Help planning garden layout/design (pics)

erv8097September 21, 2011

Hello. First-timer here with lots of questions. I have an irregularly-shaped, terraced flower bed which borders the sidewalk that needs some attention. Bed is 7-8 feet wide and 30 feet long and is on northeast side of house. The area was originally a steep grassy slope and we added a short retaining wall and planted shrubs. Hill below the wall is covered with cotoneaster (which needs to be weeded and pruned). The shrubs on the upper level (near sidewalk) outgrew their space and we removed them last spring. There are two new azeleas near the foundation that I planted yesterday and 1 old barberry that is going to be moved. I want to plant perennials but am not sure how to plan the design. Do I need some kind of tall plants in the back to form a backdrop of some sort (which will be the side that faces the road)? I don't think the area is wide enough to put a row of shrubs as a background. I originally was planning on Coreopsis Moonbeam, Scabiosa Butterfly Blue, and maybe Shasta daisies; but after reading some of the posts here, I'm not sure if they would come back next year. I also considered planting drift roses near top of retaining wall and planting peonies or lilies (pink) if front of the roses but thought they might be too tall. I would like to plant bulbs for spring color and then have perennials for summer. At this point I am feeling overwhelmed but I can't leave this area empty any longer. Thanks for help/suggestions.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

would it be possible to add a course or two of brick to the wall .. so as to make a more level surface???

man.. i would like to see the view out from the front porch ... as an aside ..

you want nothing short at the wall ... if you put anything of height closer to the house.. you will never see it ....

i would put bulbs in a form following the sidewalk ... within a foot or so .. so that when they die back.. some annuals can be inter-planted to cover the space in summer ...

i would keep it all short-ish [no more than a foot or two]... as the view is most likely prime.. unless there is something i wanted to block from either rocker .... with maybe a tall accent ...

i would not have any shrubs there ...

and i would go light and airy.. rather than a riot like an english cottage garden .. wide spacing between the plants .. and with all the green in the view.. i would go for a lot of color ...

bottom line... just plant whatever you like... get it done.. get over the stress ... and if the result fails next summer.. move what is mis-placed ... and GET RID of what fails to amuse you ...

you are a real green thumb.. when you learn that 'landscape' is not a once and done thing... a green thumb gardener .. just digs a hole.. and plants whatever.. and if it fails.. we move on.. and play in the soil.. and fix it ..

i fear your hesitation is based on the thought.. that if you can just do it perfect the first time.. you will be done forever..sorry ... thats not how it works.. in my world.. WING IT!!!! .. lol ...

focus on the light at the end of the tunnel ... BEING DONE WITH THIS FOR THIS YEAR ... lol.. and move on down the tracks ... get 'er done, as that great scholar might say ... lol ..

good luck


    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 9:19AM
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Hi, you have a great space, I'd love to have that curvy walkway. I went through a similar process 2 years ago, and I aimed for lowest in front, and then taller in back. I went so far as to make an excel spread sheet with all the "best" plants, specs (i.e. height, width, sun needs, prices etc...) . I also aimed to pick things that were the most colorful/longest blooming period. So a lot of Agastache, Salvia, Hyssops, Echinacea, Coreopsis (tall and short), lavender, Scabiosa (it does come back every year), Day Lilys, Oriental Lilies, some iris, Asclepias (butterfly weed), Gladiolus, Hardy Geraniums, and then flowering thyme in front. I might have missed one or two...

My space is only about 8 feet deep by about 20 feet long? something like that, it's surrounded by concrete, so it's hot! And I have it drip irrigated and soil has been ammended to be fairly fertile. The first year I didn't plant bulbs, but the fall after the perennials I planted probably 250 bulbs in that small space, mostly mixes of naturalizing (species) tulips, various narcissi, a few grape hyacinths, and I'm going to put some big alliums in this year.

you can see more at my website, I have various pictures of the space on my blog. If you want that spread sheet email me at my username here at I spent a lot of time on it. I don't really have room for big things, but you might consider some even taller things than I have, since my space is so limited. Such as tall grasses, or there's a lot, the idea is to make a lower close to you and higher in the back.

Here's some pictures:

June 1st:

August 1st:

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 10:23PM
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Thanks for the replies and encouragement. I always spend way too much time worrying and then being paralyzed by indecision. I am going to plant something tomorrow if the ground is dry enough.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 9:13PM
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If this spot gets >6 hrs of sun, you have a lot of choices for color. I have something similar to yours in the front I started 3 years ago, moved /added/removed plants several times. It is really a personal preferenance. Finally I settled in something that is neater looking (so no tall shasta daisies, no cone flowers, etc), but anchored with long - blooming plants:

2-3 red or pink knock out (3-4 ft tall) or double knock out roses (shorter, ~3 ft tall). These can be the backbone as they can bloom from late May to end of Oct in your zone). If they are too tall, you can plant the drift roses (slightly shorter and smaller)

the good old Daylilly Stella D'oro, they have heavy blooms (organe -yellow) from early May, and lighter blooms in the summer and fall. Nice contrast to the roses (both foliage and blooms).

if you have good drainage, plant some tall garden phlox (david is my favorite), beautiful big white flowers, very fragrant. bloom mid summer to early fall. choose the medium height ones)

Sedum Autumn Joy. they will provide nice summer and fall color.

Salvia (May night, east friesland or royal crimson disctintion) depend your color choices. Royal crimson is my favorite, bloom constantly from mid June to Mid Sept, hot purple, neat leaves turn to dark purple in the fall, very beautiful.

You can use some ground covers or shorter plants for the border (or in between the tall plants): Dianthus fire witch, hot pink flowers from late May until late summer if dead headed), nice ever green foliage). Geranium rozane (purple blue), blooms the entire time. they can grow fairly quickly to fill up the space.

You can plant bulbs in between the spaces of the perennials and along the borders. I like the former. I found out for borders, the bulb foliage needs to stay there for a long time after they finish blooming, but without other plants to cover them up, they look very ugly. If I plant annuals there, sometime bulbls do not come back due to the heavy watering for the annuals.

The best thing I found is to get started with something, if you are not happy, modify it. There is never a perfect plan. and that is part of the fun.
Good luck and post some pictures next year.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 10:05PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Post that view in 30 days or so. The fall colors must be spectacular!

As someone mentioned go for mounding, low growing plants. Mix in a just a few vertical accents. For example a dwarf conifers and grasses.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 8:58PM
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