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

Friday, January 31, 2014

End of the Month View, January 2014 - A Vast Hodgepodge of Ugliness

Helen Johnstone, who writes A Patient Gardener's Weblog, hosts a monthly meme called End of the Month View (Find her current post here). I met Helen briefly at last year's Garden Bloggers Fling in San Francisco, which is when I discovered her blog and started following it, and her end of the month view posts. I think it's a great idea for a bloggers' meme, so this year I'm going to be participating. There's a good chance it might end up being a beginning of the next month view, given the tendency for time to march on a lot faster than I realize.

Helen uses her monthly posts to concentrate on one particular area of her garden each year, which I think is a good idea, so that's what I'll be doing too. Some participants show various areas, but I'm going to focus on a bed in my back garden that until now has been nameless. I'm going to call it the Bottle Tree Bed, because it's the bed where I have my bottle tree, d'uh.

Right now it is a vast hodgepodge of ugliness, and I suppose I could have called it that instead of the prosaic Bottle Tree Bed, but I'm hoping by the time I'm done with it, I will have transformed it into a breathtaking vision of beauty.

Here is the evidence of its current state of ugliness, photographed from the shelter of my back porch.

Let's see if I can remember what's in there: left to rightish and round-aboutish -- an Erysimum, some Verbascums, a bunch of low-growing Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, a hardy Geranium, a Ceanothus, a couple of Agastache Golden Jubilee (and a few of their progeny dotted around), a Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle Spirit, some pink mums and some sword ferns (both hidden behind taller plants), a single pink Muhly grass, some peonies, a single Hellebore, three thriving Ribes sanguineum, a Sambucus nigra 'Black Beauty', a couple of Philadelphus lewisii, a couple of Lonicera involucrata, and one tall Mahonia leaning drunkenly on the fence somewhere way way at the back.

I spent part of last summer on my plant collecting expeditions with Peter The Outlaw Gardener (otherwise known as nursery-hopping), buying plants that I hoped to plant into this bed last fall after a massive revamping, just in time for everything to be watered in by the return of our fall rains, and thus be thriving and lovely by spring of this year. Um, yeah. That didn't happen, because early last fall I hurt my back and didn't garden for about 4 months.

But now my back seems to be healed and I am ready to get started. So my end of the month view this year is going to document this bed's transformation as it blossoms into glory.

You may have noticed in the description of what's growing here the article "a" being used a lot. This bed definitely suffers from the dreaded "one-itis" -- that tendency of many gardeners to plant one of this and one of that.

One Ceanothus -- really pretty when blooming, and evergreen, this shrub is the only survivor from the previous owner's back garden

One Hellebore

The one and only spot of prettiness right now

One 'Black Beauty' Elderberry, three red flowering currants and one drunken Mahonia

Dead peony foliage -- I know, I'm usually conscientious about cutting it back since it harbors disease, but I wanted to make sure I could find them again

Sword ferns

One pink Muhly grass, some pink mums, one Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea and two Agastache 'Golden Jubilee'

One bottle tree and one big rock

So my goal for this year is to fix the one-itis, by creating drifts of plants, preferably with the shorter ones in front of the taller ones, with color and form and texture echoes of each other, as well as repetitions of plant combinations. I want this bed to become the breathtaking vision of beauty that it should be, all year long, since it's the first thing you see in the back garden when you come through the gate on the right hand side of my house.

The bed has had its moments in the past, as documented here. But I'd like it to have more than just moments.

I hope you will follow along with me as I transform this bed and show it off in my monthly posts. Do you have any big re-gardening projects that you're planning to do this year? Do you post for Helen's End of the Month View?

By the way, you thought I was kidding about the drunken Mahonia, didn't you?

One drunken Mahonia and Oooooh, look at all that lovely shotweed.