Design a Long Border at Chatsworth

The Long Border category is an ideal step into the world of garden design – here, Louisa van den Berg reveals her tips for creating a Gold-medal-winning border

The Long Borders at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show are bursting with inspiration, and if you've got a burning ambition to be a garden designer, the category can be a great place to start.

Packed full of take-home ideas, the Long Borders made their debut in 2018, taking pride of place in front of Chatsworth House and proving popular with visitors to the show. The category saw eight designers create inventive borders that showcased the theme of movement. 

Louisa van den Berg, a Suffolk-based designer, won an RHS Gold medal and the Best Long Border title with her entry, Mind the Gap: Keep Bees on the Move. Packed full of pollinator-friendly planting, Louisa’s design won over the bees of Chatsworth while wowing the crowds and RHS judges.

“It was my first time designing a border for a show, but it was a really good experience,” says Louisa. “It all felt like a bit of a whirlwind, but it was a great platform to show what I can do and highlight the important role gardeners have in supporting pollinators.”

Louisa receiving her award from Sue Biggs, RHS Director General
With the feature set to return in 2019, we're on the lookout for designers with creative flair and a passion for planting to come and join us at the show. 

Up for the challenge? Check out some of Louisa's tips for creating an eye-catching border to plant your own medal-winning display.

Choose a theme

Mind the Gap: Keep Bees on the Move Long Border by Louisa van den BergCreating a border can seem daunting and often the most difficult part is knowing where to begin. Deciding on your theme can be a good place to start, so give yourself plenty of time to consider how your plants will sit alongside each other.

“My interpretation of the 2018 theme, ‘Movement’, came from seeing bees feeding from plants in my own garden," says Louisa "I really enjoyed the sound and movement that the bees created.

"Selecting the right plants was key to the success of my border – the bees had to love them and they also needed to be in bloom in early June, at the time of the show. Luckily, the weather was on our side and the bees arrived as soon as we unloaded the plants – a good result!"

Deciding on your theme can be as easy or as challenging as you like, whether it be a particular colour or planting scheme. For the Long Border category at Chatsworth in 2019, we're looking for designers to interpret a 'Five senses' theme.

The key is to ensure that the planting and design is relevant so, as long as you stick to this, you shouldn’t go far wrong.

Boost your border’s lifespan

Planting in Mind the Gap: Keep Bees on the Move

Even the most well-thought-out border will lose marks if your plants aren’t up to scratch. The eagle-eyed RHS judges can spot an ailing allium from a mile off, so ensure the quality and health of your plants to create a vibrant and thriving border.

“The quality of plants is really important and you need to consider their source,” says Louisa. “The majority of my plants came from professional nurseries such as Hortus Loci. I also researched other nurseries exhibiting at Chatsworth as their plants would be looking good for the show.”

If you’re unsure about the health and quality of your chosen blooms, look out for those with the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) – our seal of approval for reliable and high-performing plants.

Design with a wow factor

Woven willow bee structure in Mind the Gap: Keep Bees on the MoveOnce you’ve chosen your theme and plants, it’s time to put everything together. The placement of your plants can make all the difference when it comes to giving your border the wow factor. 

“Your planting is key,” says Louisa. “Colour is important, but also think about texture and form. For example, I included plants in bud that were yet to flower as they worked well with the border's woven willow structures. These structures – including bees and a traditional bee ‘skep’ – showcased the theme from a distance.”

Having a good density of planting gives your border a well-established feel and is another way to provide added wow factor. It's also worth keeping an eye out for additional blooms you can pop into your border for additional interest. 

“I’m always looking for something new that I can include in my planting,” adds Louisa. “Often these last-minute details can be what people enjoy the most. For example, everyone loved the oversized clover (Trifolium ochroleucon) from Harvey's Garden Plants and it was a hit with the bees."

Trifolium ochroleuconFancy a challenge?

If we’ve left you feeling inspired, why not challenge yourself to create a Long Border at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2019? 

Apply online and you could see your design taking pride of place in front of Chatsworth House and in the running for an elusive RHS medal.

“There was such a good atmosphere and I’d recommend to anyone thinking of entering to go for it,” says Louisa. “As long as you’re organised and have a good team behind you, you can do it. It's a great platform to showcase your passion and skills in planting design."   

Find out more about designing one of the Long Borders.


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