help me with plant selection please

SoomaOctober 15, 2011


I'm looking for some suggestions for my backyard planting bed. This area is in full sun most of the day, basically from 10 am till 5-6 pm. I know it looks bad right now but I'm planning on adding lots of compost to make it habitable for my new plants.

The big window is my kitchen/dining nook and the french doors on both sides lead to family areas. The planting bed is about 15 and a half feet in length and at its largest width it is 5 feet 5 inches. Since I live in Southern California (Irvine), we can spend our evenings outside almost all year long. I love fragrant plants and I'm leaning towards Sweet Olive, Chinese rice flower or other plants that have a wafting fragrance. Anything to get away from boring, boxy foundation plantings or parking lot type plants. Just not sure about dimensions and what be aesthetically pleasing.

Even though I am a beginner at this, I am more than willing to learn and I want to try and experiment and do this myself (hopefully with some help from you guys) Also I have small children so I want to avoid any poisonous plants.

Any suggestions will be much appreciated :)


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Whoever put that hardscaping in didn't do you any favours as the bed against the wall is totally impractical. What I suggest you do is take out some of the soil and put down some landscaping cloth then cover this with pea shingle. You can then plant into terracotta pots plants of your choice. The 'gravel' will rid you of the soil stain allow access to water and whatever those utilities are and generally tidy up the area.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 12:04PM
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Hmmmm.... you might not realize your dreams with this little spot. Tea olive is more or less a small tree (that meany people keep chopped down into a hedge...but it's large.) I don't know Chinese rice flower so maybe you can get a botanical name. But this area is very small. If it were mine I'd be looking at it like it's a nice window box and fill it with color. I think I'd start with a heat tolerant annual (of your choice, shooting for an 18" ht.) or shrub/perennial Ruellia 'Katie'. Some Caladiums would probably work in the warm season. Anyone know if Freesia would work in the cool season? I've never grown them, but there is no better scent. (It's tea olive-ish.)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 6:04PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Oh you Canadians with your huge yards and wide open space. ; - )
Us Californians see this tiny strip of gardening space as valuable plantable real estate.
You'll be happy to know that there are some great combo's that could fit in your area. Thinks small palms, salvias, succulents , anigozanthos, heliconias, cycads, cussonia, banana, bromeliads, bird of paradise .....

(OK, so the palm is a little big for your space but look what can be done in a narrow space )
From david's garden photos From david's garden photos From david's garden photos

made for the shade, but as you can see, we Californians SQUEEEEEZE in what we can in narrow spaces.
From david's garden photos

gardens by David Feix

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 6:36PM
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I stand corrected but I bet we can beat you in snow sculpture and I'd even include a snowball for that show off David Feix (bahia) SOB.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 6:46PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Good point about the soil stain on the stucco, Ink -- but exuberant zone 10 plants would hide it.

Sooma, I haven't lived in your zone (Long Beach) since I was seven, and though I can think of plants I'd put in that bed, they don't fit your needs. But let me mention a couple of things.

You'll want something that's tall enough and dense enough to hide the boxes (and if you're lucky, the hose), yet allows access to the faucet handle. So nothing with brittle stems or delicate leaves near the faucet.

I believe your hose reel is the revolving type: if not, look into replacing it with one that turns (less contact between hose and plants). The hose guide on your hose reel is in the wrong location to keep the hose away from the plants in the bed. Another possibility would be a hose guide with a loop to keep the hose under control. I'd try it at the corner of the bed, but that might not suit you.

The hose guide would need to be strongly anchored in the soil; once I'd definitely decided on the best location, a hose guide that would do the job well, and the best height, I'd consider anchoring it in cement. (The top of the cement would be several inches below the brick edging, hidden by Ink's pea gravel.)

Examples of loop hose guides:
tall wrought iron hose guide
ground level hose guide; click on the photo for a better pic

You could also use a length of pipe and a loop of the type used atop cyclone fencing -- or anything similar from the hardware department; just be sure it's strong. (The Previous Owner of my house would have planted 4' of fence post at that corner of the bed and run the hose behind it; not exactly picturesque, but effective.)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 7:52PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Another Canadian says... D-D, I think you have it. I would actually stay with those low succulents and companions in the vignettes D-D has shown and make sort of a tapestry on the ground. Yardvisor is right that going tall here is not going to be a good thing. Tall is inevitably wide, and will (a) rob you of shoulder space, and (b) lean out from the wall to get more light and thus rob you of more shoulder space. So think about covering the ground, and not about covering the wall, and I think you'll have lots of fun with the space.

Although perhaps you can use plants tall enough to hide the boxes, personally I wouldn't worry about them. Once there is other stuff to look at I doubt the boxes will get much attention. Although MTO's points about actually using the hose are well taken.

Lovely compositions, David.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 8:15PM
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I have no experience at all with gardening in your region but I do have children. If you are looking for some verticality in that bed and are unable to put in something tall enough to fulfill your needs, how about buying online some premade outdoor vertical planters to use as "living green shutters" on either side of that window? A variety of succulents would be easiest for the beginning gardener, but herbs and flowers are another possibility. And most kids would love to get their hands dirty by helping to design, plant and watering the panels.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 9:22PM
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Thank you all for the generous advice and suggestions!

Inkognito, I wish I could just put some pea shingle down in that spot and get it over with, but I have small children and I would be forever fishing out pieces of gravel from my 20 month olds mouth :-D

Yardadviser and KarinL, thanks for the input on the size of Tea Olive and the pointing out the problems I will run into planting it into that space. Chinese rice flower is Aglaia Odorata and I think I will run into the same problem as Tea Olive. I will research the other plants you pointed out!

Deviant-deziner, the photos you posted are gorgeous...definitely something to aspire to, even if I don't get it right the first (few) times ;-)

Adriennemd, wow I've never seen anything like those vertical planters before! What an interesting idea for an herb garden.

Based on all the input, I'm going to re-evaluate my original plans. I'm just going to plop in some annuals in that spot for now, while I do some more research on the great suggestions. Thanks a bunch again guys!


    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 3:36PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

An easy peasy pie installation would be Agapanthus "Storm Cloud" variety.
It is an electric bluish purple color.
I did a narrow strip planting with them and it is a stunning look, especially when you look out the windows and see the large globes of flowers.
( can't seem to locate a photo of it ) - a google search will help with ID

Here's another narrow strip planter bed - about 20 inches wide or less
From Raised Garden Beds

9 months after
From Raised Garden Beds

I would avoid planting a Brugmansia ( Angel Trumpet ) if you have small kids that put stuff in their mouths. All parts of it are poisonous.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 5:30PM
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Sooma: good on ya for following up, gardening can be daunting but for anyone who has brought children into the world anything else is a doddle. And on that same note nature has a way with what goes in one end coming out the other. Go with your annuals because by definition this means you get to try again next year.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 5:58PM
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