Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens - Please Comment

danell(7)December 23, 2010

I'm only dreaming now and a fresh perspective would be most welcome. I posted previously then took a design class and got some help from my instructor and a landscape architect so I'm almost there. I'm hoping your comments will help me finish.

I put a link at the bottom which includes both the previous and new design plans as well as photos of the yard. I hope to plant in March, although I may need to take this in stages. So perhaps doing mounding and conifers first which may also help me "see" what it will all look like. I have a difficult time seeing things in my mind.

Yellow : I think I have too much yellow and was thinking of replacing the Rudbeckias for something blue, perhaps Agastache 'Blue Fortune'. What do you think?

Phormium Tenax : I had wanted the Phormium Tenax by the fountain, not as a focal point, but so that I would not be looking out my slider at a bunch of dead stuff in the winter. (It is a risk as most everyone here lost theirs last winter - any other suggestions?) Therefore I'd like to pull it forward, like in original drawing, and get rid of the Echinacea in front of it to right of fountain. What do you think? Will it compete too much with the fountain? I was planning on using "Pink Panther" which only gets 3-4 x 4-5. Also neither I nor my instructor thinks it necessary to have an additional Phormium at dry creek bed but architect does. What are your thoughts? I have a lot of "twosies" going on.

Juniperus S. Moonglow : I wanted something that would direct the eye and create a flow with all the blue conifers but will this make it too dark? Perhaps a Baby Blue Spruce instead (although prickly)?

Rhaphiolepis Indica Clara : The architect suggested this but I wanted something with less maintenance (I have enough trimming with the Virbs.) so was thinking perennials, Huechera, Hakonechloa or the original Lace Leaf Japanese Maple. My instructor suggested Abelia prostrata. Your thoughts?

As you can see, I've extended the dry creek bed. I had originally thought to pull everything together using Salix Purpurea Dwarf Artic Willow but after reading about its numerous foliar and insect problems decided to wait until I worked with it. Does anyone have experience with this plant and am I justified in being concerned?

Gads this was a lot of work - but fun. Thank you for your comments, suggestions, insight.

Here is a link that might be useful: Design Plans

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

My feeling on reading the other thread was that I don't really know enough about the plants you're using to comment. But I can see that you need feedback, and maybe this will inspire someone else who's better qualified to comment.

I like the overall lawn and bed shape. I think you were right to extend the dry creek bed.

I'm a little concerned about the plantings under the trees, but the only ones really close to the trunks are liriope, which shouldn't be a problem. And I'll assume you live in the wetter part of Oregon and the shrubs and trees won't need to fight each other for adequate moisture.

The other thing that looks a bit odd to me is the thyme groundcover next to the creek bed. How about planting a few taller things here and there, either between thyme plants or among the rocks at the side of the creek? Or plant more than one type of thyme, perhaps with different leaf or flower color? I'm very fond of a secondhand German Winter Thyme I have (not the same as plain German Thyme); it has purplish-white flowers and larger leaves than most thymes. But I think it's more important to add variety in height in that area than variety in coloration.

I'd also add a few thymes on the other side of the creek (for example, in front of the viburnum and its neighbor 'Golden Mop') for a more natural look.

I'm expecting to plant some India hawthorn next year ('Georgia Charm' and 'Georgia Petite') and hadn't thought of them as requiring too much maintenance time. However, my previous experience with them was long ago, and I'm more fond of natural shapes for shrubs, so I don't expect to spend much time pruning -- particularly as the 'Georgia Charms' have a large vertical space to fill. I hope I won't have to deal with scale either....

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 3:35PM
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Thank you very much for your comments, missingtheobvious.

When you were talking about height:
"The other thing that looks a bit odd to me is the thyme groundcover next to the creek bed. How about planting a few taller things here and there, either between thyme plants or among the rocks at the side of the creek? thymes. . . But I think it's more important to add variety in height in that area than variety in coloration."

I do have Coneflowers, Japanese blood grass, Dwarf Arctic Willow and Karly Rose Pennisetum. Not enough?

"I'd also add a few thymes on the other side of the creek (for example, in front of the viburnum and its neighbor 'Golden Mop') for a more natural look."

I like the natural look - so do you mean the Viburnum on the far left of diagram? I could add some thyme there, yes.

Good luck with your India Hawthorn and thanks again, I so appreciate the effort. Maybe others will chime in after Christmas.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 5:15PM
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Where exactly in Oregon are you located? That would help me to clarify some of your questions.

I love that you have designed the garden with your dog in mind.......too few homeowners do that and then get upset when their favorite plants get trompled. Does your dog already have a favored pathway delineated and is this what you have worked into your design? I hope so, as it is much easier to design around your pet's already established route than to convince them take up one you have planned instead :-) And I would say the 1.5' width is just a tad on the shy side ......unless you have a very small dog :-)

FWIW, I think you'll be looking at the phormium as an annual or very much replaceable plant. Even in my milder climate, they are tough to overwinter consistently unless a quite mild and very dry winter - they are truly a zone 8 plant under the best of conditions and I'm inclined to consider them more of a zone 9. Same with the Indian hawthorn.......just not happy in my cool summers and usually wet winters but depending on your location and weather specifics, it may be happier. Those that do survive here in various microclimates require minimal maintenance, so I'm not sure that would be a consideration.

Dwarf arctic willow is IME a pretty trouble-free plant so I'm surprised at your concerns. It does appreciate a fair amount of water in summer - not the slightest bit drought tolerant - and gets to be quite large if not cut back regularly. "Dwarf" is very relative in this case :-)

I'd look at one of the evergreen ornamental grasses to replace the phormium - orange or leatherleaf sedge would work and no issues about hardiness. And I love abelias, especially the variegated ones like 'Sunrise' or 'Kaleidoscope' and would opt for them before the rhapheolepis.

Otherwise, I think the layout suits the site and is scaled appropriately for the size yard you are dealing with. I think you might have more plants spec'd than you need or can fit comfortably. It's been my experience that a lot of homeowners overestimate this part of the design and wind up with an overcrowded garden down the road and that DOES require a lot maintenance. My advice is to look carefully at the trees and shrubs first and make well-planned choices and fill in as you go later with the perennials, grasses and groundcovers of your choice.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 6:36PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

danell, re. the thyme patch, what I was trying to say is that the thyme is a fairly large area and all the same plant, while everywhere else in the yard has quite a bit of variety. That area is -- what? -- at least 4' x 10'? It's solid thyme. Whereas if you pick any other area that size in the yard, there'll be at least 6-8 different types of plants.

so do you mean the Viburnum on the far left of diagram? -- No, I was referring to the viburnum and 'Golden Mop' immediately across the dry creek bed from the thyme (on the far right of the diagram, unless I'm not reading the abbreviations correctly). I just thought adding a few thyme at the base of those shrubs could provide a bit of unity between the two sides of the creek bed.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 10:25PM
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Thanks gardengal48, I live in the Rogue Valley area near Medford. My clay is soil but drainage test was fair to good. Yes, the dog path around the yard has been in a year and my little ones patrol it often so I now know their routes.

I realize I was hoping for the impossible with the phormium and hearing others say it brings me back to reality. Thanks. I'll look at more ornamental grasses and other possible winter hardy plants.

Your suggestion of putting in trees and shrubs first is a good one and was what I was beginning to think too. What do you think of my starting with just the conifers (Junipers, Ginko, Golden Mop, Filicoides False Cypress) and Viburnum first?

I think my tree selections were good ones with the possible exception of Juniper Moonglow creating too dark an environment which is why I'm toying with the idea of changing to Baby Blue Spruce. What do you think?

Any thought about too much yellow and "twos" going on, I keep hearing about odd numbers in plantings.

Well, that's another vote for the Dwarf Arctic Willow. I have not worked with it (who am I kidding, I have never worked with any plants!) I just read somewhere about it having numerous foliar and plant problems - as well as Dwarf being relative - but I think it will fill the space along the creek bed nicely so unless I hear something different, it is a go.

Missingtheobvious - I got it now. Unity on both sides of the creek bed. Good. I got confused, thats a Fernspray False Cypress next the Viburnum. I now have elfin thyme along existing creek bed and thought about using Irish Moss or Hernia Glabra for the extended portion to keep down the bees. Dogs don't like to get stung anymore than we do and the creek bed is their play area. I see what you mean about a lot of variety in one area and not along the creek bed.

Thanks again both of you - This is why I ask for feedback.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2010 at 8:28PM
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I'd plant any of the trees and shrubs - as many as you can manage and the budget will afford :-) IMO, it is always a good idea to put in the 'bones' first, then build from that, especially if the garden is being developed over a period of time, as opposed to a full-on, one time installation. Often, the placement and appearance of the trees and shrubs will influence what you choose to plant with them. FWIW, I'd carefully select any underplantings for the Japanese maples and plant them at the same time. JM's have very delicate root systems that dislike disturbance so choose perennials or groundcovers that will not require dividing. And I'd not consider the 'Moonglow' very dark - it is much more of a silvery blue and would be my choice over the blue spruce but primarily cuz blue spruces have issues in my climate.

btw, there is nothing about your location that would alter my opinion re: the phormium or the Indian hawthorn. I would make some alternate choices for hardier, more longterm plants.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2010 at 9:48AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The Medford side of the valley is more extreme than farther west, but since the whole valley is a bowl frosts can be severe at times. Regional weather reports here often show the most extreme west side temperatures for Medford, both high and low. There are reasons why you see all those treeless hillsides when passing through there on I-5.

So I would generally avoid the tender stuff like New Zealand flax and Indian hawthorn, unless you are willing to experiment. A sunny wall with a wide roof overhang, that interfered with frost penetration might make it possible to retain plantings that would sooner or later perish in the open. However, if I had such an opportunity I would not waste it on such commonly grown plants as these two.

Has the Sunset Western Garden Book (Sunset Publishing, Menlo Park) come up? Have a look at the plant selection tables near the front, after studying their climate zone map covering your area - and the description of your zone.

They also have zone maps and plant guides on their web site, but the printed treatment is better.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 11:33AM
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I'm on it. Everyone's comments have been great - Thanks Again.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 11:43AM
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