you see why it needs a re-design? It’s far too slewed towards June (when it looked gorgeous) – by this time of the year I’m down to a clump of Aster “Climax” in the back corner and a few Nicotiana for colour. The rest of it is pretty much all the “dead plant” look so beloved of Piet Oudolf. I’m all for winter structure from interesting seedheads – but not this early! Hopefully though my new colour-for-all-seasons design will bring it out of the colour-free doldrums and give it a bit more pizazz. Watch this space!

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