Bzzzz July 15th, 2013

I will admit to my fair share of fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants gar­den design. Just give me a cart at a gar­den cen­ter and I’ll emerge with enough plants to fill an SUV, a happy smile and not the vaguest idea of what I’m going to do with them. But (and here’s an ugly truth) I have also had a fair num­ber of those plants lan­guish in pots while I wan­dered around wring­ing my hands and won­der­ing what should go where.

When I decided to add a new gar­den bed last year, I decided to take a dif­fer­ent approach.

Plan­ning! What a concept!

North side potager bed in July with butterfly bush, Gladiolus callianthus, castor bean

North side potager bed in July with but­ter­fly bush, Glad­i­o­lus cal­lianthus, cas­tor bean

The new bed is 4′ x 40′ and extends along the north side of the potager. Last fall I ordered up a truck­load of leaf mulch that we lay­ered over news­pa­per. Nature did a good bit of work over the win­ter break­ing down the news­pa­per, smoth­er­ing out the grass (and weeds) and improv­ing the hard, clay soil underneath.

In the mean­time, I went shopping—this time by cat­a­log and with graph paper and pen­cil. I selected plants I liked, printed them out on a color printer with their vital stats (height/bloom dates, require­ments) and cre­ated a col­lage on a pin board.

Gladiolus callianthus 'Murielae' and castor bean

Glad­i­o­lus cal­lianthus ‘Murielae’ and cas­tor bean

A but­ter­fly bush anchors one end of the bed. I added a pieris ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ in more-or-less the mid­dle and a fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’ at the other end. Tall plants I started from seed included cas­tor bean (rici­nus com­mu­nis) and Mex­i­can sun­flow­ers (titho­nia rotun­di­flora) pur­chased from Botan­i­cal Inter­ests. I wanted col­ors we could enjoy at night, so I added a gen­er­ous num­ber of white glad­i­o­lus cal­lianthus ‘Murielae’ and white physosegia ‘Miss Man­ners’ pur­chased from Brent and Becky’s.

coreopsis and butterfly weed in July

Core­op­sis and but­ter­fly weed in July

Accent col­ors are reds and yel­lows from Glo­riosa superba ‘Roth­schildiana’, Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’, Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, Core­op­sis ‘Moon­beam’, Trades­cantia ‘Blue & Gold’ and assorted but­ter­fly weeds and core­op­sis that I allowed myself to pick up at the gar­den cen­ter on a whim.

Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'

Glo­riosa superba ‘Rothschildiana’

Not every­thing came out accord­ing to plan. For exam­ple, the glad­i­o­lus cal­lianthus ‘Murielae’ were adver­tised as reach­ing 12″ to 24″. They are eas­ily more than 36″ tall and con­tinue to grow and push out more and more white flow­ers on long, sturdy stems, so I’m not com­plain­ing. But they are in front of the ‘Hot Lips’, so place­ment could be bet­ter. And although I like the Mex­i­can sun­flow­ers well enough, they are mostly foliage topped by small orangish flow­ers. Mam­moth sun­flow­ers would have given me more bang for the buck.

But hey, there’s always next year.

And speak­ing of next year, I have a whole new bor­der to plan over the com­ing win­ter. The graph paper and pen­cil approach worked well enough that I’ll do it again. It also gave me a gar­den­ing project for those long, cold win­ter days.

 

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Bzzzz June 27th, 2013

I have finally given up on squat­ting on the ground next to the dri­ve­way pot­ting up gar­den con­tain­ers. That’s right. I squat­ted when I pot­ted. No more. I have a new pot­ting bench.

We recently had a car­pen­ter out to do some repairs on the house. While he was here I handed him a photo of a pot­ting bench I saw on Pin­ter­est.

Potting bench on the shady side of the house

He gave me an unbe­liev­able price to knock it together.

This pot­ting bench is tall enough that I can have two large and one small gal­va­nized garbage cans below. The large ones hold pot­ting mix and leaf com­post. The smaller one holds bags of grit, ver­mi­culite and such.

There is also a step run­ning the length of the pot­ting bench so that I don’t have to stand in the mud on rainy days. The step also allows me to drag the garbage cans out onto the step with­out hav­ing to lift them on and off the plat­form below. So very handy.

The pot­ting bench is located on a shady-ish side of the house next to the out­door shower and a hose. This is where I gather plants I have divided and pot­ted, where I harden off seedlings, show­case my col­lec­tion of Guy Wolff pots and oth­er­wise hold plants until they get into the ground. It doesn’t entirely cover the unsightly heat pump units, but it does dis­tract from them.

Guy Wolff clay pots on the new potting bench

I am happy, happy, happy not to be a squat­ter pot­ter anymore.

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