Starting a flower bed

gamecock43March 16, 2009


I recently bought my first home and it is a stunner (in my opinion). I love looking at other peoples gardens and this is my first chance to grow plants myself.

The house front yard was a blank slate of weeds and sparse grass. I used some pressure treated wood to block off a flower bed and filled it with red mulch. I am also starting to grow grass so please excuse the dark soil and grass seed in the pictures.

There is a palm tree growing on the corner of the house, and two sad looking shrubs that I have inherited.

I just planted some alternating Mondo grass and Big blue Liriope as a flower bed border.

Now what do I plant in the back against the house? I am looking for maybe a plant that is very are my questions:

1. What big leafy plant can I grow in the back of the bed against the house that will not grow out of control and get too big?

2. Would anyone suggest I plant a "creeping" type of plant? Like a vine or creeping rose? I thought it might look pretty growing up onto the deck. But I don't want to damage the wood.

3. The "border plants" will eventually grow together and cover the wood...right? How do I keep the border plants from growing into the rest of the bed?

I live in Savannah GA if that helps anyone.

Thanks in advance!

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Have been to Savannah in spring it is known for it's amazingly beautiful Azalea's sure hope you put some in? shades of pink are Gorgeous against blue & white, only colors (shades of pink)I put in at my own blue & white house, except for more blue.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 9:53AM
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Welcome to the trials and tribulations of trying to decide what to plant!

As far as the leafy plant, how about a nice rhododendron?

I am not big into vines, so I cannot contribute there.

To keep plants from growing into other beds? Can you get a big bucket/old large flower pot and cut out the bottom? Dig up the said plant first, the put in the bottomless pot, then replant. Put the pot as deep as 1" above the soil line. Cover the soil with at least two inches of mulch, and no one will ever know!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 1:03PM
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From Mobot: Big Blue Liriope... typically grows 12-18" high (sometimes to 2') and features a clump of strap-like, arching, glossy, dark green leaves (1" wide). Clumps slowly expand by short stolons, but do not spread invasively like Liriope spicata.

Don't know much about Mondo Grass, but read somewhere that it could be a real spreader.

Not a fan of red mulch, but that notwithstanding, I'd avoid planting anything close to the decking that could trap moisture, restrict airflow and rot any wood it comes into contact with. Learned that the hard way in MD's hot and humid climate with rhododendrons rotting out some wood trim.

Not much help, but a good local nursery should be able to steer you in the right direction towards something appropriately sized for the background you have. Lovely house and porch - why hide it behind something big and leafy?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 1:41PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Hi - very lovely house!

To keep it lovely, I suggest you move the Sabal sp. palm out several feet from the foundation. Palm roots don't usually cause damage, but the trunk of a healthy Sabal palm will eventually get very fat and the spread of the fans very broad, so give it room. It is a slow-growing palm, and very amenable to transplanting.

No worries about the mondo grass, it is very slow-moving. The definition of a vine is a plant that eats your house, so be v-e-r-y careful! Thunbergia battiscombei is a very modest vine-like plant that remains small (at least where I live), not exceeding 6ft., but I have no idea if it will grow in Savannah, GA. If you put something "big and leafy" in that bed, it will fill the whole bed. Nothing wrong with that, just be sure it's what you want. Can you grow alocasia or colocasia? Those are really big leaves...

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 1:55PM
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Thank you for your advice. I know the palm tree is way too close to the house but I dont know how to move it so I am going to leave it there and deal with the problems as they crop up.

I ended up getting two Gardenia bushes. I planted them and hope they do well. I just went online and it sounds like they are very difficult to keep alive! I am afraid that my inexperience will be a problem with these two plants but I will keep reading about them online to see how to manage them.

I have decided to stay away from the vines because I don't think I have enough experience to control them.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 3:54PM
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You haven't mentioned sun exposure and soil conditions or need for amendments. You might start out with some basic landscaping books for some how-to's on that.

As a micro-comment on the liriope and "mondo"--I don't know what you mean by "alternating" , and can't quite tell from your pix, but you would not alternate these for edging.

First, you need to know whether you have the common "mondo" grass that is really a spreading form that will take over flower beds and can't get it out. Avoid that like the plague, except possibly for large areas that you want nothing but mondo grass--it can give a nice uniform look-- and can keep it out of surrounding areas. So it is a filler, not an edger.

"Dwarf mondo grass" really another species/genus and is more slowly spreading, but it would not be alternated with Big Blue liriope, because the liriope gets big and will just overshadow it and you would never see the dwarf stuff. Dwarf mondo is great as a low groundcover, or between stones, or on the "edge" of a pathway as various steppables might be used, but is not so much an edger for a flower bed edge. Big Blue is a good edging plant when what you want to put behind it is large enough (over a foot tall--more like 2 feet) to peak over or above--is commonly seen but still very attractive, IMO, in southern gardens to edge azalea beds, perennials or mixtures. Once established, and depending on the adjacent turf grass, it can defend the edge without hardscape like timbers--so you can mound up raised beds and add compost and mulch and the liriope keeps it corraled.

I would not use red mulch or the red trim in planning the overall design and likely color schemes of the plantings.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 4:39PM
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The liriope concerns me because I have read a range of how much it spreads, from "it will take over the flower bed and move into the grass" to "it is slow growing and can be contained." But its been planted so I'll try it out. I have looked at neighbors gardens and the Liriope is thick (about 2') wide, but still borders the beds.

And it is dwarf mondo grass that is alternated with the Liriope. I didnt realize Liriope will overshadow the dwarf mondo grass but I am ok with that. I like the messy, wild garden look (even though it does not look that way).

I guess my new question is- will the liriope kill the other plants in the bed as it spreads? I am ok with Liriope being my ground cover of the bed if it ever spreads that much, as long as other plants can grow to.

The bed is primarily shady. Shade sets in around 11am everyday. I don't know anything about the soil.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 5:29PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

"I know the palm tree is way too close to the house but I dont know how to move it so I am going to leave it there and deal with the problems as they crop up."

Famous last words. : )

It's not going to get any easier the longer you wait. A shovel and a tarp are the basic tools. If that's too much to contemplate, hire a laborer to do it for you, it will be worth it. (In case you are wondering, this is The Voice of Experience talking.) ; )

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 5:52PM
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Is there a particular time of the year to dig the palm up? I might be able to hire someone this summer. I do want to do the right thing and move it, but its so healthy now, I am scared to mess with a good thing.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 9:18PM
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Hello, Savannah. One of my favorite cities so blessed to have the College of Savannah Art and Design purchasing, rehabing and saving the beautiful old buildings downtown. While other cities are in decline, Savannah is rebuilding its charm, tastefully.

After studying picture #1 it is my guess that the soil along the porch is clay, poor drainage for rain off the porch roof which does not have a gutter. That may be why your inherited, scaggy plants were not growing well. Did you by chance pay attention to their roots when you pulled them? What did the roots look like; normal roots or were they all knobby looking and distorted?

Yes, move palm out from house corner. Try the gardenias. They may or may not be happy. Fussy shrubs to grow; sometimes happy to settle into their chosen planting hole, sometimes not. I am reluctant to suggest any plants right now because I am not certain of the soil type and conditions.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 9:23AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Don't worry about the health of your palm, Sabal are practically indestructible. To give it plenty of time to establish more roots in its new location before winter, move it no later than June. Late spring to early summer is the ideal time for planting sub-tropicals.

Good luck with your gardenias, hope they get enough sun in that location. I haven't tried it myself, but I've heard they like coffee grounds added to the soil surface in the root zone. Whatever happens, you will learn something in the process, maybe reveal a green thumb you didn't know you had!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 10:59AM
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Beautiful House!

I agree about moving the palm - if you don't do it now you'll have to kill it later (or yourself trying to move it). What about staying with the tropical look, after all you have that nice palm?
I'm with duluthinbloom about the red mulch - I'm not a fan.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 3:16PM
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