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

Friday, May 3, 2013

More Ch-ch-changes...

We are having the most amazing weather for mid-spring -- temps in the high 60s and 70s and sunny! I was out working in the garden every day last week, and this week has been similar.

I've been working on redoing another bed, the one in the front where I took the daylilies from, which I posted about here.

Remember this area, where I had stowed some daylilies a couple of years ago, and then moved them a couple of weeks ago?

This will be the last shuffling of plants until the fall, I think. I've discovered a drawback to pulling plants out and moving them around -- when it isn't raining, I have to water everything to make sure it gets well established, which means I'm going to be devoting a large part of my summer to watering! I have more changes I want to make to other beds, but they aren't quite as extensive. Still, I think it will be good to wait until fall, so that Mother Nature can do the watering in for me.

Here's what the bed looks like now, after all my hard work. When I first planted this bed 3 years ago, I made the mistake of thinking that it was mostly sunny. But of course, it isn't, it's shaded for a large part of the day by both the Douglas firs and the pin oak nearby, except for the early spring (like right now), before the pin oak leafs out, and for a short time each day for about an hour or so while the sun moves from behind the Doug firs to behind the oak tree.

I've been collecting shade or part shade plants all spring at various plant sales and nurseries, with the plan to redo this bed. When trying to figure out what to plant next to what, I've focused on foliage, both color and shape/texture.

Purple red Heuchera 'Obsidian' next to a Japanese painted fern

Heuchera 'Miracle' next to Fuchsia 'Autumnale'

And the same combo with Autumn fern

Coarse Hellebore foliage next to the delicate foliage of a variegated Jacob's Ladder

And on the other side of the Jacob's Ladder, a variegated Hosta

Dark foliage of Ligularia 'Osiris Fantaisie' and the dark early foliage of Astilbe 'Fanal'

Hellebore and a second Astilbe

The bed also has some new shrubs -- a string of six sweetbox, as well as a variegated Hydrangea, a Viburnum x bodnantense 'New Dawn', and Loropetalum 'Carolina Midnight'. The Mugo pine has been there for a couple of years.

Many of the perennials in the reworked bed came from here, a bed that until last year was shady, but is now much more sunny, since taking out the old decapitated pear tree and replanting with paperbark maple.

The newly redone bed also seemed like a good spot to try a Camellia 'Pink Kiss.' My first Camellia died after being moved from its first spot, in deep shade, where it failed to bloom.

This is what the area looked like four years ago when we first moved in. I wasted no time in offering those concrete blocks on craigslist. I also got rid of that tall, rangy Buddleia on the right.

It wasn't long before I had gotten rid of that little strip of grass on the right, and connected the raised bed area to the bed nearby, which runs along the south end of the front yard. I started filling it with sun-loving plants -- daylilies, coneflowers, asters and in the middle, a purple smoke bush, which has never gotten any bigger in the three years since I planted it.

My recent work involved pulling out most of the plants and stowing them in plastic bins. Last weekend, Nigel hauled out our little electric tiller and tilled the bed for me.

Here's a view of the bed from our upstairs bedroom window.

And here it is after I redid the edge to give it curves instead of sharp 90-degree angles.

Here's what it looked like after about four hours of laying out and planting

Finished -- inasmuch as any bed is ever finished

I'm considering maybe putting a path or a dry stream bed diagonally down the center, where the hose is, for easier access. This bed is very deep, and I really think I'll need to give myself clues about where to put my big fat feet.

I might pull out that Mugo pine and move it. I really need to put something bigger in that spot to act as a privacy screen between me and the neighbor's driveway.

I could put an Embothrium coccineum there. I wonder if there's still room in this bed for a bigleaf Rhodie? Or maybe a Magnolia...Or an Abies koreana Silberlocke...

The bed overall is about 14 feet by 23 feet. How about all four?


  1. Ooh, I vote for Embothryum Coccineum. That would be gorgeous as a screen there.

    You have done some prodigous labor, Alison. You're putting me to shame as I diddle about moving one or another thing a day. And how nice to be able to see it all from your upstairs!

  2. I say go for all four :) We have been two pea's in a pod over the past two weeks. I enjoyed seeing the shade bed progression and the color combining you did with the plants. There is one Heuchera, 'miracle' I think that you posted a pic of. Wow, that has to be on my wish list! Great work Alison!! Cheers, Jenni

  3. Excellent work and a huge improvement. I don't know the plants you mention but my guiding principle is always that more plants is better. Your idea for the stream bed is good, I often have problems because I don't put in access paths.

  4. I can't wait to see what it looks like in a few years. You had some pretty cool plants. Wish they were good for our zone.

  5. Wow Alison, you're amazing & your changes look fabulous! My vote is for all four!

    I finally got outside and worked nearly all day today. I've made some headway but since I flit from thing to thing, no one area looks great yet. BTW, where am I going to put all of those plants?

  6. Simply beautiful colours...lovely!

  7. I'm also designing a couple of shade beds this spring, isn't it fun! We don't have a lot of plants in common except the ferns, hellebores, and Bleeding Heart. I like your color matching. I also burned out on daylilies, they have a rather short bloom season then are blah the rest of the year and too vertical to keep weeds out, like irises. Great improvements, lovely!


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