New front bed

greenguy(Zone 5 OH)August 10, 2005

I started to put in a new bed not far from the side walk in the front of my house. Of course i did not give it much thought before i started but if i did I would never have started - a little problem i seem to have.

this is taken from the sidewalk from the center of my lot looking to the right. I just used my mower and cut the grass lower where i thought i wanted the bed.

This is almost the same view but I defined where i wanted the bed, cut the grass even lower and then sprayed it with round-up (with tracking dye - hence the color)

This is the back side of the bed (the side closer to the house) Pic was before i sprayed but the shape is pretty much where I cut and the marking paint.

I probably won't plant anything in it this year - but i might. I really have no idea what i want to plant here. I will probably mulch it over this weekend or at least get an edge around it. The biggest problem i have is planting anything near the blue spruce because I don't know of anything in this area that looks nice for more then a couple of years (due to tree growth etc.) I would love to hear any thoughts or ideas - and no you won't hurt my feelings.

One last thing I may try and find some rocks to set in there as I love them and have used them around my yard in other areas but it is a newer house and I do not consider and of the yard fully finished - yet.

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janandalan(Z7-NC Piedmont)

"Of course i did not give it much thought before i started but if i did I would never have started - a little problem i seem to have."

I don't understand what your "problem" is. I think it will make a nice bed. You're certainly starting off on the right foot by erradicating all of the grass and sharply defining your boundaries.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 7:38AM
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pastvast(z5 NW Ohio)

Oh my goodness... that has the potential to look so AWESOME when finished!!!

Is your problem that you don't know what to put in the island and you're looking for plant suggestions? I know autumn is supposedly a great time to plant things. But then you spend all winter wondering if the new plants will survive (or at least I did last winter). I've become a fan of spring planting, even though I start wanting to change things by late summer =)

I'm a newbie to lanscaping/gardening so I won't be able to help much, other than provide some morale =)

Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 9:31AM
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Check out the thread "Why Does this Design Work or Not Work?" for some really good insight about choosing plants. I found Susan's colour renderings of texture, form, and seasonal interest quite helpful, and you most probably will to.

I think the best thing that I can think of is variety within restraint. Choose plants that can offer a lot of interest to the garden year-round (not just the flowers, but leaves, growth habits, texture, colour, evergreen habit, etc. etc.) and repeat them. You'll have lots of interest, even if you don't have a lot of plants.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 10:33AM
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grandblvd03(z5 IL)

It looks like it's going to be a really beautiful bed. I love the curves and the spacing of your trees.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 10:47AM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

The bed looks good but I would keep any eye on those "mulch volcanos".

- Brent

Here is a link that might be useful: Search for info on Mulch Volcano

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 11:12AM
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mckenna(Z5 Chicago IL)

I like the look of some red next to the blue spruce like a red japanese maple or even a green one that turns red in the fall like a acer japonicum 'Acontifolium'. Also black eyed susans look good next to the blue spruce as well as a ton of other stuff. Look at conifer web sites like the British Conifer society or a conifer book for combos with the blue spruce.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 2:20PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Why not soften the look of the mounded bases of those trees by underplanting with low-growing, sun-tolerant perennials or subshrubs (such as Arctostaphyllus uva-ursi, potentilla, heath/heather)?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 3:01PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

I recently took a book out of the library called Gardening With Conifers by Adrian Bloom. It's gorgeous, full of info and stunning photos of ways one can plant around conifers--often with others. It made me long for the climate and expansive type property you have, such that I could use some of the many ideas. I'm sure it will inspire you. Karen.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 6:43PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

jan or alan - thanks - the 'problem' is that if i don't just start something and take the time stop to think about it I can plan it for years and get nothing done so sometimes i just rush into things to get them started.

pastvast - thanks for the post - ideas for plants = yes.

bonsai - thanks for the tips and I will check out that link

grand blvd - thanks i am trying

brent - I could not plant the trees any deeper because they were dying from water not draining out of the 'clay pot' it was a bad problem that took me a little while and a few trees to figure out also it is mostly top soil around them with very little mulch but I know it also looks like @#$% and i plan to add muclh or some top soil and mulch to make the entire bed higher then the area around it. I am thinking about using some bulk mulch i can get cheap and add 6-8" then I would just plant new things next year and then maybe add another top dressing of mulch to help bring the bed level up closer to the top of the root balls of the trees.

mc kena - thanks for the tips i will do that and black eye susans are one of the plants I have been thinking about using

Cady - i'll have to look most of those plants up but I do also plan to improve the look of those trees sitting up so high as brent poined out (i guess i should have mentioned that with my fist post)

k mickleson - my wife goes to the library twice a week I'll ask her to see if they have that book - thanks

if anyone has some more plants that they think would look good the names and a picture or link would be great (or i will look them up) Also tossing the idea around of adding some rocks/boulders

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 7:40PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

I did take a new pic today and really shows the grass dying - kind of shocking how fast it is working.

I am thinking about using some rocks on the front side of the spruce on the far right to make the bed look more level in that area - the yard drops off quite a bit there and i did the same thing on another bed i am still working on. I plan to use the same plants (whatever they turn out to be)in both beds

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 7:46PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

OMG I envy you! If only my DH and I could come up with an agreement that I could have such a beautifully shaped expansive bed... if only. I am trying to read between the lines here, because you are asking for help but it isn't clear exactly what help you need! You have a great bed, you just need to fill it up! Be a gardener! Learn about the plants and try them and if they don't work - move them!

I *think* (and I may be interpreting this wrong) that you simply don't know where to start with filling in this wonderful bed you've created. Is that right? If so, it's time to go to the library/garden society/magazines/internet searches/etc to find what will grow well in your conditions. Do you want an informal or formal look? Do you want native or introduced species? Do you want a blue/white/yellow/silver bed or an orange/red/yellow/white or a haphazard collection of all colors? Do you want plants that feed and sustain wildlife (including birds) or low maintenance? Do you want .... ? (I ran out of questions because I am not a pro :) )

Anyways, I think you have plotted out a beautiful bed and once you decide what you want, it will be gorgeous!

A (jealous) opinion from an amateur,

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 8:41PM
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This thread is like a Seinfeld episode. There is a big response to seven disjointed trees sprawled over a lawn with a nice shape mowed around it. It inspires envy,"it will be awesome", Its going to be beautiful", and then more envy.

It is like someone building a garage with everyone talking about what a great car it will be. It should have racing stripes, hood scoops are great, gas mileage should be considered,...

Am I missing something? The bed has not even been cut yet and it is a masterpiece.

Why is it ....?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 10:00PM
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mckenna(Z5 Chicago IL)

You can try a miscanthus morning light by the spruce also, or maybe japanese bloodgrass and some white liatris or maybe even a more yellow low growing juniper. It looks like you will be able to view this bed from a million different angles so your options are endless, which probably just makes it harder to plan. I agree with the Gardening with conifers book suggestion, great book. You could also do large groups of grasses like miscanthus with some perennials like russian sage, lavender, sedums, etc.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 10:44PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

Why is it ....?
I can't speak for others, but for myself it's because of the potential. It's because I can imagine making this a wonderful border between my yard and the next. It's because it's waiting to happen.

For myself, I am far more excited looking at what someone *might* be able to do than looking at what someone *has* done. It's my imagination. I think the people who are responding to this post are imagining what they would do, rather than being confined by what has already been done. It's an (almost) blank slate.

My opinion. Very likely wrong :)


    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 11:01PM
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GingerBlue(z6 MO)

Naw...they like it because it looks "professional". You know, like in every upscale housing development and golf course in the country.

Compare to the usual square beds, symmetrical soldiers, and poor choice of plants that we usually see when people ask for advice. This guy has a nice design. Nothing spectacular YET, no. But nothing bad either.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 11:28PM
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First, I would plan for a path running thru the middle of the entire bed, maybe a little hidden, to be used for maintenance, deadheading, pruning, mulching, weeding, etc. Maybe use flagstone, or gravel so you can get a wheelbarrow or cart thru there. OR, be sure to plant so there's room to get thru the bed to do all the above mentioned. If you're like most, you'll overplant and it will be a jungle in 3 years.

For plants, I envision lots of shrubs, small trees, or trees that can be kept pruned into a shrub shape. (i.e., I have 4 Cotinus "shrubs".) You may already have enough trees that will be big someday. Some perennials--but chose carefully for those with little maintenance and a long bloom period. Bulbs would be nice, especially the spring bloomers. Use perennials to grow over the dying foliage. Depending on which way the bed is oriented, you may have shade on one side, and sun on the other, especially if there is somewhat of a backbone of taller material.

I would have some concerns about planting straight into bark mulch that's a few months old.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 12:56AM
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grandblvd03(z5 IL)

Why is it... lol. It's true, we're all gushing over it. I guess I like it because of the potential too. The curve is very nice, and it's on a large lot. The trees are disjointed now, but it's easy to imagine them mature and mixed in with things to fill the beds. That's why it appeals to me.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 3:53AM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

I don't have much time to respond now - at work
first i would like to thank everyone that has replied.

laag 'This thread is like a Seinfeld episode. There is a big response to seven disjointed trees sprawled over a lawn with a nice shape mowed around it.'
even thought i think it is a little more then that now I have to say I agree with that. thats why it is posted here if I wasn't worried about it I would not be here. If i made some dream garden bed that looked perfect I wouldn't need any help.
I completly agree that i do need something that will help tie it all together - so what is it??

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 7:59AM
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What are those mounds of stuff around the base of the trees?

I thought mulch volcanos were bad for the trunks.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 9:16AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

I think the bed makes a good first impression because it isn't the usual squiggly shape. Greenguy, did you cut the shape from the *inside* of the bed? If so, make sure your mower can cut the *outside* in the spots where the curve is a little tighter, because the radius of the curve is going to be different.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 9:51AM
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The reason that I think you are all gushing is because Greenguy did a small thing that has a huge impact. Learn from it. He gave strong unity to a group of otherwise individual trees by the use of his lawn mower.

Understand the power of this design principle. Look at the effect it had on all of you, and rightly so.

The second thing he did that you need to take note on is that it is also visually balanced which strengthens all that you like about it.

Now what is going to reinforce that and what is going to erode that from the suggestions that everyone has made above? Are you working with him, or are you working against him?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 12:46PM
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grandblvd03(z5 IL)

I think anyone here who suggested conifers, mass plantings and boulders mixed in would be close to the way I envision it. I was also going to suggest building up the soil around the trees gradually -- this would create little hills/mounds with height variance, which would look great with mass plantings of groundcovers. Don't know if that's working with or against, but it's how I see it.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 1:10PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Right now they are obviously young trees which have been given space to grow. To be honest, I'm not sure there is really room for anything besides an accent rock or two and groundcovers.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 1:52PM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

I think Andrew is being serious in his last post. Either way, I agree. If you look at the first picture, I see a landscape "design" typical of a large lot. Handsome trees are plopped down creating a visual mess. In the second picture, even with just the marker dye there, it really brings all the trees together into one unit. The trees give the bed a reason for its shape and it seem natural.

My vision would be a minimal planting. Maybe a bench and some paths, maybe some accent boulders, and maybe a few woodland shrubs. Other than that I would mulch this area and let the trees take center stage.

- Brent

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 3:12PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

Now what is going to reinforce that and what is going to erode that from the suggestions that everyone has made above? Are you working with him, or are you working against him?

Oh goodie! This sounds like we are about to get educated. OK, I'll try. I don't mind being told why I'm wrong :)

1. Unrelated to Laag's post, if I understand correctly, the root balls of the trees are 6-8" above ground level. I think that should be addressed by raising the soil in the whole bed, making the drop-offs more gradual. I think the "volcanoes" will detract from the look.

2. If we are gushing because the trees have been united, then we don't want to destroy what we've done, therefore any plantings must have some type of unity. Not separate plantings around each tree. For example, the idea of ground covers under the trees to hide the "volcanoes" might instead make each tree look like an island (not what we want).

3. A path through the trees, as suggested above, may help tie everything together.

4.If boulders are placed, they must not look as though they are separate entities, but somehow tie in - I don't know how to do that.

5. OK, I'll go WAY out on a limb here. I think the trees should be the focal points, so we would want to be careful to not anything that will become a separate focal point, thus seeming to drive the trees apart.

OK, I'm done. I have no idea whether any of these are reasonable suggestions or not, just that I do see Laag's point that the trees have become united, so thought I would see how I do. Feel free to say everything I said is wrong!


    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 3:31PM
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sharons2(z3-4 ID)

GreenGuy, may I suggest that while you've got Gardening With Conifers by Adrian Bloom out of the library, go for the gold and check out his Year-Round Garden, too. (Or if you can't find that, check out Winter Garden Glory and Summer Garden Glory. These would be the same thing.) Your bed and general setting looks like something straight out of one of his books. Here is his website, too.

BTW, (whether this helps or not, I'm not sure), but a very nice combo that I've seen features a 'Thomson' blue spruce and a lavender 'Tracy's Treasure' Phlox paniculata. It was in Tracy DiSabato-Aust's The Well-Designed Mixed Garden. I don't like most of her combos, though - too yellow for me, I suppose.

Sharon (not Susan) :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardens of Alan and Adrian Bloom

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 4:32PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

I'd like to see enough topsoil brought in to raise the bed to the level the trees are planted at, tapering gradually down to lawn level, no abrupt drop off. The dreaded berm, in other words, since the trees are already planted high, you really don't have much choice.

Then, taking into consideration the mature sizes of the existing trees and the conditions of shade and moisture that will exist under them, plan for a planting of a *limited* number of massed shrubs for flowers, foliage, and winter effects that will harmonized with the existing trees and surrounding plantings. No spotty plantings or flower gardens. I'm not sure I like the path idea, to me this looks like a mixed planting that is meant to be seen from the outside rather than the inside, especially since it looks like it's set in a spacious lawn. Maybe it's not.

My 2 cents. Well, am I "fer" or "agin"?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 4:38PM
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Back to the basics...Greenguy, due to clay soil, has found that using the technique of 'swamp' planting is the only way he can grow trees in his yard. The trees are alive and growing. Now, he has formed a planting bed which is acceptable. Decision time is here. He must remember that as the spruce grow they will lose their bottom branches. This enters into his design process. Next consideration. If he installs a basic perennial garden is he anxious to do the necessary plant division in early spring of each year? That is his choice. Or, would he rather keep it simple with rocks, mulch, a path, perhaps some of the low growing cryptomerias/junipers and one of the low Japanese maples which can fill a lot of space in time. More open space is easier to mulch and maintain. He even has room for a pond which is another consideration in clay soil. There are a number of ways this space could be planted. The question to you, Greenguy, is what aspects of gardening do you enjoy most? And the second part is what grows best in a non draining clay soil in your Zone? Answers to those questions should give you some direction.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 4:48PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

I think everyone agrees on these points so far

1. I am going to bring up the soil/mulch level to match or get close to where the trees are - this was my plan all along wish i would have stated it to avoid the confusion, sorry.

2. The trees look better now that there is a clear connection holding them together. even thought they looked like they were just plopped at random i was hoping to make it a bed one day - this is also one of the reasons I was not so worried about them being planted so high. the trees were also placed to help block the road and an intersection that i don't like to look at. all that aside the second point is that they clearly will look much better clumped together in a bed then with the grass breaking them up.

beside this there doesn't seem to be much agreement so here are some of my random thoughts

  1. I am worried i will end up making it look to 'busy'
    2. It is to close to the sidewalk and street for me to want a path bench pond or any other feature (i hope this doesn't hurt the feeling of those that had the ideas as it is not meant to)
    3. I am an avid hosta grower - i only mention this because even thought i feel it is to sunny for most hostas it speaks of my style of plants - and i still get the urge to fill the entire bed with different hostas.
    4. I really like using rocks and boulders and some will probably end up in or around the bed to one extent or another - this is close to certain but i will have to find some as i refuse to pay for landscape rocks - the good news is i have friends that should be able to help me here.
    5. I do have a lot of plants that i could split and put in but do not want to use them just because i can for free - this goes back to #1

this is pretty much it so far i guess - i did not get the books yet but will and i am going to check that web site tonight. tomorrow (heat allowing) i am going to put some cheap mulch down that will be a good base layer and will help to get me a little closer to finish grade height (top of the tree root balls or close) the mulch i am going to get is really junk and will break down fast so i consider it close to spreading a layer of compost (which i don't have available)

one other thing that i keep thinking is that purple or dark plants may look nice with the clumps of white birch (once they get bigger) and one other thing is i am really not a big fan of yellow flowers

I want to thank EVERYONE again for their interest, posts, advise and help

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 9:52PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

sharon thanks foe the link these were my favorite two

i really like the cool blue look

i also always seem drawn to japanese style

i also feel i have to mention these pictures are from the link above (bressingham gardens)and here is the link to them so you can check them out along with the others there

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 10:07PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

i have to say that with the trees i already have that either of these ideas would bring me back to - to much/to busy

but i do like them

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 10:09PM
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Greenguy, I think that you are doing great so far.

Bloom was an expert in in creating unity so that he can get away with extreme contrasts. People tend to focus on the colors rather than what he does to get away with it. They look and see one of these next to one of those and believe that the plant combination is what captures them. But, all you have to do is look at this thread to understand that you captivated a lot of people with seven basic trees and a can of spray paint. Look at Blooms gardens and look to see what about them can compare to what you are doing. You might be surprised.

The stronger you build unity, the more you can get away with variety. Bloom does it with negative space (the lawn-just like you) and reinforces it with a base of unified texture (usually a very fine texture). He also builds the appearance of mounding (like you plan to do with actual soil) through plant mass. These are all visually balanced (something I can't begin to explain in parenthesis) much like your island is. The unity is so strong that he can go nuts with high contrast that the average bed could not support.

Rocks do not appear to be part of Bloom's repitoire, but they are very unifying if they are proportionally big enough and put in believable formations. It sounds like this is something you want to do.

Bloom's work excites people because it is both busy and relaxing at the same time. They see the busy, yet only feel the relaxation. We need to pick it apart in order to put it back together. It does not matter if you don't see it the same way as long as you find a way to break these things down into rational measurable things so that they make sense to you. Prairie is starting to do this which is a very "good thing" (can I use that term without an ankle bracelet?).

Throwing around plant names is not design. Making something happen using plants and anything else to achieve that is design.

If you have enough unity through other means, you will have difficulty making the bed look too busy. It gives you license to go nuts and get away with it. I think you instinctively already know exactly what you are doing.

PS, maybe you can help out the guy with the new walk on another thread.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 11:13PM
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susanargus(z7 NoVA)

some thoughts...

Perhaps with other pictures of your yard it might feel different, but at this point your monumental trees (they will be) point to a Western US "moutainscape" to me, especially when you berm up the area. The evergreens especially. I'd look through photos of the western mountainscapes - Yosemite, Missoula, Rocky Mountains, etc - and see which appealed to me and which echoed your trees. Then add rock and a few alpine-hinting plants around the rocks (rock-garden bulbs esp.) and if you can't stand the space between the trees think about a wave of a single type of wildflower. I'd consider adding an additional tree or two to one of your plantings, so they create a clump. Evergreen clumps can be very beautiful, if used sparingly.

the one tree i'm uncomfortable with is the tall white barked one (birch?) in the middle of the bed. with this formulation of mountaintop, the "top" of the mountain would have a more bent, windblown tree. I don't know if birches can be shaped/pruned to be more interesting (a la bonsai) but perhaps you could do something with leaning the tree, pulling it off the vertical...dunno about this at all, just speculating. I think the growth rates of your trees will mean that the spruces dwarf everything else.

what kinds of stone are native to your area of OH?

a technical point, since you're considering mulch/compost:
You should try to add the soil now when the trees are young to berm the entire bed, rather than wait until their root systems are out in the larger space and you have to worry about smothering them with added soil depth. 6" of dirt for this whole bed is going to be a dumptruckload, isn't it?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 11:21PM
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Vikki1747(z8 VA)

Greenguy...your handle says it all and your love of hosta translates to a love of texture and foliage. I bet you cut the blooms off of your hosta? Think back on any garden you have admired and you will probably realize it was full of foliage with varying degrees of color and void of flowers. I love flowers (and my garden beds are full of them) but I have come to understand that the gardens with the most impact actually are colored with fantastic foliage and texture. Japanese gardens rarely have flowers. For that "cool blue" look try some of the fabulous blue ornamental grasses and I think it is difficult to create a "busy" display with ornamental grasses. Have fun and I look forward to seeing what you end up with. Vikki

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 10:11AM
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littlebug5(z5 MO)

Gee, I like it too. But I agree with your concern about making it too busy. It's kind of hard to tell exactly how much space your're going to have to fill, because your trees are all young and the berming will serve to take up some space (at the edges).

I can see a few clumps of ornamental grasses and something like rudbeckias or veronicas or echinicias (sp). And then quite a bit of one kind of groundcover to tie it all together. Periwinkle, for example. Don't get too many different kinds of stuff in there -- your variety comes from all your different trees.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 2:04PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

vikki you are pretty smart - all cut but the ones i want some seed from ;~)

The guy with the new walk? I am not sure what post you are talking about. I am not sure if I would be much help unless he lives close - a have a shovel and i can use it faily well.

here is a liitle proof

I thought 6 yards would do it but this is where 8 got me - it is still not as thick as i think it should be but the trees now look 'normal' and it gives me a good base to work with next year when i put a nicer mulch on top.
I never said what thge trees were - i am sure some of you know already but there are 3 heritage birch (clump form) - 1 crimson frost birch - and 4 blue spruce

I do really like most ground covers but maybe i should rethink that a bit - i think the green of a ground cover will blend to much with the grass (breaking the unity the much bed created) anyone agree?

I have no clue what i could plant (besidea a ground cover) near the blue spruce that will still look good in a couple of years - anyone have i pic or a hint

I also saw a very large area in the bed with no trees and am thinking I should maybe plant something tall or larger there.

over all i have not given it much thought yet as I had to work this a.m. and spreading 8 yards of mulch kept me pretty busy with a couple of other things thrown in today.

I may not get the rest of the mulch tomorrow due to some plans my wife made but at least I should have a bit more time to think about what i want to do in there - maybe nothing untill next spring - that should give me a lot of time to think/plan

again thanks for everyones help and interest

should i mention i may start another bed or two near this one ;~)

I keep thinking about texas blue bonnets - if that is what they are called, maybe blue lupines (i am not at all good with plant names) - ever since i saw the blue pic above.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 7:20PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

anyone have i pic or a hint

At the rate you're moving, I will reiterate prior recommendation [mine & others]: go to the library [or bookstore] and get Adrian Bloom's Gardening With Conifers. Many answers there. You can cluster delightfully complimentary smaller conifers near your others, as well as near the deciduous birches, offering nice winter interest. You won't regret it. Promise.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 9:11PM
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Vikki1747(z8 VA)

Here's a suggestion for a ground cover.
I put Creeping Jenny around these Crepe Myrtle trees and so far I like it...guess some would say it can be invasive but I don't find it hard to control. After all, a ground cover is invasive, hence the name, yes? The more sun it gets the brighter the color is.

Since taking the picture below in May, the Creeping Jenny has filled in the space nicely. You can see how bright it can look in the sun and I think it is a nice accent to the green of the surrounding plants and the lawn . The hardy Geraniums bloom only sporadically now and the "Jenny" adds a nice touch of color to this spot.

Since you like blue you may want to consider a Blue Star Amsonia. That's it to the right of the Jenny in the photo above. It has a wonderful airy look and the foaliage turns a beautiful golden color in the fall. The pale blue flowers are an added bonus. Here is an overhead shot I took when it was in bloom. I would also recommend Walkers Low Catmint for a blueish flower and a greyish green leave color. I will take a picture of mine if you would like to see it. Wish my photos were better but I'm still learning the digital camera thing.

Your bed looks great with the top soil. You were not kidding about knowing how to handle a shovel. Hope it was cooler for you than it was here. Today our heat index was 104!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 9:46PM
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Did anyone like it more before the mulch went in?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 10:13PM
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sharons2(z3-4 ID)

Oh yes, Laag! I definitely liked it more before the mulch went in; but without this little nudge from you, I would have just kept mum. The black is jarring, but it's more than that. The shape of the bed looks wrong.

It reminds me more of an amoeba now, and look at that long, thin arm.... I think it's the angle of the picture, too, that's revealing flaws which were obscured by the spruce in the pictures up above.

I hope you will take this in the spirit it's meant, Greenguy. And also, remember that I'm not a pro; so now they may bop me on the head if I'm perceiving it wrong.


P.S. I didn't mean for you to take after Bloom in using his color constrasts. Laag explained to you better than I could the similarities that I saw. I also hope you'll slow down a bit, and go check out those books.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 12:33AM
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grandblvd03(z5 IL)

I have to admit that the arms of the bed don't look as nice to me now as they did before the dark mulch defined them. For some reason the curves looked bigger and broader in the original photos, and now they're looking a little skimpy to me. I also imagined more hills and mounds in that bed, something to give it a little more depth. Honestly, I think I'd create a few mounds near the center, just to give it some more depth. I like Vikki's creeping jenny, and I think I'd combine that with vinca or something very contrasty, plus something inbetween. That, plus boulders, and conifers.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 2:04AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Greenguy, to avoid confusion on what to plant where, think of the bed as an island and the lawn a sea. Join the evergreen trees with others to form a curved spine. Also think shoreline. Points are headlands where the rocks and smaller plants grow, and where the bed goes in, is a valley. The valley goes up to the spine, or ridge, in a gentle curve. Valleys are a good place for broad expanses of your Hostas in the lee of the spine. Also the spine shape should reflect the shape of the island. The spine can have arms but simplicity should be maintained to limit confusion.
Hope this helps in a general way. My little kitten insists on jumping up on my lap and helping me type so my post is a little disjointed. ;-)

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 7:29AM
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susanargus(z7 NoVA)

Right now the mulch (not dirt, right?) is emphasizing a big X. I think one of the reasons that doesn't feel quite right is that it is essentially a rectangle - overly symmetric.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 7:33AM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

vikki - it was hot, maybe not a 104 but hot and humid - i drank 8 bottles of water in the about 4 hours i worked out there yesterday - raining here today

ok that picture was very misleading hte bed is not an x at all it is hard to get a feel of it from the pictures but here is one from upstairs that should help a little bit

the way the ground falls as it goes toward the sidewalk distorts what the bed really looks like in the pictures (even this one)

I like creeping jenny - i took a small piece from a friend - when i say small i mean for or five leaves on one stem and a thread of root and threw it by my pond this spring an it has gone crazy

here is a current pic of my pond i put in last year - the creeping jenny this spring - it is not not up to par imo

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 12:47PM
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susanargus(z7 NoVA)

that is quite possibly the coolest fountain i have ever seen. LOVE IT.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 12:55PM
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Vikki1747(z8 VA)

Good grief, the trees across the street are massive!! The bed looks great from above and I like how you have made it define that corner of your property. Lucky you with the rain, wish we could get some, we need it big time. I'm guessing with the size of your yard you use a riding lawnmower? I use one also and as a word of caution...I have found that driving around my beds, especially in the curves, has taken a toll on the grass. I start mowing here in March and I mow every other day because I keep the blade at 3 1/2" to 4" high. I believe that the frequency of driving over the grass around the beds has caused the problem. Can't do a directional change around the beds. If I owned a push mower I would use it around the beds. It would help the grass and also help keep my bed trenches better defined. I agree with Susan, your hydrant fountain is fabulous. Vikki

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 2:48PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

what fountian? lol
thanks - i found it by the side of the road lol

trees across the street are at least 15 years old

I cut mine at 3 to 3 1/2 but never more then twice a week usually only once - never have had a problem lucky i guess - you don't mow when its wet do you? maybe you shouldn't cut so often - cut back on the nitrogen?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 3:15PM
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It seems to me that with the dark mulch, the bed lost much of its "unity". So that would have to be "made up" somehow, either by a changing structure --the trees themselves will change--or by a groundcover color that ties them together again, or both. I don't know what.

I would think it would help for you to make some rough sketches of the trees at more mature size. Otherwise, how will you pick the scale of the companion plantings, or even boulders, to look right several years from now? It will also be your choice as to whether you want to just plant for what things will look like a few years from now, and wait for things to fill in, or go ahead and use any part of it, including the perimeter, for any fun plantings you wish to have, such as annuals or perennials (choose those that are easy to dig up) that you can enjoy now but will move later.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 6:54PM
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They may be little now, but them's some serious conifers waitin' to "happen". When they "get big" how much space are you going to have between them?

Whatever you decide to plant should probably be "portable"... you'll have to move it, in lots less time than you think! OR, sell the place when that bed starts to look "nice".

We've been in our home 15 years now, and I am astonished at how qucikly things grow up and how BIG "insignificant" things get over time. It happens when you aren't "looking". Our south lawn and garden were FULL sun 15 yrs. ago... now they're "partial shade". And we never really were aware of the transformation until the Oriental lilies began blooming "later than usual". ;) The Hydrangea standards now provide enough shade for lawn chairs... it happens gradually, the Grand Canyon required eons...

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 10:02PM
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patrick3852(z5 MI)

I can't get all the photos to load with this browser, so my perceptions may be off, but in my minds eye, this bed has an opportunity contrary to what most posters have been promotting: a 'natural looking' placement of rocks and vegetation. I would fly against the natural look, using rocks to edge part of or the whole island, making it a raised bed or a series of raised beds that interact with each other in a casual way. The garden could spill out over the rock edge in a few places onto the lawn where the trees will eventually create shaded areas. Or expand toward the sunny sections to allow for more sun loving plants. In either case, you would be expanding some of the more narrow "arms" and loosening up the design, which I think was the appealing part of it when you posted the first pictures. The use of groundcovers could help anchor the soil between the rocks and cascade down to the next level. The rocks you choose could be fairly large (but manageable) boulders placed together to form a low wall, perhaps with smaller rocks stuffed in between to form a tighter edge. In the second photo, there appears to be a garden near by that has a mix of rocks in it already. Using rock walls could help tie the new bed into the rest of the yard. Or you could use stacked flat rocks much as you have incorporated in you fountain. You could even mix them up. The effect would be to normalize the hieght of you trees (getting rid of the mulch volcano look), allowing you to fill in the bed with better soil (deeper root zones that drain), creating better growing conditions for the herbacous plants you introduce. And the rock walls would have winter interest. Your biggest problem as a raised bed will be the way you aproach cutting the lawn around it. If you use a riding mower, you may want to experiment with cutting around the walls before you fill in with the dirt, as sometimes you just can't get into those curves if they are too tight. I can't believe that Jugglerguy hasn't suggested this :)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 10:58AM
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amateur_expert(z6 MD)

It was suggested that I read this thread. Now that I've read it, my question is: is Greenguy still around and what has he done with this? I'm just dying to know.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 10:47AM
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I'm curious too.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 8:28AM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

I am still here lurk mostly
the bed looks worse then in the pictures right now
the shape is close to the same maybe a bit larger by some of the trees but i cut the bed edge in with a gas powered bed shaper i rented from home depot and while i had it i cut a new bed in the backl yard and all of my other existing beds.

So far I have planted nothing new but i am looking for a replacement for the one tree and probably two - they were the first ones planted and they were to low and choke in the 'clay pots' with to much water

i am at work now but will try to snap a pic or two when i get home
looked at a lot of books over the winter but would still welcome help

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 11:49AM
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sharons2(z3-4 ID)

GreenGuy, I posted this last September in a different thread, but I waited (probably too long) to post it here since I was afraid it would be too close to "throwing around plant names." I have Bloom's Winter Garden Glory book and tend to forget what a riot of color he has during the growing season.

HoneyMI's landscape is, I think, a lot closer to what you are looking for. It uses a lot of hostas, is more subdued, and uses a more japanese style. She also has a lot of color in the Fall.



"Your landscape is really nice, HoneyMI. I've admired it before and was going to suggest it to GreenGuy as a possibility for the thread on his Front Bed. The lilies only bloom for about 2 weeks, though; don't they?"

Here is a link that might be useful: HoneyMI's Webshots (click on Garden Photos)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 1:40PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

As far as what looks good with the conifers my answer would be additional conifers and heathers. These may need to be yanked out as the years go by and the bed becomes more shaded but then you can fill it with Hostas. ;)

I think that Honey's pics are stunning but I'd like to see some taller plants inbetween the very tall trees and very low groundcovers. That is just my preference, NOT a criticism. If I was a Hosta fanatic I'd stuff as many in as possible too. I'm assuming GreenGuy's bed is too sunny at the moment.

My thoughts would be that you need some large shrubs/understory trees and then smaller shrubs and then perennials and ground covers. I tend to like a more naturalistic type of landscape when one has room. Like the concept mentioned of Rocky Mountains. Love boulders.

I think your bed is as big as my entire yard. Jealous. I see houses when I look out my windows and many with bad landscaping.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 11:38PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

thanks you are right
I have thought about posting a new thread about this bed but i have not made up my mind yet. Like i said i have not done much of anything yet but it is now a good time to start planting or get ready to plant.

I also saw where you posted this is one of the best posts that were left - I would also say thanks but it is only a good thread due to all of the great posts from people like you so again i say thanks to you ;~)

also thanks buy or sell, the bed is not that large the one i cut in the back yard is at least three times as large. I don't think I want to overplant then pull stuff out I am patient and can think of other things to do with the money but I do know where you are coming from and have thought about it many times.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 10:22PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

I don't know if anyone has any interest in this or not
but here it is.......
new edge cut in a few small plants and fresh mulch


i wish i could movbe that lone spruce closer to the house and to the left but it is to large now so i am going to live with it there

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 10:07PM
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Wow, how many yards of mulch is that?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 10:23PM
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gardenscout(z6 NE RI)

This has been a cool thread, and I learned a lot.

The obvious thing to do with the lone spruce is to widen the narrow island to include it, but there must be some reason you didn't. I guess then the beds would be too close together.

Am I the only one who liked the area better without the new narrow island to the right?

If asked, I'd vote to connect the two beds, include the loner, and watch as your forest grows. I very much like the trees you have selected, and they are going to fill out beautifully.

Thanks again for the thread.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 12:24AM
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sharons2(z3-4 ID)

So, GreenGuy. Do you have an update on your bed?

This was the first time the idea of negative space ever really made sense to me, so I can't let this thread drop off into the ether. It is simply too valuable to lose.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 9:58PM
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I have been watching from the shadows, and have been very interested in this thread. NOW that I am up to SPeed, GREEN GUY PLEASE SHOW US THE "FINAL " PRODUCT :)

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 3:20PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

I can't believe this thread is this old and still getting interest.

I really have not done that much with it. I planted a few things and gave it a nicer layer of mulch last year and this year i have not had any time to do anything with it at all. The only thing i have done is keep the weeds out.

some of the plants have grown a lot some not as much as i would have liked/thought.

It doesn't look great right now from the lack of care and being this late in the season but i will try and get a picture of it and post it.

It will be great to get some feedback on it as i plan to do more work on it.......when i can

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 11:15AM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

I thought i would put up a pic from today - maybe i'll get one from a similar angle as the others if anyone want to see it

the only thing i plan to do to this bed this year is start limbing the trees up a bit - i have been putting it off because i like the privacy and i think they grow faster with the lower branches

not exactly what i wanted but pretty happy with it

one from the street

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 8:27PM
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greenguy, I haven't seen this posted on the hosta forum! LOL! Great job, I love it! Mary

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 9:06PM
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That looks fabulous. It will look even better once the birch are limbed up. Nice of you to come back with progress pics. (I wish more posters would do that.)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 8:18AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I wouldn't limb up those trees if you like the privacy. I'd feel the same way about the privacy. They will limb themselves up in time.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 9:18AM
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greenguy~I love your beds, did you include the lone spruce in the bed on the right? What a difference a few years make.

I hope you don't ever limb up the spruce. I also love the rock over by the house. Some of my favorite plants are rocks (j/k), but I think you know what I mean! :0)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 10:18PM
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Great job GreenGuy. The trees look so healthy. I wonder how you edged? Did you dig in a ditch around the bed or are you having to use the weedeater all the time?
Something sprawling and close to the ground would be nice to tie the whole bed to the lawn and if you have room maybe a winter holly or a yellow or red twig dogwood.

I know what you mean about the birch - its nice to look at their trunks. Well you will figure it out.
It sure turned out very nicely

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 11:10PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

thanks everyone

i have not done anything to the bed since the pics.

i would never limb up the pines only the birch - i will probably just start with a couple of the lowest branches

i rented a bed edger this spring before i mulched and did the whole yard in less then 3 hours (and that was taking my time)

i have thought about adding a ground cover but the birch roots are thich and i have not found the right thing yet.

i do have a couple of hostas planted in there because i did not have anywhere else to put them at the time and i was interested to see how they would do. they will peobablu move out at some point.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 2:21PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I went to a native plant nursery and bought kinnick kinnick as a groundcover. Well I don't know if that's exactly how you spell it or say it, but it is also called bearberry, and has the scientific name Uva ursi. It is doing pretty well in my forest bed. It trails quite a bit but doesn't root everywhere so it can spread quite far from it's home base. You can probably root it in more places by layering, which I have not tried yet. I don't know if you would ever be able to find it in a nursery. I am lucky to have this place right near me, I have found several unusual plants there that have done very well for me. I know kinnick-kinnick grows in the midwest, I have seen it in the woods up north in MI. It is thriving in my urban SE PA yard which surprised the heck out of me.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 12:22PM
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Like lpink, I'm finding bearberry (Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi) a very satisfactory ground cover here in the upper Midwest. And I didn't have to scour the nurseries for native plants. It was a hot item at Wal-Mart's seasonal parking lot garden center. Was definitely an impulse buy; just wish my impulse had been to purchase more than two of them.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 1:30PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

just looking at this to compare how it looked when new

I am going to try and get another shot this year

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 10:09AM
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Can't wait to see it!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 3:49PM
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Me too! When I did a search on bed shapes, your post popped up and lead me to this site. I immediately fell in love with your beds and woodland setting. I tried doing the mower cut to outline one of my beds, but didn't come out as nice as yours. Your post was inspiring to me!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 8:57AM
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janetgia(5b IA)

Greenguy, since you just stopped in here recently, I was wondering if you would answer a question when you come back :) In your original post you mentioned you used Round-up with tracking dye to kill the grass. I have wanted to do the same thing, but was worried that the RU would be bad for incoming plants, especially if planted in the same season - which is what I want to do: kill grass now, plant as soon as possible, with as little back-ache as possible. So my question is: did you have any trouble with RoundUp remnants causing damage?

Also, FWIW, I think the earlier idea of putting some boulders is a really good one - I think it would add some character and possibly give you ideas for some additional plantings.

Thanks for sharing your photos!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 4:39PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

I have not had time to take a picture yet but i will soon even without mulching then hopfully i'll get one after mulching too

Janet, roundup will not hurt new plants once it is dry on the plants you spray. I am pretty sure i sprayed this bed in fall, waited a week and sprayed anything that was left alive and spread mulch. I am pretty sure i did not plant anything until the next spring - only because i didn't know what i was going to plant.

I have sprayed other beds and mulched the same day then planet the next and still other beds i have sprayed planted (high) and them mulched. there is no problem with roundup it does not effect the soil it only works through the foliage. The biggest concern it making sure you get everything sprayed, which can be hard in larger areas and making sure it dies which would be the only reason i see to wait

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 5:20PM
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janetgia(5b IA)

THanks for the info!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:21PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

bump ... 2005 and still going strong.. go figure


    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 1:05PM
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mustard_seeds(4 -Onalaska Wisconsin)

Bumping in hopes of some updated photos - what a nice thread. And such a beautiful home too!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 10:21AM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

the bed is a complete mess and with the rain it will probably be awhile before it looks good. it is bigger then before and i connected the two beds together for mowing reasons (liked it better as two but it just was a lot easier with cutting)

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 6:51PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I would love to see new pics, but I can certainly understand "complete mess." Got a lot of it around here....

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 8:24PM
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greenguy(Zone 5 OH)

it was only raining this morning so i took a couple of pics
the bed is a total mess but it will give everyone an idea of how the trees have grown

lets see if i remember to post pics :~)

the lighter colored mulch is new and now connects the two beds - i will put a new edge in and lay down fresh mulch as soon as the weather permits and time

this will give a better idea on the size of the trees now - i am 6'2" and they are well over twice my height now - probably avg 20' the river birch are way more (every year i think about limbing up the birch and this year i proabably will, at least a little)

and i have to get a hosta pic in (man look at the grass :~( )

i'll try to post some more after i clean it all up and mulch - but that will be a while from now

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 10:22PM
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