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 February 14th, 2013

I’m sit­ting here with seed and plant cat­a­logs scat­tered around—Plant Delights, Botan­i­cal Inter­estsBaker Creek, Cook’s Gar­den, John Scheep­ers…My Lee Val­ley 10-Year Gar­den Jour­nal is open to Feb­ru­ary. My Excel spread sheet plant inven­tory is open on my com­puter screen. The col­lec­tion I affec­tion­ately refer to as my Seed Vault is on the floor under my desk, threat­en­ing to over­flow into Seed Vault Two.

I’m bun­dled in a bulky sweater, fin­ger­less gloves and my warmest Ugg shoes. I hardly remem­ber what sum­mer looked like last year.

Potager in June

Potager in June

I know it was green. I’m pretty sure it was green. I remem­ber pick­ing toma­toes, cucum­bers, tiny mar des bois straw­ber­ries, Bright Lights Swiss chard. My hus­band and I spent many evenings under the stars fin­ish­ing din­ner and drink­ing wine, lis­ten­ing to the crick­ets and watch­ing the bats dart across the night sky. I can remem­ber the smell of freshly mown grass and basil pinched between my fingernails.

Gosh, my feet are cold. I should to make some hot tea.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly

Zebra Swal­low­tail Butterfly

Oh yes, we had lots of but­ter­flies last year. Mon­archs, zebra swal­low­tails, east­ern tiger swal­low­tails, red admi­rals. I didn’t know the name of some of the but­ter­flies and moths but loved them just the same. I remem­ber won­der­ing why the mon­archs seemed so skit­tish and the east­ern tiger swal­low­tails would almost let me touch them.

celeste fig tree

Celeste figs

Oh, that’s right. All those celeste figs! So many I hardly knew what to do with them all. I stood next to the tree and popped them right into my mouth.

Maybe another pair of socks would help warm my feet.

hummingbird

Oh, the birds! That’s right. Our hum­ming­bird feeder had a lot of busi­ness last summer.

I should bun­dle up and go top off the bird feed­ers now. That bird­bath could use some hot water to melt the ice too.

Lemon grass in the foreground

Lemon grass in the foreground

So much lemon grass! I remem­ber I was glad I only planted one since it nearly crowded out the cone flowers.

And the aspara­gus was fill­ing in nicely. I think we can pick some more this year.

Asparagus berries

Aspara­gus berries

Ah yes. There was color too. Pur­ples and blues and oranges and yellows.

20120805-184921.jpg

It’s awfully cold in here. Maybe I should just turn up the heat for a lit­tle while.

Oh, that’s right. It’ll be bet­ter soon.

(Click on the pho­tos to embiggen.)

 

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