Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Plans for Fall and Spring

I've been thinking a lot lately about changes I want to make to my garden. Gardens are always changing, because they're full of living things. But mine especially, because it's new and there are so many new-to-me plants growing in it. And my ideas about what I like in the garden are also always changing, as I grow as a gardener, and see other gardens in the area where I live. I've been assessing what I think is working and what isn't. I spent a few days cutting back some of the floppiness, pulling out dead plants, all the while thinking about how I could improve things.

One area I worked on this week is the area I call the sunny perennial bed. I've posted about this bed before in the following posts:

Sunny Perennial Bed -- Back Garden "Sleep Year"

Sunny Perennial Bed -- Back Garden "Creep Year"

I had some vague ideas back in June about what was wrong here and what I needed to do to fix the problems, but now I have just what I need -- A Plan.

I'm going to edit the bed. There are too many different types of plants growing in it, all in their own little individual clumps. I want this bed to have visual impact, and the way to do that is to have a small number of types of plants, each planted en masse. I already did that somewhat this week by cutting back the plants that weren't working or that were flopping. Like the huge mass of Nepeta 'Walker's Low' that is on the right hand side of the bed. In June it looked like this.

I like it, but it takes up too much space in this bed. The base clump is actually small, but the flowering wands themselves hang all over the place, making the plant effectively about five feet wide. I thought the plants planted close to it would be able to pop up through the wands, but if they are too wimpy, they just end up being pushed over. The daylily and the Sweet William planted near it were fine, but the Coreopsis, the Persian Cornflower and the native Cornflower weren't. It may be the nature of cornflower to flop, but I have another clump of the same Coreopsis at the other end of the bed, and it's standing up nice and tall.

So, the first order of business in the fall is to move the Walker's Low Nepeta.

There is a blue grass growing in this bed as well, called Helictotrichon, which I also like, but it doesn't add what I want to the bed (flowers). And it's also a mounding shape which takes up too much space. So it's coming out as well. I have spots in mind for both the Nepeta and the grass.

Here's what is planted in this bed now:

Monarda Raspberry Wine
Shasta 'White Knight'
Shasta 'Crazy'
Echinacea (species)
Rudbeckia Cherokee Sunset
Rudbeckia (species)
Centaurea montana
Centaurea dealbata
Geum triflorum (Prairie Smoke)
Gaillardia 'Burgundy'
Daylilies (a couple of different ones, pink colors)
Red Oriental Poppies
White Oriental Poppies
Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue'
Two different kinds of Coreopsis (one short, one taller)
Persicaria 'Painter's palette'
Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle)
Lilium (Stargazer?)
Blue Veronica
Two different hardy Fuchsias
Geranium Biokovo and Biokovo White
Several different Dahlias, some with dark foliage
Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire, a shrub)
Oemleria cerasiformis (Indian Plum, a PNW native shrub)
Joe-Pye Weed (Little Joe, but not really so little)
Penstemon 'Husker's red'

Too much! I need to simplify.

Here's the list of plants I want in this bed:
Joe-Pye Weed
Monarda 'Raspberry Wine' -- the hummers love it!
Rudbeckia (species, there is only one plant there right now, I need more)
Echinacea (species, again, just one plant, I need more)
Coreopsis (The slightly taller one, I can save seeds from it and sow more)
Daylilies (but I need more)
Red Poppies
White poppies
Shasta Daisies
Prairie Smoke (I have more of this in other beds, I can move it all and consolidate it)
Lady's Mantle (Same as with the Prairie Smoke, I can move it all into this one bed)
Panicum (no flowers, but it provides fall color and a strong vertical shape, and I have more clumps I can move here)
Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy'
Persicaria 'Painter's Palette'

Even that may be too much, we'll see. My plan involves removing the Indian plum, which is right in the middle of the bed. I hope I can move it without killing it. I'll have to find spots for many of the other plants. Some of them can move to the beds in the front.

And some of them can go here:

Seriously. Fall Project Number Two is to turn this into a gravel garden. Mostly just up against the wall. The wall is mine, but the mostly neglected rose bed on top of it belongs to my neighbor. This area gets a lot of sun, all day. I'm planning to move the Nepeta and the Helictotrichon here, and maybe some Centranthus ruber and all of my black mondo grass. I have black mondo grass planted in quite a few beds around the garden, and it always just disappears against the dark soil. It will stand out better against the gray gravel.

I can't take credit for this idea, I stole it from Loree at danger garden. You can see pictures in this post on her blog of the process of turning her Portland, Oregon front yard full of grass into a gravel garden. Her first picture shows black mondo grass. Her garden was also featured in this post on the blog Digging, by Pam Penick, who visited her just before the Garden Blogger's Fling. I was also inspired by one of the gardens we saw on the first day of the Garden Bloggers' Fling, the garden of Shelagh Tucker, which I showed pictures of in my post called I Think There's a Bottle (or Two) of Ibuprofen in My Future...

This gravel-covered area beside my driveway is actually meant for a boat or a travel trailer/camper. But we have neither. A future homeowner might use the space for a boat or camper. But it won't hurt to landscape it a little more nicely. The ugly gray wall needs something to soften it.

At the back is a huge English laurel. This past weekend I bought two Trachycarpus fortunei to plant near the laurel.  I have no idea what the soil under the gravel is like, other than it has good drainage (we never have standing water here, even in winter when the rains are so frequent). The gravel is not as decorative as I would like, but it'll do.

My third project for the fall and spring is to do something with the bed I think of as my "neglected stepchild."

This little bed is in a far corner of the back garden, and often gets short shrift when it comes to care. It's beside the shed, near the compost bins. The hose just barely reaches back here, and I often forget to water. When I first started gardening here in the back, I was under the misconception that this was a shady spot, so I planted Astilbes and goatsbeard and other shade-loving perennials.

They haven't fared too well.

I'm kind of hoping that they will be restored somewhat when the fall rains come. If they do revive, I'll move them into more shade, and plant some sun-loving, drought tolerant perennials here instead.

But there's also a fair probability that this spot might eventually be home to a small flock of chickens. So we'll see. My husband favors the other side of the shed for the chicken coop, an idea that is appealing to me more as time goes on.

So I have my work cut out for me. I'll get to it, as soon as I finish planting all of these.

Plants I've been gathering all summer, waiting for the fall rains to return to plant them, so I won't have to water them in.

And these.

Seedlings I've been coddling all summer -- amazingly still alive.