One of the most spectacular and impressive features at Levens are the main double herbaceous borders which cut straight across the garden pausing only for the peaceful greens of the beech circle before running out to the Ha-ha and the view down the avenue beyond.
The borders to the east of the beech circle have a closely co-ordinated, mainly pastel colour scheme in yellows, blues, pinks and whites. Height, form and repetition are supplied by wooden pyramids clothed with small flowered Clematis viticella cultivars. Many different plants contribute to the overall effect here, both perennial and annual.
Of particular note in early summer is Crambe cordifolia, with mounds of large shiny leaves topped by branching stems carrying clouds of tiny white flowers. The tall spikes of Delphiniums in shades of light blue and white, supported by twiggy baskets of Hazel are spectacular too.
The Giant Yellow Scabious, Cephalaria gigantea waves its flat yellow flower heads on wiry green stems above everything. Whilst at the front, low growing in pure white are the long flowering mats of Viola cornuta ‘Alba.’
Later in the season, branching and bushy, are the exotic looking annual Spider Flowers, Cleome hassleriana. Ageratums and the deep blues of Commelina coelestis and Salvia patens also give impact well into autumn.
In contrast, to the pastel coloured borders to the east, the borders to the west of the beech circle are based around a much deeper and more vibrant red, purple and deep blue colour scheme.
Larger shrubs here include Rosa rugosa 'Roserie de I'Hay' with deeply perfumed flowers and attractive hips, contrasting alternately with the pollarded silver-leaved fountains of willow, Salix alba ‘Sericea’. Red masterworts, herbaceous lobelias and Stachys macrantha are amongst some of the more telling perennials.
Much of the border's effectiveness however is supplied through tender plants and annuals including the broad bronzed leaves of Indian Shot Canna indica ‘Purpurea', the cut purple foliage and scarlet flowers of Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff' and the huge red palmate leaves of the Castor Oil Plant Ricinus communis 'Carmencita'. The giant pendant red clusters of Salvia dombeyi flowers also make their mark here, the largest in their class.