Designed Challenged

tkhooper(7)September 19, 2010

I moved into a new home two years ago where the landscaping hadn't been kept up. So I have mostly trees and weeds. I'm slowly trying to make pretty beds that I can enjoy.

The Driveway bed is currently my focus. It is 16 x 16 and is full of 30 foot trees that have been allowed to take over. I plan to remove all of the trees except for the cypress that is 8 feet back from the road and 4 feet from the side fence.

So far I have purple iris, ice plant, and a 3 bulb clump of dark purple asiatic lilies. At the edge is a dwarf red crepe myrtle. I hope to add some of the blue bachelor buttons next spring. And some of the pinkish purple zinnia that have multiple branches. But on the shady side I'm kind of stumped with what would look good. Several of my neighbors are able to just plop a couple of plants in the ground and it looks like it's professionally done. That doesn't seem to work for me. So I could use all the help I can get. Thanks ahead of time.

I'm looking to stay with the darker colors, red, purple, blue.

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karinl(BC Z8)

I have to chuckle at your description of how the neighbours' garden looks vs. your own; I feel similar sometimes.

What I've finally figured out that may also help you is that I suspect their magic touch may have to do more with other elements than with the plants themselves: mulch, for instance, makes almost any bed look better than it should, and if you also add (a) edging, and (b) maintenance such as sweeping up after working in the yard, that may be all it takes. The day I discovered that a broom is also a gardening tool and bought one to keep handy outside, my garden definitely went up a class.

But also, think about the kinds of plants you're selecting. It sounds like you are very focussed on the small details of the plants, for example, what the flowers look like. You're talking about a pretty big bed, and being at the driveway it's likely mostly seen from a considerable distance. So, not only is no one going to see individual flowers (not to mention they're only in bloom for a few days), but also, what they are going to see is plant shapes, and some that you are mentioning, such as bachelors' buttons, are just indistinguishable lumps of green most of the time.

Consider dwarf conifers, for instance, instead of perennials, and you'll have plants with form, structure, colour variation, and real "presence" vs a jumble of green stuff. A spreading juniper gives you a base, a columnar golden yew punctuates it, etc. Then you can dress up those bones with perennials for their periodic colour. Your spiky iris can make an impact, and maybe so can things like lilies, but for a bed that big and to make an impact from a distance, you may also need to think in larger quantities of plants.

Also, and this will work best for your shady areas, consider plants with big or bold foliage instead of flowers as their feature. Hostas come to mind, but also ferns. Hellebores even have nice foliage, and as a bonus flowers early in the year.

In short, step back and look at it from a distance, and you may find you make different choices.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 11:57AM
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You have given me a great deal to think about. I'm very excited now to see what I can find that is along the lines you have explained to me.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 7:42AM
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I went by lowe's today and bought a birds nest spruce. I'm very excited. It will get to 6 feet high and 8 feet wide according to the label. between it and the cypress it will make a wall between the shady and sunny side of the bed. The sunny side faces the street. I will transplant my lacy japanese red maple in front with the groupings of iris and in the back I'm going to take your advice and look for some ferns possible the japanese painted lady ferns.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 4:57PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Happy to have helped! Those sound like good ideas. You might also enjoy reading a website called the Renegade Gardener - he talks about using foliage in design, and has many other very good points to make.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 1:11AM
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I'll look that up thanks.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 9:15AM
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