Living With Limitations: New Garden Design

Redesign

There is an old saying that goes something like this; “He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a teacher”. Over 30 years later that is proving itself to be close to gospel. When I began gardening I knew next to nothing about plants or design. I did know the photos of gardens and plants that I liked and I did my best to emulate those glossy magazine pages. Results of my design and transplanting back then has, like its gardener, matured and growing old over the years. Or, at least those surviving my ‘care”.

The lower edge of my hillside garden has an arching outline. Following along that outside edge is a path circling the outside of the garden. Unfortunately I left too narrow a bed between that outside edge and the path, not realizing it until I began trying to fill the space with perennials while keeping some sense of design. Over the years, design after design did not satisfy me once matured and perennials were continually changed. I probably killed enough plants to begin a good sized garden center.

The long, narrow, arching bed of approximately fifty feet in length has a “bulb” shape of eight feet depth at each end; the center of the bed tapers down to a bit less than three feet wide.  This blog covers half that length.

Time, experience, listening to other gardeners, age and infirmary, have ganged up on me creating a new design for the area. The area is more sun than shade so that is an added challenge to his old shade gardener. Age and my disabilities have added concern about maintaining my new design, so I began with hardscaping, then selected dwarf shrubs with lots of colorful foliage, deer resistance, and very low maintenance. Finally, I went back and selected a few perennials of little interest to the locust on hooves and are tight “clumpers”, pretty much taking care of themselves.

Spirea Double Play Candy Corn. Photo Proven Winners

Procrastinating is not always a bad thing. I had a bird apartment on a pole from a yard sale that I was always going to paint. Then I intended to paint only the roofs of the three apartments. Later I set it aside in the garage. Turns out it worked better wearing only age. I got my posthole digger out and created a secure site for the bird house, nestling it to the rear of the bed and between two branches of a Seven Son tree. In front of the post I transplanted a Diervilla Kodiak Orange shrub with shiny green leaves highlighted in orange-tan that turn to glowing orange in fall with yellow honeysuckle blooms in late spring.

While at a local garden center I spotted a bird bath (puddle on a stick) in colors of cream, tan, and brown with no distinct pattern. It found a home about four feet over from the bird house and shrub closer the front of the bed and to the path. Next I located Spirea Double Play Candy Corn with new foliage emerging orangey-red and aging to pineapple yellow and completing the show in candy apple red. Height is only two feet or so. This shrub was transplanted closer to the front of the bed so the shrubs zig-zag along the length of the bed.

Accompanying the Diervilla and Spirea, Weigela My Monet Sunset carries the color theme in foliage of gold variegation over green and brilliant orange-russet fall colors. The shrub only reaches one and a half feet.

Weigela Monet Moment Sunset
Proven Winners Photos

I had a daylily that over time had become crowded and received far too little light, growing lots of foliage, but producing little bloom. I divided it into three nice clumps and placed those long, arching, blades of deep green between the clumps of shrubs. The daylily was an old hybrid from the 1960’s, Indian Love Call, with dark rustic-red petals having a yellow center.

Picking up from the red and yellow of the daylily, the next low growing mound was Spirea Double Play Gold aptly named for its golden leaves. Only reaches two feet and it must be too low for the deer to dine upon for it goes untouched.

The shrubs have been placed four feet apart and now reach the center length of the bed where a dead tree stands. Originally a Witch-Hazel it finally got tired of me digging in its root system and gave up the ghost. Now I have moved a container with a clematis at its base and let it begin to scramble up those dead limbs. To eventually take the place of the dead tree I transplanted a Calycanthus Solar Flare with its Magnolia-like blooms of rich maroon-red with a bright yellow center. Should reach about nine feet and have yellow fall color. (Calycanthus are my favorite shrubs).

Midway and to the rear of the bed I used a clump of tall Monkshood that will bloom in fall. For late summer I have transplanted two clumps of Great Blue Lobelia. I could not resist bringing some blue into all those yellow, red, orange and brown colors.

I may be slower than a sleepy sloth, but I am gettin’ er done.