Weekend project

I suspect the personal gardens of some garden designers are always well-balanced, well-planted, well-weeded, and picture perfect. I’m not in this group. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with some of the planting designs I’ve implemented around my house.

I really like the way this border and the small strip of grass and hosta looked this spring and summer,

right rear border

with early color from white variegated iris, later deep, deep purple bearded iris, and still later Iris ensata (unknown variety) that played off early Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’ at the far end.

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These were followed by blooms of Asiatic  lilies, more daylilies, lavender, hosta, a few small shrub roses, Echinacea and assorted bedding perennials and annuals. Now, foliage of coleus and blooms of burgundy mums compliment the few roses still in bloom and blue ageratum flowers.

I’m always thrilled when the triangle bed fills with narcissi each spring and the later foliage and blossom shades, such the photo in May, that run into summer. Unfortunately, now that Irene blew down the hydrangea paniculata (center) and the butterfly bush (buddleia, right), this bed will need some reworking.

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But there’s one planting bed in my yard that I’ve never been pleased with. It’s the one least seen by visitors walking up the path to the front door but, since it sits outside my bedroom window, it’s the first planted area I see each morning.

Parts of it are nice. I love the bearded iris (I think these are ‘Jennifer Rebecca’ on the left and ‘Mother Earth’ on the right)  that bloom outside the window and greet me May mornings.

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I’m okay with the rhododendron at the edge of the porch, which compliments, and sometimes helps support blossoms of clematis ‘Nelly Moser’.

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I like the position of the peony (possibly ‘Festiva Maxima’) at the center of the bed and how it’s white flowers stand out against the blue/grey siding of the house and the lamb’s ear border. The lamb’s ear is interspersed with perennial geranium for a border that runs along the entire front of the house. It can stay, too.

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I like the late-blooming anemone … a bright spot in August and September … even though it has grown rather large and has nearly hidden a small azalea closer to the front of the bed.

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But on the whole the bed does not work. It’s off balanced; too much of it is bare at the end of the summer. Too many plants look mis-matched … the rue shrubs just behind the peony, the Acanthus mollis at the rear between the windows that only blossomed once, a small pieris that barely made it though last winter.

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Yech! This bed has bugged me for years … yes, years. This weekend I did something about it.

I dug up the struggling pieris, the iris, foxglove, blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) and some lamb’s ear for later transplanting back into the bed. I dug out, separated, and transplanted the Acanthus mollis, rue, and sedum, some violets, and the sweet woodruff to a new location.

Then I weeded and purged the bed of as many violets as possible. Violets grow like wildfire in my planting beds, purging is the only way to stem their invasion.

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After removing the rocks that also seem to grow in all my planting beds, I spread two garbage can loads of the homemade compost I screened last week. Then I got to planting.

Between the windows next to the house went foxglove and blackberry lily transplants. The anemone, which looks bedraggled from the stress of getting dug up, thinned, and transplanted, went in just in front of the foxglove/lily planting. In front of the anemone I replanted the bearded iris. The scraggly pieris went in front of the rhododendron to the left where I hope it will do better. It’s accompanied by a small planting of bearded iris just in front of the rhododendron. Two boxwood (Buxus ‘Green Ice’) now stand to either side and a bit behind the peony. A new, larger and healthier, pieris (purchased at a plant sale as variety unknown) went in between the peony and the lilac shrub, and I replanted lamb’s ear to fill in as a ground cover, then mulched any bare soil with shredded leaves saved from last autumn.

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The bed doesn’t look like much now in September but next spring, the pieris will bloom first. Lilac and the violets remaining under the rhododendron and lilac shrubs will follow. Then comes the azalea (dark pink)  followed closely by the clematis (pale pink) and rhododendron (dark pink). In May, the foxglove (dark pink) should bloom tall against the house, highlighted by the iris (pink/peach at center and white/lavender at left) and peony (white) blooms at mid-level and perennial geranium (dark pink) among the border.  Anemone foliage will mask the base of the foxglove and serve as a nice backdrop for the iris and peony blossoms. Blooming lamb’s ear (purple) will take the focus away from declining iris, foxglove and peony. The lily will bloom (orange) during late-July and August. Anemone blossoms (pink with dark yellow centers) will take over in August and continue into September.

I’ll likely transplant more foxglove to rear- and mid-bed areas and I visualize globe allium, tall and white among the iris and short and white or maroon among the lamb’s ear. I have a serious deer browsing problem in the beds along the front yard so I hesitate to add to the deer-resistant plantings already in place. As it stands now, winter-placed chicken wire fencing is the only way the azalea and rhododendron survive. Pieris and boxwood, which will grow to block the view of the foundation and cellar windows, don’t seem to be on the ‘I like it’ deer menu, and I know from experience that foxglove, bearded iris, lamb’s ear and, for the most part, anemone are also off this list.

I also have to be careful not to plant small shrubs where snow lands from the roof. After last winter, and so much snow, I’m more cognizant of this … I’m still reshaping the previously planted and mature rhododendron. The new shrubs are far enough out and, once grown, will block sight of any emptiness after the rearward perennials die off.

Beyond adding foxglove and allium I’ll wait and watch to see how things play out.  It will take some time, but as the shrubs grow and the perennials fill in, I think my eyesore bed will become a faint memory.

Next line for reworking? The triangle bed, mentioned above, and whether to try another hydrangea paniculata there. Any ideas?

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8 comments for “Weekend project

  1. September 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I love these kinds of problem solving posts, it’s what intrigues me about my own garden: how to rearrange things and fix problems! I do like seeing your whole garden and how the spaces work. Nice choices for under the bedroom window! I am interested in how you are staging the plants for blooms throughout the season, I need to learn how to do that better.

    Now if only stuff would look the way it is supposed to (size, fullness) immediately after planting. Post updates next season!

    • joenesgarden
      September 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks, Laurrie. Staging the particular plants I used was relatively easy for me since I’ve grown them all for years and know thier cycles. I also know deer tend to leave them alone … of course now one of the four-hooved marauders will prove me wrong! I plan to post updates next season. If the plan doesn’t work the photos/story will be good GOOPs fodder. If it works I’ll be thrilled.

  2. September 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I would plant another hydrangea paniculata. The old one was beautiful! You did a great job on reworking the bed outside your bedroom window. It shows a lot of promise, and you have planned well for successive blooming. It should be beautiful through the seasons!

    • joenesgarden
      September 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm

      Hi Deb,
      I’m leaning toward planting another hydrangea paniculata, but I may wait until spring unless a great specimen jumps out at me. I’d like to watch for vole activity during autumn and winter to see if they are one of the reasons the first H. paniculata had such serious root damage.
      Glad you like my ideas … thanks.

  3. September 14, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I do plan my planting beds, but I end up changing them and changing them and changing them until I feel they are right. And I really smile when a happy accident occurs and things work out perfectly. Your garden is beautiful even in transition.

    • joenesgarden
      September 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm

      I do the same, Sage Buttefly. This plan was all in my head since i know when each perennial will bloom and what colors each show. Happy accidents are always welcome. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. September 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Isn’t it satisfying to finally dig into and reconfigure a flower bed that’s been bugging you for years? It will be exciting to see your photos of this next year; it sounds beautiful.

    • joenesgarden
      September 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

      So true, Jean. You know this quite well from the continuing work you’ve tackled in your Maine and Pennsylvania gardens. I’ll be very pleased if my vision becomes reality.

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