The new, more contemporary flower bed

A few weeks ago RB and I decided it was time to give an old, tired, 40-foot flower bed a total overhaul. From a combination of readers’ ideas and our own research and favourites, here is what we came up with.


The colour scheme is deep maroons contrasting with bright greens, with highlights of magenta, purple and orange floating throughout. The base colours are provided by heuchera* obsidian, leucothoe zeblid, and skimmia japonica, with added structure from the grasses imperata cylindrica ‘red baron’.

At first I was hesitant about Frances’ recommendation to look at grasses, but it had stuck in my mind and when we found these they clicked straight into the colour system, turning bright red as the year goes on.



The drama comes from many bright green euphorbias ‘black bird’ and ‘martini’, plus the colour from astrantias, knautias* and circiums. Three rheum ‘ace of hearts’ will provide architectural punctuation along the ends of the lower slope of the bed, growing up to 8 feet tall. Their leaves are green on one side and red on the other, providing a fluttering effect with a breeze.




We are particularly delighted that the new flower bed has been a big hit with the bees, which are contentedly bobbing from one flower to the next and back again. They love the knautias, astrantias and heucheras.



Special thanks go to Frances of Faire Garden (to whom we’ll be sending the book!) as well as other readers who dropped us a note, and Lynda Bradford at Orchard Nursery in West Sussex for having such a gorgeous and immaculate nursury as well as knowledge, patience and a smile.

And of course, to RB, who did all the digging!

*Ever wondered how to pronounce heuchera or knautia? HUGH-ker-uh and naughtier (as in more naughty)  in British English, and WHO-ker-uh and nadia (like the name) in North American. At least, that’s how it is in our Ameri/Brit household.


6 responses to “The new, more contemporary flower bed

  1. That is one fabulous border and 40ft long?!

    I too adore Euphorbia martinii. I would strongly suggest adding a Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ as they would fit in with the scheme perfectly and add some hight, not to mention attract insects! Just a thought.


    • themoderngardener

      Ryan, we actually have included atropurpureum! You can’t quite see it in the photos but the knautias and circiums fling out above the rest of the bed, and with the bees jumping on and off them they are constantly moving around. It’s really sweet. I’ll take a ‘long shot’ of the whole bed when we get around to tidying up the ground with some decorative bark.

  2. Oh how beautiful it is! Thanks for the link love too, so glad you decided to use some grasses, and the blood grass is a fantastic addition. All of your choices are well, choice. :-)


  3. I forgot to thank you for the book! I look forward to reading it. and BTW, your photos are magnificent! :-)

  4. reapwhatyougrow

    Just wonderful colour combinations. I was admiring a similar colour scheme last weekend at Petersham Nurseries, but what you have done is even nicer. One to watch definitely.

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