Help me plant my bounty!

brooksmountainOctober 21, 2011

We've not done much with our backyard, nor had the previous owners. Add to that the fact that I am completely and totally design challenged and it's no wonder the ground is pretty bare. I admit it - I don't have an artistic bone in my body. But, I do like pretty things and really would like to have a kick-ass backyard next summer. I don't like formal, but like a casual cottage-style garden. What spurred me forward was a huge clearance sale at a local landscaper. Lots of plants dirt cheap. Specifically, what I'd like help with is putting plants together. Being so artistically challenged, I'm much more of a 'Garanimals' type of person. I need someone to tell me what goes together. I understand that that can be subjective, that's okay. I also have issues, that I think many new gardeners do, with imagining what the plants will look like when mature - i.e. spacing.

I live in southeast Michigan and our backyard has many large oaks and maples. This means that by the end of June, the backyard is heavily shaded. The bed against the back of the house will get about 5-6 hours of afternoon sun, some of it dappled. The bed along the side will get dappled morning sun. So, in other words, lots and lots of shade.

The back of the house measures about 33 feet. The side of the screen porch on the right is about 18.5 feet.

Below is the list of plants awaiting planting. I also have many other varieties of hostas around the house that could be divided and moved to supplement what's here. If some of what I have listed below won't work here, that's okay. I can find a home for it someplace else around the house.

(1) Salvia Marcus - Purple Blue

8-12" tall - 18" space

Sun/Partial Shade

(1) Salvia Sensation Rose - Rose Pink

12" tall - 18" space


(1) Salvia East Friesland - Purple

12-18" tall - 12" space


(1) Mystery Salvia -- no tag

Most likely will be one like the salvias above

(2) Miscanthus Morning Light

4' tall - 3-5' spacing


(2) Dwarf Phlox - Purple

12-18" tall - 12-14" space

Sun/Partial Shade

(2) German Statice

12-18" tall - 15-18" space


(1) German Bearded Iris

30-42" tall - 24" space


(2) Balloon Flower - Sentimental Blue

6-8" tall - 18"space

Sun/Partial Sun

(3) Leopard's Bane Little Leo - Yellow

12-15" tall - 12" space

Sun/Partial Shade

(2) Shasta Daisy Snowcap

14-18" tall - 18" space

Sun/Partial Sun

(4) Shasta Daisy Becky

36-48" tall - 24-36" space

Sun/Partial Sun

(1) Coral Bells Palace Purple

20" tall - 12" space

Sun/Partial Shade

(4) Coral Bells Mocha

15-24" tall - 15-24" space

Sun/Partial Shade

Carnation Dwarf Vienna Mix

8-12" tall - 12" space


(2) Hosta - Wide Brim

12-24" tall - 24-36" space

Partial Shade/Shade

(1) Hosta - Brim Cup

14-16" tall - 18-24" space

Partial Shade/Shade

(1) Hosta - Antioch

18-24" tall - 18" space

Partial/Full Shade

(1) Hosta - Fragrant Bouquet

12-24" tall - 24-36" space

Partial Sun/Shade

(4) Lavender - Hidcote Blue

12-24" tall - 18" space


(1) Wormwood

24-36" tall - 24" space

Sun/Partial Sun

(2) Daylily Pardon Me - Deep Pinkish Red

18" tall - 24" space

Sun/Partial Sun

(2) Daylily Happy Returns - Light Yellow

16-18" tall - 12-18" space

Sun/Partial Sun

(3) Sedge Gold Strike

10-15" tall - 18" space

Sun/Partial Shade

(3) Forever & Ever Red Hydrangeas

36" tall - 36" space

Partial Shade

(2) Forever Pink Dwarf Hydrangea

2' tall - 2-3' space

Sun/Partial Shade

(1) Mystery Plant

Click below to my Photobucket album for several pics.

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Beautiful, appealing, "kick-ass" even can be pretty subjective. There are those who love the Thomas Kinkade type jumble of everything always in bloom and at the same time in a riot of color that not even nature could conceive; and there are those who find every square inch planted up a tedious lot of work, while some like a little more order in their chaos.

What I would do is go out and move the plants in their pots around taking into account your yard's sun/shade conditions, the sun needs and shade tolerances, and spacing guidelines of the plants you purchased. Tall plants in the back so they don't obscure the shorter. Stare at the pot arrangement and do some shuffling. Beyond that, I can't think of a magic formula for an endeavor even experienced gardeners often get wrong - and tinker around with for years to get closer to right.

Shades of purple, blue, and lavender usually blend; can be very nice with a backdrop of white like the shastas. The soft yellow of the Happy Returns and the purplish maroon of the Pardon Me wouldn't seem to clash with the scheme. I tend to think - and maybe I'm way off base - but in a cottage style garden sometimes it doesn't matter.

Don't know which of the hundreds of varieties of wormwood (artemesia) you got, but some - A. Absinthium, I think - self seeds, puts out root runners, and spreads all over.

Would seem you're into the first frost dates for your region; perhaps even the first killing frost might not be too far off. You might get things in the ground and tweak in the spring.

There is a Cottage Garden forum here also.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 5:10PM
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"a kick-ass backyard next summer" is probably asking too much but who knows. If the ground is prepared and this collection was really cheap get them in the ground and sort it later, there is nothing earth shattering there anyway.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 5:58PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

What duluth said.

6 hours of sun is considered full sun.

Coral bells (heuchera) can handle an almost complete lack of direct sun. They will bloom and be happy.

I have Happy Returns on the east side of a 2-story house -- morning sun only -- now being shaded by a lilac and a fig tree (I really will move the daylilies next spring ... I promise!). My Happy Returns would be happier with more sun, but blooms anyway, off and on all summer. In a couple of years, you'll have three or four times as much. Wonderful plant! [Daylilies don't grow true from seed, so don't let it go to seed unless you like surprises. Even if you do like surprises, it's probably best to start the seeds elsewhere, because if a seed sprouts in the middle of an established clump, you may not like the look of an anemic pink in the middle of the yellow. Some daylily seedlings are not worth keeping.]

I haven't grown Pardon Me, but it's the same "everblooming" type.

Because of the late planting, mulch everything well so they'll have a better chance of surviving the winter.

duluth didn't warn you strongly enough about the artemisia.... Take some very close-up photos and post them on GW's Name That Plant forum
and see if the experts there can give you a definite ID. Ask if it's a type that needs to be kept under stringent control. If it is, put it in the garbage.

If it's the bad kind and you decide to keep it anyway, whatever you do, don't let it go to seed! Round-up will kill most of what spreads by runners. But be prepared for it to take over the yard anyway.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 8:18PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

What Duluth said too, and also what Inkognito said. One haul of plants does not a garden make :-) You'll buy more, not always so cheap, some will make it, some won't. But these are mostly perennials and although you will enjoy them for both foliage interest (I love hostas) and flower, over the long run perennials mostly are just a green mass in the garden. Really making an impact requires that you pay attention to the non-plant elements.

You're lucky you have well defined beds relatively nicely shaped, and likely won't want to change those. That frame will go a long way to making your composition look good no matter how you arrange the plants. But pay attention to your woody structure - that is, your treescape; maybe cull some and/or plant some new trees or shrubs for structure. Also consider whether you want some hardscape - that can make a huge difference - patios, walkways, fences, or other decorative focal points in the beds. One issue is that your fence is so transparent that the borrowed landscape behind it will visually overwhelm what you do inside the yard if it is a bit on the subtle side. All of that has a far bigger impact than plants do.

Your mystery plant is likely a Euphorbia. Check whether there is a milky sap when you cut a leaf or stem. If so, be sure not to get the sap into your eyes. It is not poisonous, per se, but very abrasive and can cause permanent eye damage. I taught my kids early not to touch those.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 11:22PM
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