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Herbaceous Borders Tips

Read these 40 Herbaceous Borders Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about English Garden tips and hundreds of other topics.

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How do I plant a herbaceous border?

Plants For The Front Of The Herbaceous Border: H

Hemerocallis "Baley Hay": Apricot. 18"Tall. Mid-late summer.
Hemerocallis "Stella de Oro" Primrose yellow 1 ft tall. Mid-late summer.
Hemerocallis "Summer Wine"Deep pink. 2 ft tall. Mid-late summer
Heuchera brizoides: Scarlet. 18"Tall. Mid-late summer.
Heuchera "Beauty Colour": White. Excellent purple and silver foliage.18"Tall. Mid-late summer.
Heuchera "Ruby Veil" : Intense purple foliage. White flowers.18"Tall. Mid-late summer
Heucharella "Bridget Bloom": Lilac.I ft tall. Mid-late summer.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Penstemon

Penstemons have a long flowering season, from midsummer till the first frosts. The Autumn flowering is spectacular and a bright show is guaranteed.
The snapdragon like blooms come in shades of blue, white, pink, red and purple.
An easy plant to grow, the Penstemon should be planted in a sunny/semi shaded site in free draining soil.
Penstemons are normally perfectly hardy in most parts of Great Britain and zones 5 and above in North America. As an insurance policy it pays to overwinter a few autumn struck cuttings in a cool, but frost-free area.
The following varieties are reliable.

Penstemon " King George V": Handsome crimson flowers with a white throat. 3 ft.
Penstemon "Appleblossom" : Baby pink and white" 3 ft.
Penstemon " Burgundy" : Deep red. 2 ft.

   
Which are the best mid - range plants for my herbaceous border?

Plants for the Mid Range D - I

Doronicum plantagineum: The Easter Daisy. Yellow blooms, late spring. 2.5 ft tall
Gypsophylla "Bristol Fairy": Babies Breath. Clouds of tiny, white, double blooms. Mid-late summer. 3 ft tall.
Helenium "Butterpat": Yellow cone flowers, Late summer. 2.5 ft tall.
Hemerocallis "Big Bird": The Day Lily. Lemon flowers, mid summer. 3 ft tall
Hemerocallis "Pink Damask": Late summer 2.5 ft tall
Incarvillea delavayi : The Garden Gloxinia. Rosy purple blooms, early summer. 2.5 ft tall
Iris sibirica "Perry's Blue": The Siberian Iris. Sky blue flowers. Early summer, 3 ft tall
Iris "Superstition": Tall bearded type with near-black flowers. Mid summer. 3 ft tall
Iris "Red Lion": Tall bearded type with crimson flowers. Mid summer. 3 ft tall
Iris "Winter Olympics": Tall bearded type with pure , white flowers. Mid summer. 3 ft tall

   
What can I plant on the wall behind my herbaceous border?

Climbing Roses In The Herbaceous Border. (1) The Support.

If your border is backing onto a wall or fence, climbing roses add a further dimension and scent to a herbaceous border by planting some climbing Roses.
Attach some fencing wire to the wall, horizontally with vine eyes. The wires should be parallel to each other with 18 inch spaces.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Astilbe

There are a few good late flowering Astilbes or falls goat's beards that are a real asset to the early autumn garden.
All have wonderful plume-shaped flowers and do best in a moist soil and light shade.
Astilbe simpicifolia "Sprite": A very compact 1 ft tall. Flowers are pale pink over dark foliage.
Astilbe chinensis "Superba" Warm pink plumes on an imposing 4 ft tall plant.
Astilbe chinensis "Pumila" Rose pink flowers on a compact 18" plant.

   
How do I plant a herbaceous border?

Graduate The Height (1).

As a rough guide, imagine the width of the border as four distinct planting zones,
(1) The Rear. (2) The Mid Range. (3) The Front. (4) The Edge.
To display the full beauty of the border, the tallest plants should be planted at the rear and the height graduated down to the border edge.
The whole effect should be natural looking, this can be further achieved by planting a the occasional group of plants in the next height range down. To clarify this, plant an odd tall plant in the mid range , an occasional mid range plant at the front ... etc.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Sedum :The Ice Plants.

The succulent herbaceous Sedums are excellent autumn plants and are very attractive to bees and butterflies. The large heads of tiny flowers are characteristically flat-topped and look wonderful at the front of the border. Full sun and free draining soil are best
The colour range is in muted shades of red, pink and white and suits the mellow season.

These are some of the more distinct types.

Sedum alboroseum "Frosty Morn": Pink flowers over stunning green and white foliage. 1 ft tall.
Sedum specabile "Brilliant": Light pink. 1 ft tall.
Sedum spectabile "Iceberg": White. 1 ft tall.
Sedum telephium "Munstead Dark Red": Dusky crimson. 2 ft.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Helenium

The Heleniums have daisy type flower with a very prominent central disk. The colour range is autumnal shades of orange, russet, yellow and reddish-brown.
Not fussy on soil type as long as it retains moisture. Sun/part shade.
Five of the best are:

Helenium "ButterPat": Rich yellow with a yellow disk. 2 ft 6" tall.
Helenium "Indian Summer": Rich copper with a yellow disk. 3 ft.
Helenium "The Bishop": Golden yellow with a dark central disk. 3 ft.
Helenium "Moerheim Beauty": Mahogany flowers. 4 ft.
Helenium "Margot" Russet tipped yellow. 3 ft.

   
Which herbaceous plants should I choose?

Plants For The Rear Of The Border : H -S

Heliopsis scabra: The perennial sunflower. Yellow flowers during late summer 6 ft tall.

Kniphofia "Prince Igor": The Red Hot Poker. Red and yellow flowers in summer. 5 ft tall

Lathyrus latifolius "Pink Pearl": The Everlasting Pea . blooms mid-late summer. 6 ft tall

Rudbeckia laciniata "Golden Glow": A double, yellow type that grows to 7 ft tall and blooms late summer.

Solidago canadensis: Golden rod. Yellow blooms, late summer 5 ft. tall.

   
How do I plant a herbaceous border?

Plants For The Front Of The Herbaceous Border: D

Dianthus "David": Scarlet perpetual pink. Fine, grey evergreen foliage. 1 ft Late spring- autumn.
Dianthus "Doris": Salmon perpetual pink. Fine, grey evergreen foliage. 1 ft Late spring- autumn.
Dianthus "Gran's Favourite": White and maroon perpetual pink. Fine, grey evergreen foliage. 1 ft Late spring- autumn.
Dianthus "Haytor": Pure, white perpetual pink. Fine, grey evergreen foliage. 1 ft Late spring- autumn.
Dianthus "Mrs Sinkins": Pure, white old fashioned pink. Fine, grey evergreen foliage. 1 ft mid summer.
Dicentra formosa "Luxuriant": Deep pink blooms. Ferny foliage. 1 ft Late spring- autumn

   
I have no idea of color combinations, what are the rules

Planning Ahead.

First of all, there is a lot of snobbery about herbaceous borders. Color combinations borders, single color borders, silver foliage borders. Purists will say don't mix pinks with reds.
My advice is that in your own garden , plant what is pleasing to you. The simplest and often the best effect is to go for as many different colors as possible and try not to plant patches of the same color next to one another.
It is a good idea to borrow the kids' coloring in pencils when you draw your planting sketch.When you choose what goes where , color the patch with the color of the plants blooms.

Colors aside , tall plants go at the back of the bed medium in the middle and small at the front. This gives a lovely graduated effect and means that no plant hides a smaller type.

When the border blooms the first summer, mark off any color combinations that YOU dont like and change them the following spring.

   
how do I set out the curves on a new border?

Shaping The Border: (2) Getting The Curves Right

This needn't be such a daunting task as you would imagine. The tricky measuring involved in producing geometric designs or even a straight fronted border are not required at all for a curvy-fronted border.
Simply lay a hose pipe or length of rope along the lawn in the shape that you desire. Stick with a few long sweeping curves, rather than lots of little ones. Lots of "ins and outs" look very bitty and perhaps, more importantly will make mowing very difficult
Imagine a slowly meandering river: That is the effect you shold be aiming for. If you are not sure, walk alongside the layed out hose, imagining that you are mowing the lawn. If tricky manoevres are involved, lift and relay the hose to a more simple curvy shape.

   
Do I cut my herbaceous border back in spring or fall?

Fall Maintenence Of The Herbaceous Border.

The herbaceous border is best cut back in fall, around late October.Cut all the old tired flower stems and foliage down to a couple of inches and recycle in the compost heap.

One of the few exceptions to this rule is the red hot poker or Knifophia.For winter protection from the cold and wet,gather up the foliage antie it together.This prevents the crowns rotting off.
Tender plants such as the foxtail lily or Eremurus should have their crowns protected over winter, by covering them with a thick layer of sand.this can be removed in spring , when the new shoots are showing.

It's a good idea to label clumps which you want to split up later on.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Japanese Anenome.

The Japanese Anenomes start blooming during August and continue till October. The flowers are in beautiful muted shades of pink, white, purple and violet and can be single or semi double. Height range is from 2 to 5 ft tall depending on variety. Excellent plants for shade, the Japanese Anenomes prefer a deep soil that does not dry out.
Some first class forms are:

Anenome hupehensis " Bodnant Burgundy" : 3 ft tall. single wine red flowers.
Anenome hupehensis "Pamina": Dark red semi double flowers. 2 ft tall.
Anenome x hybrida " Andrea Atkinson": Pure white single flowers with bright orange stamens. 2ft tall.
Anenome x hybrida "Honorine Jobert" Gorgeous large pure whit single. 3 ft tall.
Anenome x hybrida "Queen Charlotte" A fantastic old variety from 1868 and still one of the best. Masses of rose-pink single blooms on a 3 ft plant.

   
How do I plant a herbaceous border?

Plants For The Front Of The Herbaceous Border: A-B.

Achillea ptarmatica "The Pearl": Beautiful, white buttons. 2 ft tall, mid-late summer
Alchemilla mollis: Beautiful foliage and lime green flowers . 18"Tall , mid-late summer
Anthemis "EC Buxton": Lemon daisies on ferny , grey foliage. 18"Tall, mid-late summer
Aquilegia alpina: Pretty, blue columbine. 18"Tall early-mid summer.
Aster "Jenny": Red blooms. 1 ft tall, autumn.
Aster sedifolius "Nanus": Blue flowers. 1 ft tall, autumn
Astrantia major "Rubra": Red blooms. 2 ft tall, mid-late summer
Brunnera macrophylla: blue Forget-me-not flowers.18"Tall spring-mid summer.

   
What can I plant on the wall behind my herbaceous border?

Climbing Roses In The Herbaceous Border. (2) Choosing The Best Type.

Traditionally, ramblers were used as a backdrop to herbaceous borders. There are several serious drawbacks with most ramblers. Old types such as "Dorothy Perkins" and "American Pillar" have little resistance to mildew nowadays. Ramblers generally do not repeat bloom and require a lot of pruning and training.
Modern climbing roses, on the other hand, are repeat blooming, have good disease resistance and require minimal pruning and training to get excellent results.
Choose the varieties with care, it is better to go for fairly short climbers, that won't take over.
The following are good types for this purpose and can be planted 3 yards apart .
"Aloha": Large double perfumed coral pink 7 ft tall.
"Danse Du Feu": Semi-double blooms in stunning vermillion orange. 10 ft tall
"Compassion": Large ,sweetly scented, salmon blooms on a fine healthy plant.
"Penny Lane": A beautiful and healthy climber, with "Champagne and Honey coloured blooms. 12 ft tall.
"Handel": White edged pink . 15 ft tall.
"Breath of Life": Perfect, large pastel apricot. Scented. 8 ft tall.
"Climbing Iceberg": Masses of white, tinged pink blooms 12 ft.

   
How do I remove the turf?

Shaping The Border: (5) Stripping Off The Turf Using A hired Turf Lifting Machine

An easier option is to hire a turf lifting machine. Start at the straight side of the border, working your way towards the curved front. This machine has the advantage of cutting the turf to a pre set, regular thickness, in long strips. Cut these strips into 1 yard sections and simply roll them up like a rug.
Be careful not to machine cut too close to the new edge.Cut the last 12" or so nearest the curve, by hand.

   
Which are the best mid - range plants for my herbaceous border?

Plants for the Mid Range A - C

Achillea "Gold Plate" : Plate- like yellow flowers mid -late summer, 4 ft tall.
Alstroemeria aurantiaca: The Peruvian lily. This type has orange flowers, flecked black.Look out for "Ligtu hybrids" which is a mix of many beautiful colours. 3 ft tall. Blooms mid-late summer.
Anthemis "Pride of Galach": Large lemon daisies. Mid-summer/fall. 2.5 ft tall
Anenome japonica "Haspen Abundance":Japanese Anenome. Semi-double pink blooms. Late summer 2 ft tall.
Astilbe "Fanal" : Rich red plumes Late summer. 2.5 ft tall
Aster amellus "September Glow" : Lavender blooms. Fall. 2 ft tall
Aster novae-angliae "Harrington Pink": The Michaelmas Daisy . Fall bloomer 2.5 ft tall
Aster novae-belgii "White Wonder": Fall blooms. 4 ft tall.
Campanula lactiflora "Blue Cross": Flowers . 4 ft tall
Centaurea macrocephala: Yellow thistle-like flowers, mid-late summer. 3 ft tall.
Chrysanthemum maximum "Esther Reid": Large, white daisies, mid-late summer. 3 ft tall.
Coreopsis grandiflora "Mayfield Giant": Yellow blooms, midsummer- fall. 3 ft tall

   
what is the best shape for my herbaceous border?

Shaping The Border: (1) Choosing The Shape

Traditionally herbaceous borders are either rectangular or have curved fronts.
If you are not restricted by a straight path, a border that has serpentine curves gives a very pleasing , flowing effect.
Another idea is to have an island hebaceous bed in the middle of the lawn

   
Should I buy large sized pots of herbaceous plants for instant impact?

Buying Herbaceous Plants.

In general it is better to buy small pots of herbaceous perennials.
Economically plants in small pots are more cost effective- they will grow and fower well in the first year. Plants in larger pots, (5" plus), are much more expensive, particularly if yours is a large border.
The exceptions are deep rooted plants, where larger specimen plants are ttthe only way to buy.
Peonias,Hostas, Meconopsis and Hellebores , are good examples of plants where it pays to buy big.

A good practice is to go choose mostly small plants with a few larger specimens of the deep rooted sort.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Aster sedifolius "Nanus"

Often overlooked in favour of it's cousins , the Michaelmas Daisies, this little gem remains mildew free. Fine, needle-like foliage covered in tiny pale blue daisies. 1 ft tall. Grow in sun or semi-shade in ordinary garden soil.

   
Which herbaceous plants should I choose?

Plants For The Mid range: K-N

Kniphofia "Percy's Pride" : A sulphur yellow form of the Red Hot Poker.Flowers late summer 3 ft tall
Kniphofia "Timothy": An unusual type with almost pink blooms during late summer. 3 ft tall.

Lobelia "Queen Victoria": Beautiful spikes of scarlet blooms and deep, purple foliage. Mid-Late summer. 3 ft tall

Lychnis chalcedonica: The Maltese Cross flower. Startling scarlet, flat flower heads during mid-late summer. 3 ft tall

Monarda "Blaukranz" : Lovely lilac form. Mid-late summer. 2.5 ft tall.

Nepeta govaniana : Yellow blooms . Mid-late summer. 2.5 ft tall.

   
Which are the best plants for the rear of the herbaceous border?

Plants For The Rear Of The Border : D-G.

Delphinium : The Queen of the border. Tall spires of bloom midsummer and again in September. Good varieties are: "Astolat" (Pink), "Black Knight", (Dark blue with a back centre). "Galahad", (White) and "Summer Skies", (Azure blue). all grow to 6 ft tall.

Digitalis purpurea : The foxglove. The white flowering "Alba" and "Cream Hybrids" are stunning 5 ft tall. Flowers mid summer.

Echinops bannaticus "Taplow Blue": The globe thistle. Superb spherical steely- blue flowers, mid- late summer. 6 ft tall
.
Eupatorium maculatum "Atropurpureum" : Large heads of fluffy small purple blooms. Purple foliage. Late summer. 6 ft tall.

Galega x hartlanii "Lady Wilson": Masses of pea-like blue and white flowers. Mid-Late summer. 5ft tall.

   
What can I plant on the wall behind my herbaceous border?

Climbing Roses In The Herbaceous Border. (3) Pruning and Training.

Removal of dead wood and faded flowers is really all that is required for climbing roses.
Training is a matter of building up a horizontal framework of branches. Do this by tying in the new growth onto the horizontal wires that you attached to the wall.
All climbing roses flower more abundantly if the branches are trained outwards horizontally, rather than upwards.

   
What are the best front of the border plants?

Plants For The Front Of The Herbaceous Border: C

Campanula carpatica: Blue flowers. 1 ft tall mid-late summer.
Campanula glomerata: Indigo blue 1 ft tall spring-mid summer.
Ceratostigma plumbagoides: Pretty, blue flowers in Autumn. 1 ft tall
Coreopsis verticillata: Yellow blooms. 1 ft tall mid-late summer.
Corydalis lutea: Pretty yellow flowers and good foliage. 1 ft Late spring- autumn.

   
what are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Acanthus spinosus.

Bear's Breeches is a superb plant for late summer/autumn. the foliage is large, deeply cut and very architectural. 3 ft spikes of mauve and white flowers complete the picture. A first class plant for that difficult dry shady site in the garden.

   
How do I plant a herbaceous border?

Plants For The Front Of The Herbaceous Border: G.

Geranium cantabrigiense "Cambridge": Shocking pink. 1 ft tall. Mid-late summer.
Geranium cinereum "Ballerina": Pale pink. 1 ft tall. Mid-late summer.
Geranium pratense albiflorum : White. 18"Tall. Mid-late summer.
Geranium riversleaianum "Mavis Simpson": Pale pink. 1 ft tall. Mid-late summer.

   
How big should a herbaceous border be?

Ideal Size.

There is no ideal length for a herbaceous border, but a width of at least 6 ft , would enable you to use the full range of plant heights

   
How do I plant a herbaceous border?

Plants For The Front Of The Herbaceous Border: E

Epimedium youngianum "Roseum": Pretty pastel pink. evergreen foliage. 1 ft tall. Mid- late spring.
Erysimum "Bowles Mauve": Lilac, perennial wallflower. 18"Tall spring-autumn.
Euphorbia amygdaloides "Purpurea": Sulphur, yellow blooms and striking, purple foliage. 18"Tall. Spring.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Solidago.

The familiar Golden Rod is a mainstay of the early autumn border. Thrives in any soil in sun or part shade.
The following are amongst the best autumn bloomers.

Solidago "Linner Gold" Golden yellow 3 ft tall.
Solidago "Golden Dwarf" Mustard plumes 6 inches tall.

   
Which are the best plants for the rear of the herbaceous border?

Plants For The Rear Of The Border : A-C.

Alcea rosea : Hollyhock 6 ft tall in a range of colours. Flowers Late summer.

Aconitum napellus: The monkshood. Deep blue flowers in midsummer. 6 ft tall

Acanthus mollis: Mauve flowers in spires. Superb foliage. 5 ft tall. Flowers Late summer.

Aruncus dioicus: Plumes of tiny white flowers. Mid summer. 6 ft tall.

Aster novae-angliae: The Michaelmas daisy. Good varieties; "Barrs Blue" 5 ft tall., "Red Cloud" 5 ft , "Hebstschnee" : White 5 ft. All bloom during autumn.

Campanula lactiflora "Loddon Anna" : Pretty bell-shaped mauve blooms. Late summer. 5 ft tall
Cimifuga ramosa: Pearl-pink blooms , purple foliage. Mid summer. 5 ft tall

Clematis recta "Purpurea": A non-climbing perennial. Small white flowers , purple flushed foliage.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Delphinium.

The Aristocrats of the summer border will re-bloom in September/ October if the June flowers are removed as soon as they fade.
Good named varieties are:

Delphinium "Astolat": Mauve pink spikes around 5 ft tall.
Delphinium "Black Knight" : Magnificent deep blue with a black "bee." 5 ft tall.
Delphinium "Blue Bird" : Azure blue with a white "bee." 5 ft tall.
Delphinium "Galahad": Pure white. 5 ft tall.
Delphinium "Mrs Newton Lees": Soft mauve. 5 ft tall.

   
what are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Wonderful Autumn Blooming Border Plants

As summer changes to autumn, garden borders can look past their best as the summer bloomers fade.
This section is devoted to herbaceous plants that look their best in autumn.

   
Which herbaceous plants should I choose?

Rear Border Plants:S-V.

Solidaster "Super": A hybrid between Solidago and Aster. Light yellow blooms during fall. 4 ft tall
Thalictrum delaveyi "Hewitts Double": Pretty sprays of lilac blooms in midsummer. 4 ft tall

Verbascum "Gainsborough": Imposing spikes of soft yellow blooms. Mid-late summer. 5 ft tall.

Verbena bonariensis : A tall plant, which can also be planted nearer the front due to it's light,. airy appearance. Purple flowers late summer to late fall. 5 ft tall.

   
How do I work out which plant goes where in a herbaceous border?

Plan For Future Success.

Unless you know your plants very well it pays to make ,at the very least, a rough sketch of your new bed showing the positions of the new plants.
Draw the outline of the bed and mark off a lot of irreglar drifts and patches to show where you intend to plant each type of plant.
When planting time comes, using a broom handle, mark out the patches and drifts onto the soil surface.
It makes sense to trickle sand onto your markings, to make them more visible.

   
What are the best autumn herbaceous border plants?

Coreopsis

The tickweeds provide a splash of bright colour to the early autumn border. Best in full sun and a free draining soil.
Amongst the best are.
Coreopsis verticillata "SonnenKind": Elegant feathery foliage studded with bright yellow flowers. 18" tall.
Coreopsis verticillata "Moonbeam": A more choice primrose cloured form

   
How do I plant a herbaceous border?

Graduate The Height (2): The Planting Plan.

Have a look at my recommended plants for the various, height zones and when you have decided what you want to grow, sketch out the shape of your border on a large piece of paper.( Remember, this is only a guide, so a scale drawing is not necessary!)
Now the arty part, starting from the back sketch a line of inter- connecting simple "bubble" shapes,. (Make them uneven sized) , to form the rear of the border.
Next do the same for the mid range, the front range and edge.
Remember to make the bubble shapes irregular.
When your finished you should have something that resembles " Taking a line for a walk" that we all did at primary,( junior), school.

   
How do I remove the turf?

Shaping The Border: (4) Stripping Off The Turf By Hand

If your new border is small or you are feeling enegetic, using a half moon or spade, cut the turf into squares roughly 12" X 12", for easy handling.
Slice the turf squares horizontally with a spade held flat or, better still a turfing spade.
If you want to reuse the turf, try to slice evenly. aim to keep the turf thickness to ¼ inch to1/2 inch. An easy way of picking up the turf squares is to "Spear" them with a garden fork.
When you have cleared the area, it's a good idea to go over the new edge and give it a little tidy up with your spade.

   
How do I cut out a new border edge?

Shaping The Border: (3) Cutting Out The Curves.

When you are completely happy with the shape you made with the hose, cut along it with an edging iron,(half moon), or spade, keeping it upright to ensure that the cut is straight.

   
How do I prepare the soil for a new herbaceous border?

Digging for Glory.

Preparation for this old style of gardening consists mainly of good old fashioned digging.
An open sunny site ,preferably backed by a wall or hedge is best for a bit of shelter.
Dig rather, than cultivate, lots of garden compost or composted farmyard manure into the soil.
Spread a thick layer of the organic material over the soil surface.Take out a trench a spades depth deepand barrow the soil to the opposite end of the plot.
Scrape the organic matter into the base of the trench and turn the soil over to cover it up.Continue this process till you reach the end of the plot and you should be left with a trench.
fill this with the soil that you barrowed from the other end of the plot.
This is best done in fall so that the winter weather does all the hard work of breaking down the soil to a fine tilth.The new bed can be planted in spring.

   
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Guru Spotlight
William Pirraglia