We recently bought a house with a metal fence in the backyard. I'm a beginning gardener and would like to plant a border garden that would give the fence some character. Can you make some recommendations? I don't want plants that will spread into my neighbor's yard.
—Karin Armstrong, Hyde Park, New York
Melinda: A combination of ornamental grasses and perennials can improve your view. Silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) grows in clumps and varies in height from 4 to 12 feet. These grasses create a great backdrop for perennials and provide visual interest and screening from summer through winter. Switchgrass cultivars will also provide screening and seasonal interest. But you should avoid the native switchgrass—it'll find its way into your neighbor's yard. Feather reed grass is a shorter, more stiffly upright-growing grass. For summer and fall color, plant some perennials around it, such as boltonia, aster, fernleaf yarrow and salvia.