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

Thursday, August 8, 2019

More Titivating

Isn't that a great word? Titivate? I bet it doesn't mean what you think.

Before I started working on the big bed I chronicled in my previous post A Year in the Making, I started pulling everything out of my small front foundation bed, which has always been another source of frustration to me. I've redone it at least three times since moving here. I started working on it as soon as I got back from 2018's Hardy Plant Study Weekend here in Washington. It's much smaller, and the work went quite fast. The bed had gotten very overgrown and weedy, and the rocks that originally edged the bed had all sunk into the soil and could no longer be seen. I had to dig them up and set them aside in piles to be set back in place.

About a third of the way through digging everything out

About two-thirds of the way finished, just after I dug out a large Forsythia that anchored the bed

The bed was full of rampant self-sowers like rose campion, Catananche caerulea and Eryngium 'Blue Glitter.'

The self sowers in this bed had all been planted much too close to the front of the bed, and tended to sow themselves into the gravel, where they thrived happily with their long taproots. That also made them sheer hell to dig out completely.


By the end of August it was empty, except for some large clumps of low growing Sedum

I thought at first I might save some large clumps of  Sedum 'Angelina' and 'Fuldaglut'  but eventually decided to toss them as well. I didn't start planting right away, however. I knew the fall rains would bring on weeds, and so I waited. I don't have pictures of the empty bed with its newly sprouted carpet of weeds, but I got down on my hands and knees last fall and gave it a thorough going over, and then started to plant.

The first thing I planted wasn't a plant -- it was a mosaic stepping stone from Bright River Studio, surrounded by a variety of low-growing Sedums and Sempervivums, planted at the base of an Arctostaphylos 'Pinnacle Ridge,' a drought-tolerant shrub that would be the bed's new anchor.

The Sedum clumps at 6:00 and 11:00 were from Loree at The Danger Garden, but I don't remember what they're called

I had already started collecting plants for this bed, as well as culling them from other areas around the garden. I also divided some Geranium renardii that I had dug up from this bed and replanted them, and saved some of the Eryngium 'Blue Glitter' to plant far at the back of the bed this time. I managed to shop in my own pot ghetto for more plants.

Setting out pots

I got almost everything in the ground long before winter, but waited to put back the rock edging.


Right after the snow from our big snowstorm melted in February

The two yard waste bins and the wicker coffee table in the photo above are traffic barriers to deer. They walk through the garden often, I know because I see tracks, but I seldom see evidence that they've eaten anything. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that continues.

By early April I had finally managed to put the rocks back around the edges

Early May

Late May

Oregon sunshine, pink and blue Salvias, and tall purple NOID Sedum

Early June, from a different angle

July abundance

Sisyrinchium striatum

Sisyrinchium striatum

Eriophyllum lanatum/Oregon sunshine

Centranthus ruber

Long row of Shasta 'Crazy Daisy'

Tall blue Veronica spicata

I like the way the buttons of Eryngium 'Blue Glitter' come up through the frothy white Shasta daisies

Deschampsia caespitosa 'Northern Lights'

The Sedums and Sempervivums around the Bright River Studios mosaic have filled in well


Another bed that needed tweaking was the narrow circle of beds that ringed the grass in the center of the front garden. It had four different kinds of grasses in it and not enough perennials -- and too much space for weeds. The frothy grass in the photo below is Anemanthele lessoniana -- pheasant tail grass -- which would fall over into the gravel path and made walking down it treacherous. I tripped over it constantly. It's a cool season grass so it doesn't get cut down in early spring like the Panicum that was also growing in the same bed, therefore it looks like crap for too much of the year. It's one of those grasses that you're supposed to clean all the dead stuff out by running your fingers through it and pulling it out, a technique that never works for me. I wanted to get rid of it. It's a nice grass in the right place, but I dug it up and tossed all the clumps into the yard waste bin.

I also pulled out and tossed some clumps of little bluestem, that had never thrived in this bed. And the third grass I took out was Melica uniflora, a nice enough grass, but it self sowed into its neighbors, a habit I found annoying. There were some Kniphofia caulescens in the bed as well that never flowered, unlike the Kniphofia uvaria that grew elsewhere, so out they came too.

That left Panicum "Rohtstrahlbusch' as the bed's workhorse grass. It thrives despite neglect, only flops in very heavy fall rain, and turns pretty colors in the fall. I thought the bed needed another grass, but one I wanted to use sparingly, and it had to be a diva. So I chose Stipa gigantea.


Pheasant tail grass flopping right into the path to the greenhouse

I had such great success with the seeds I had sown for my large prairie bed, I decided to order more of some of them, and do a second later sowing to plant here. I sow most of my seeds in the winter, but these I sowed inside the greenhouse this spring, in the space that had been vacated by all the pots of winter seedlings that were now permanently outside after being hardened off.

The bed cleaned up in late winter/early spring

The other half of the bed, same time of year

The view from the front door now, looking toward the greenhouse:


A path with no grass to trip over (as long as I can manage not to trip on the hose)


And the view from inside the grass circle:



I planted a few clumps of mature Baptisias here

Centranthus ruber

Stipa gigantea in flower

Lilies and Echinacea purpurea

The bees love this flower, and in the fall, the birds devour the seedheads

Verbascum foliage

Echinacea youngsters

A type of mat-forming Dianthus

More clumps of seedlings that will flower next year

I just have this one little area at the far end of the bed to clear the weeds out of and plant up

My success has emboldened me. It's finally time to start dealing with this horrifying mess.



Unfortunately, on a recent coolish morning I discovered a bald-faced hornet nest in the Styrax tree.

Paper wasp nest in the Styrax tree -- photo taken from about 30 feet away

By the time you read this, it hopefully will have been dealt with by a pest control company. Previously, I've left paper wasp nests alone under the eaves of the house, unless they've been built too close to doors that we use constantly. I know this nest will be abandoned once winter comes, but I really would like to start working in this bed now, without fear of disturbing them and getting stung.

They're just going to have to give their lives so that I can get my garden in order.

8 comments:

  1. A long exhausting (imagining actually doing all that work) post ended in true Alison fashion (give their lives...). You've accomplished so much...and onward to do more.

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  2. I love the stepping stone with the surrounding sedum; the bed looks great, and would get better as the Arctostaphylos grows. I love the "shop in my own pot ghetto for more plants" statement. I can't throw away seedlings or happy volunteers: they are guaranteed success. I've replaced most grasses after looking shabby or seed too aggressively. Kept my favorite, Orange New Zealand Sedge which is very polite in my garden.
    All the power to you in tackling the messy terrifying bed. It has good "Bones" and I'm sure you will succeed. Did you deal with the neighbor's dog?

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  3. Titiating - a funny word, but something you have been doing lots of! I have been doing a bunch of titivating too, cutting back all of the spent perennials. It's looking a little bars after the spring/summer exuberance, but a whole lot more tidy. I guess is am a bit of a neatness freak. I spend a lot of time Titivating. :-)

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  4. On first sight, I was sure you'd made up that word and expected you'd offer some hilarious definition but it's even more fun that it's a real word. You've done a LOT of titivating of late, and made an excellent job of it too! Once I've planted an area, I'm usually loathe to tear it apart and start over from scratch but piecemeal tweaking is often disappointing in the long run. You've inspired me to consider some major overhauls in my own garden. Now, if only I have your facility with seed-starting...

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  5. Excellent titivating! I am so jealous of all those plants you're playing with -- and the stones too!

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  6. Well, I'm going to have to pick up the pace if I want to keep up with you!The messes always look messier in August.

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  7. Major projects, major success! An Arctostaphylos will make an excellent anchor for that 2nd bed.

    In an alternate universe, the deer eat all the weeds and leave everything else untasted. Too bad we didn't get that one!

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  8. Wow, huge improvement. Like the stone border.

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