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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gardening My Ass Off Part II

Another area of the garden that I've been reworking lately is the bed along the back fence. This is another problem area that I've probably redone, in either big or small ways, every year since we moved here. It's one of those areas that gets different amounts of sunlight according to the season, less in spring, and much more in summer, depending on the angle of the sun. Over the course of the day, the sun moves across it, and at the height of summer the sun stays on it longer and is blocked less by the Douglas firs because the sun is so much higher in the sky. So it's been a challenge trying to figure out the right plants for those conditions. I tweak it every year. And of course, it gets less water in summer because of our lack of summer water, but it gets plenty in fall, winter and spring. But any artificial watering it gets from a sprinkler in summer drains well because beyond the fence the ground slopes away.

I wrote about redoing this bed last year around this same time of year, in this post.

Right now the plants have given it a kind of split personality, a cross between a spiky danger garden and a new perennial, Oudolf-ish kind of deal, along with something else unidentifiable. Maybe the unidentifiable ingredient is me.

Anyway, this summer this bed got very little water. I think I may have hauled the sprinkler out there once or twice. For the most part, the plants didn't seem to mind. The ones that faded badly or died outright got yanked. And like in my previous post about the northeast corner, I replaced a shrub that shriveled with one that will be a lot more tolerant of not getting watered. In this case I pulled out another native, a twinberry (Lonicera involucrata), which in the spring is a favorite of the hummingbirds, but by summer has lost so many leaves to drought that it looks like crap. I replaced it with another Arctostaphylos, a variety called 'Sunset.' There are so many great varieties to choose from in the Manzanita family.

Grasses in general are drought-tolerant, but they do need watering for the first year or so to get established. I had to pull out a few clumps that died after not being watered over the summer, surprisingly, a Miscanthus, and three clumps of little bluestem.

The dark green grass at center right has been in this bed since the beginning, it's our native bear grass Xerophyllum tenax. Others are Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' and Carex testacea. The tall stiff blades are Dierama 'Dark Cerise' and against the fence I transplanted some self-sown foxglove from elsewhere.

Echinops 'Blue Glow'


Panicum 'Red Sunset'

Eucomis 'Aloha Lily Tiki' proved drought-tolerant this summer, although it didn't flower

Newly planted Eucomis 'Oakhurst'

Nolina La Siberica
This winter I plan to sow some Echinacea purpurea into this bed, under cloches, a technique that has worked gangbusters for me in the past. The very first iteration of this bed included a nice variety of low-growing western annual wildflowers like Nemophila (Baby Blue eyes and Five Spot), Gilia (Thimble Flower and Bird's Eyes) and Layia platyglossa (Tidy Tips). I managed to eradicate them at one point, and I plan to re-sow them this winter/early spring to fill in the gaps between plants and hopefully out-compete the weeds.

I'm still hard at work on two more areas of the back garden, pulling out dead or unwanted plants and replanting with new. I've also started installing a bottle border, something that I've had in the planning stages for years. I'll show pictures of it when it's finished.

But for now I think I've reached:


FYI: I bought the concrete butt on a recent expedition to Dig Flower and Garden on Vashon Island. I bought lots of plants too, but the butt, followed me home.


  1. Great work, Alison. I think your are finding the bed's identity and it's going to rock it out for you next summer. I was wondering if the AlAlbizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' is still here and if so how it's doing? I've always wanted one but wasn't sure about it's performance.

  2. I know the feeling...I spent Sunday ripping out almost every plant in the back yard. Most were alive, but just not thriving...or at least not looking great...kind of a mess. Sigh. At least now it's raining and I won't have to spend the next month watering, right?

  3. I enjoy reading both parts of the beds' renovations. You definitely worked your ass off - the butt rock cracked me up (no pun intended) - and I am sure I know how you feel; the satisfaction of seeing it all come together and the anticipation to see how it will do by next year. We all have troubled area we tinker with annually until eventually we end up with tolerant plants. Everything looks great so far.

  4. I've been told that my Eucomis don't blooming because I don't give them enough summer water. Have you found that to be the case?

  5. I'll be watching to see how you get on with this bed. A friend of mine has a very similar set of problems with her backyard border and she's asked for help with it. (The plants her professional landscaper put in a few years ago mostly died in the first year.) At present, we're focusing on succulents.

  6. Ripping stuff out and starting over seems to be endemic around my garden.All my Eucomis are in pots but I am putting them into the ground this fall/winter.They needed lots of water in the pots (terra cotta) so I hope the ground will be more suitable.

  7. There is so much to do this time of the year. Today i planted tulip bulbs, but in order to do that I had to clean up beds first. I think we'll be cleaning up for weeks, but planting or re-planting very little. We're looking at just trying to maintain what we have. We are beginning to feel old and crippled. :-)

  8. You have been busy! I enjoy pulling out plants that haven't performed properly and planting new, gardens are always evolving, I'm sure you will see an improvement next year.

  9. Have you considered renaming your whole blog "Gardening My Ass Off"? Anyway, you did a great job utilizing grasses in this newly planted bed.

  10. Look at you go! Good for you! It's hard for me to get motivated this time of year but you are an inspiration!


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