Ideas for a Perennial Garden

movinginva(Zone 7)April 13, 2012

Hello All,

I have a small garden that borders my patio, and I would like to start a perennial garden so that I can have some color throughout, from Spring through Summer, and through winter if possible. The area closest to the tree at the left of the house is shaded most of the day and the area directly under the tree gets little or no sun. The areas that border the patio get full sun. I like rose bushes, so I would like to incorporate one or two. I would also like a bit of privacy on the patio so it would be ideal if the plants could provide that, or else incorporate an evergreen or two.

Any help, ideas or suggestions will be greatly appreciated. I am just tired of going to the store and buying plants that I have no idea what to do with when I get them home.

Same photo just without the scribbles

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hi.. lets start with first things first ...

and that is the bed itself ...

first.. and i will yell ... GET RID OF THAT TREE ... its planted 8 feet too close to the house.. it interferes with the window... and its roots are probably going to kill anything planted within 8 feet of it ...

now that that is done .. [if it were only so easy.. lol] ... lets increase that bed outside the patio itself to 5 to 6 feet .. so with one foot of mulch on each side.. you have 3 or 4 feet to plant in ... i had a patio like that.. and i bet it gets very hot.. and the only way to grow things close to it.. is to make a mulch buffer.. so you dont fry the plants ...

once you establish that edge away from the patio ... continue it all the way along the left of the house.. making a 10 foot bed to the left corner ....

then double dig all the soil starting about 3 feet out from the house ... and put down about 3 inches of mulch ..

learn how to edge with a shovel ... [do i see plastic edging under that tree???]

and when you finish all that in September.. lol ... then you start planting for next year ...

your base problem.. is that you want a garden.. in a 2 or 3 foot strip .. and you already know that wont work ...

if you give us a pic of the whole back of the house.. i will take it into my photo editor.. and give you an idea of what i am talking about ...

gardening.. is like painting.. its 90% prep ... 5% planting .. and 5% watering ...

what do you think?? in for doing it the right way??? some exercise ... ???


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 7:09PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

Ditto what Ken said.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 11:30PM
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Lilyfinch z7 mid tn

The above is excellent advice to get started! I have a few plants in mind ,and thought I'd suggest.
If you like roses, and are new to them, knock outs are very popular , easy to find and so easy to care for. If they don't appeal to you, tell me what colors you like and if you want low maintenance roses or if you are willing to treat them if something comes up!
If you widen the bed , for privacy I suggest lime light hydrangeas. They'll talke full or part sun, and are all around beautiful. Very easy to care for!
You did mention evergreen, and I'm sorry I don't know anything about those.
My fav perrenial is catmint. Mine blooms from end of April thru July, I trim it back and it blooms again till hard frost. Love it!! Does attract bees but they'll be so involved in the plant they won't notice you.
(I love bees but I know some people don't. When you start gardening they really grow on you! )
Anyhow, I can see this area as a totally charming area where you can sit and drink your coffee or wine, and just unwind! My gardens are cottagey ,and if that appeals to you come over to the cottage garden forums. There's lots of good pics for inspiration. Good luck !

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 11:50PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Ditto to Ken too. Preparation of the soil is vital. A defined edge, improves the appearance and the ease of maintenance and as a general rule always make beds as big as you can in the situation. Little fiddly shapes are hard to look after, you end up having to hack at the plants to fit and they can end up looking messy and bitty. I would also not just put in perennials but include some suitably sized shrubs as lilyfinch suggested.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 6:24AM
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northerngirl_mi(Z5 MI)

Hate to pile on, but...
Make the beds wider - you want some privacy which implies taller, and thus wider plants. You don't want to feel cramped when you sit on the patio because some of the plants are 4 or 5 feet tall and starting to encroach... And the existing large shrub needs to go.

When digging the beds, I'd personally spring for some compost to incorporate as well.

And the stacked bricks for defining the edge are always going to be tumbling around - If you want a brick edging, free-standing bricks are not going to get the job done...

Okay - for the fun part- selecting plants and planting... there are lots of choices - the suggestions above are good - the roses should go in an area with at least 6 hours of sun, and Knockouts would be a good choice. Limelight hydrangea would be a wonderful choice as well. These would be your larger plants - and the rest should be planned around it.

Of course, perennials tend to have shorter blooming times, so although you look for long-blooming plants, if you want 3 or 4 season interest, you need to plan for some early bloomers and some late bloomers.

If you already have some favorite plants you've seen elsewhere, post them, and the group can help you determine how they can be worked in, and what might go with them.

Z5 northern MI

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 8:23AM
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movinginva(Zone 7)

In the voice of my 7 year old nephew when he knows that something has to be done, but wish there was an easy way out . . . oh-kaaay. :-). Yes I am willing to do the work. If I have the big picture with a good sense of what has to go where, then I can work with small sections at a time so that it is manageable, and not worry about things looking crazy and out of place when it is all done.

This is actually the front of the house.
The patio is itself is shaded most of the day. It does get about 4-6 hours of morning sun.

Ken_Adrian, how do I admit to DH that he was right in saying that the the tree has to go? LOL. I will definitely give that some thought. The tree is a bit of a pain, but it does give a little privacy from the next door neighbor. Is there something else that can be planted in place of the tree to achieve the same effect?

Should I do some digging and build up a flower bed extends to the maple tree at the front of the house?

About the roses, I like the bright peachy roses the best. I have never grown them so something low maintenance will be best.

I am pretty open to just about any plants and flowers. Most important to me:
- Lots of color. I love color and would like as much of it as possible.
- Possibly plants that I may even be able to get some flowers for the house.
- A mix of plants so that I will have blooms spring through fall.
- A mix of heights.
- Since I am somewhat new to this, I would prefer to low maintenance for most of the plants. I can certainly handle a few that need special care.
- An overall look that will work with the style of the house.

If I am asking for too much, then let me know. I am willing to dial things back if necessary.

I will look at some of the plants and pics suggested so that I can get some ideas.

Here are some more pics of the front of the house. Do not beat me up on the tree that needs to be trimmed back, it is on my list of things to do. :-)

And about that plastic edging that you claim to have seen . . . I know nothing of it! :-) Okay, okay - I get it, the plastic edging has to go and it will - the loose bricks also.

Here are a few pics that show the area.

From the street

From the driveway

Looking down on the patio from the front door

As you can probably tell, I am not the world's best photographer, so if you need something more specific or better angles, let me know.

Thank you so much for all of your input!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 1:04PM
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One of my garden goals is to have something blooming from March to November so last year I kept a diary of what was in bloom each week. If you'd like a copy--it's an MS Word document--post here and I'll email it to you. It could serve as a sort-of shopping list. I'm one zone colder than you so most things on it should work for you.

You've already got some great advice & suggestions. I was lucky when I moved here that a 40 ft. long/wide area of vintage hydrangea already defined my southern boundary along with 4 mature dogwood trees. The hydrangeas are lovely, long-blooming and virtually maintenance-free plus the flowers really pack a punch.

You may want to consider curving the outer edge of the bed slightly to soften the linear/rectangular looks of house, driveway & patio. Here's a photo of the full shade bed on the north side of my house:

As Ken said, the sod needs to be dug out and the soil prepped before planting. The area in the picture was lawn prior to my deciding to turn it into a shade bed. It took 6 years while the plants matured before looking like it does in the picture.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 3:48PM
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movinginva(Zone 7)

Gardenweed, I would love to have that list. I have been meaning to put one together but have not gotten around to doing it as yet so your list will be a big help.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 9:13PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Ken_Adrian, how do I admit to DH that he was right in saying that the the tree has to go? LOL.

==>>> just give it to him.. i am sure he loses most other arguments ... why is YOU WERE RIGHT.. the hardest 3 words for married couples.. lol ... and.. since it was his idea.. ask him to remove it.. with malice .. lol ... there is a downside to being right.. lol ...

i am not happy to see a giant maple there ... that tree is going to be the bane of your gardening happiness no matter what you do ...

roses are probably not going to work with the maple.. and the lack of full sun ...

i am happy .. to have focused you on the right way to do it ... i will leave it to those more inclined to design.. to take it from here ...


ps: do you still need the private property sign on the maple????

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 8:37AM
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