Ideas for a bed renovation

woost2September 5, 2011


I own 1/9 of a summer cottage in southern Wisconsin. I'm around off and on in the spring, during the month of June and during the fall. Other cousins are in residence in July and August. We have a bed that is sandwiched between blacktop (parking area and street) and in full blazing sun. The bed was last planted about 20 years ago. I weed, water and tend in the spring and fall. It is completely ignored during the hot summer months. Some years it is a show-stopper of hollyhocks.

So, what has thrived:


Nepeta -- which is crawling over and filling in around big rocks

Russian sage

Dusty miller

A plant that looks like Purple Loosetrife, blooms in August, has never invaded anywhere ... It's a tidy useful thing, whatever it is.

What lasted for years but is now declining or gone:

Platycodon -- tall blue variety (I miss this most of all)



What has invaded:

Vinca minor

Creeping bellflower, possible planted originally


Queen Anne's Lace

Some cool weather grasses that don't get very tall

Endless trees that I cut back a few times a year and now have taken stump-killer to because I'm so sick of them

Various annual weeds

I'd like to start replacing some of the nice flowers that we've lost. With things that can survive neglect once established (I will browbeat the cousins into watering the first summer, but doubt I can keep them focused for long).

So, what recommendations of cultivars might you have for Platycondon, Salvia and Phlox AND what other things might to recommend? It would be great to plant some stuff this fall, if possible.

Also, what is the best strategy for renovating hollyhocks? They have gotten out of biennial sync and aren't putting on quite the show they used to.

Here's a pix of its ragged self ... I don't know how to make it show here. [IMG][/IMG]

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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

I don't have any suggestions, but I've put in a direct link for your picture.
The vine makes a nice backdrop to the flower bed, btw.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 3:28PM
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northerngirl_mi(Z5 MI)

Would be nice to pick things that are in their glory while you're there... for June, how about Achillea Moonshine - a great, well-behaved plant. Maybe peonies, oriental poppies, siberian iris...

Assume you mean phlox paniculata... love them all... Blue Paradise, Red riding Hood, Bright Eyes, the Flame series, really any...

For fall, Could obviously do sedum - something like Neon...
don't know how well blackeyed susans do without watering, but if the phlox are happy, seems they should be too.

Z5 NW Michigan near Traverse City

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 3:45PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the front view of the house would be a lot better.. if you get rid of that guy .. lol ...

use the HTML code on photobucket.. on preview.. if you see it.. we will ...


    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 3:53PM
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Here's what I did in a renovation project I started last year. I had such fun doing it I felt guilty. I like the idea of a theme garden and there are so many to choose from...Rainbow, Fragrance, Rock, Monochrome. Sedums and succulents might work for you but won't be as colorful. In my garden, the accoutrements provide the color but when it's more established, the different varieties will provide the interest.

Here is a link that might be useful: My fun theme garden

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 1:12PM
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My platycodon grandiflora planted in a full sun area gets this much ( ) supplemental water over the course of the growing season and it blooms profusely every year. I've had it upwards of 10 years. You'll get more flowers and less flop/height if you whack it back to 12" the last week of May each year. Like many other sun-loving, drought-tolerant perennials, it has a deep taproot.

Both gaillardia/blanket flower and Rudbeckia hirta 'Autumn Colors' thrive in full sun with only whatever water Mother Nature doles out. Agastache rupestris/anise hyssop is drought tolerant and blooms late--mine just started to bloom about a week ago. The blooms last right up through fall. Caryopteris/blue mist spirea is blooming right beside the anise hyssop and likewise gets no supplemental watering. Both are maintenance free + the bees & butterflies love them.

Gaura lindheimeri adds a different texture to the mix--it has tall, thin stems with small, pink/white flowers that look like butterflies. It blooms right up until frost without a drop of supplemental water.

The tall phlox Beth listed are all great. Only two I'd add to the list are Franz Schubert & Spinners.

For beautiful blue blooms in late May/early June, maintenance-free Baptisia australis/false indigo is just the ticket since it needs zero care, has a deep taproot and requires no help in the moisture department. Foliage remains lovely the rest of the growing season and dies back to the ground after the first frost. No critters or bugs bother it. It gets about 4 ft. tall and as wide so give it plenty of room. Then just stand back and enjoy it.

Weigela is a well-behaved, maintenance-free shrub that blooms early in the season and then just looks nice right up until frost.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 1:53PM
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I can sympathize with you over a vacation home. we have one too. I'm only there in the winter and I'd work out in the little yard the whole time just to find it full of weeds and neglected when i return again. i have found that planting flowering perennials hasn't worked for me. I would be weeding around them constantly, ground covers has worked but that has no or little flowering, also planting petunias zinnias have been show stoppers. and i put in a few tomato plants :) the issue with me was the weeds, i tryed mulch and spraying and weed mat, nothing worked, i can't get anything established good before i leave. i've come to the fact that i'm the only one that will take care of it for a short period of time, so I plant the area with some nice size annuals and sow in some zinnia seeds which will hold up on their own through the fall. in your case The last one there before winter should just rake the area clean and put down some good compost/manure and straw this will get rid of your tree seed/weed problem completely put it on thick (since theres no plants there) and the weeds will not start back up again.
if you really want to do all perennials (remember you'll be weeding around them, how about daylilys/ iris's they will hold their own for the summer and inter plant annuals between them for summer color. I gave up on trying to have something looking beautiful all season long it's just not going to happen. i had to pick my battles and know my limits. you can also plant in some daffodils and spring bulbs for some nice early spring color. also thinking about it how about digging out that old soil and putting in some fresh composted material? that soil has to be tired and if you have been spraying it, it's got nothing to give to the plants there. you don't have to do the whole area at once, just dig in a bale of peat moss and a 5 gallon bucket of manure every time you go there and before long you'll have the whole area redone. i just don't think you'll recruit family into helping if they haven't taken interest already, and it's not worth the stress of having to think whos taking care of it while you're not there, think of it this way, its' your vision of what YOU want, it's not their vision and they don't think like you do, you'll never get anyone else to see your vision if you have to beat them up over taking care of it, they most likely see it as work and they aren't there to work they're on vacation. for us we see flower beds as enjoyment, alot of people don't see it that way. You need to come up with a garden area that will work for you not against you.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 8:58PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

Do the cousins that are there when you are not water and weed the flowerbeds while they are there? You didn't mention where this vacation is located. Your hollyhocks are very pretty and colorful. Drought Tolerant plants would be my suggestion. BES, coreopsis "moonbeam or Zagreb" Alyssum, Basket of Gold?
Ice plant, dusty miller. What about yarrow? Snapdragons, and there is dwarf fairy candytuft in mixed colors are some suggestions I thought of.

Have you tried Preen for the prevention of weeds? The man that does our shrub prunning and mulching swears by this product. Is there a time that the vacation house is not occupied during the summer?

What kind of vine is that covering the front? Was that put there to shade out the sun perhaps, color or did it just grow there on its own and take over? Looks like it would be a breeding place for mosquitos. Sometimes vines like that end up damaging the exterior of houses.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 6:05AM
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Here's the photo. All you need is the URL and you can paste it into this code. You can use this to post any photo you find online anywhere (right click and select 'properties' to get the URL of a photo, if it's not already in the address bar.)

Do NOT include the spaces after the first bracket and before the last - I just had to add them so that the code would show up rather than appearing as a red x. DO include the one between img and src. DO include the quotation marks, just add the URL where I wrote URL of photo. If the photo is huge, after the last quote but before the last bracket, you can add width=450.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 10:43AM
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Many thanks for all the great ideas. I'll be making some plans when I start cleaning up in a few weeks. That blue mist spirea is a stunner.

The vine in the background is grape. It has never produced. The whole thing comes out of one stem on the short side of the arbor (not visible, parallel to the garage). It's not close to the house and makes a dandy screen. I have photo showing the arbor in 1920.

I can't count on the cousins to water anything, generally. I've stopped planting pots.

re: the nepeta, I'm going to have to pull a lot of it out in order to see the topography. It is out of control anyway. Can it take the abuse and survive?

What is a good way to mark the few plants I don't want to disturb? I need to mark them now and have the IDs still in place in the spring. Popsicle sticks never work. LOL. You'd think I'd get a clue with my tomatoes.

I didn't address the soil as I don't actually know what is going on under there. Generally a shovel runs into large round rocks pretty quickly. Guess I'll find out soon enough.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 1:32PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

What is a good way to mark the few plants I don't want to disturb? I need to mark them now and have the IDs still in place in the spring. Popsicle sticks never work. LOL. You'd think I'd get a clue with my tomatoes.

==>>> wood rots.. as you have found out ...

easiest way... snap pix.. and use your photo editor to add names on your computer ...

plastic knives .. sandpapered a bit to roughen.. and then a #2 lead pencil .. lead has a half life of a few million years.. compared to ANYTHING ELSE ... insert the end with the writing into the ground.. to protect the writing from the elements ....

both suggestions.. together.. is the fail safe ...

i use landscape flags to mark thing ... sharpie on those out to last a season ... the flag irritates me.. until i actually move the plant.. so i can get rid of the flag .. lol ... [in other words.. i mark the ones to move... compared to what you said]

for grapes to produce.. they need an incredible amount of pruning .... like about 80% of the vine ... but i claim no expertise with that ...


Here is a link that might be useful: bigboxstore ought to have them .... a lot cheaper than this

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 9:54AM
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