Saturday, April 29, 2006

Your Gardening Challenge

Okay, green thumbs -- listen up:

I have a small garden space on the south side of Cold Comfort Cottage, directly under my dining room window. It is bounded on one side by a rather scraggly Persian lilac that I hate but don't currently have the gumption to dig out, and on the other side by my Bilco doors to the basement; so one end of the bed is shaded and the other is very hot. The house is a beige color; and one of my unwanted "design elements" is the butt-ugly white external insulation around our foundation, that my parents for reasons I cannot fathom, aided and abetted by Mr. Dumbass the builder, never covered; if I ever get around to it, I want to dump some stone around the house and mound it up over the foundation to hide the insulation.

Earlier this month landscaping was the absolute last thing on my mind; I just didn't have my usual fire in the belly for digging in the dirt outside. Now, though, I'm feeling a tug in the horticultural direction.

And this is where you, my Constant Readers, come in. If you had this space to fill with plants, what would you plant?

Here are some of my ideas:

A small butterfly and hummingbird garden: Lots of daisy-like annuals and perennials, and tubular flowers that the hummers prefer. No particular color scheme -- everything kind of tumbled together.

Blue-and-orange annuals: I saw this color scheme at a nursery, and even though it sounds weird, it can really work. Things like blue ageratum, orange marigolds, etc.

Plum and orange. It also sounds weird; it also works.

Blue and plum.

Yellows and oranges. Supposedly this is the "hot" look this year. (And LC is so into fashion-forwardness.)

Buy a rosebush -- something kind of rambly and space-filling, in an interesting color, like "Joseph's Coat" -- and fuggetaboutit.

Buy a flat of petunias and fuggetaboutit.


Help me out here. And your own ideas are also greatly appreciated. Since this is Michigan, it's really not safe to do major planting until Memorial Day weekend anyway, so I've got time.


Cathy said...

See if knockout roses can grow in your area. They bloom from spring to fall here.
Butterfly gardens are so cool. I have one with fennel, milkweed, coneflowers, pentas, etc. Some of these would be annuals where you are, but are perennials here. Look forward to seeing the progress in your garden!

Rainbow Pastor said...

My suggestion would be for the roses, with some annuals around it for fill--you can play with the colour and style this year, and if you don't like it, change it next year. What you do like, replace with a similar perennial next spring (i.e., coreopsis this year, and if you like the look, daisies next spring).

One thing I have learned about gardening is to take the long view--two or three years is not too far ahead, and is probably just about right.

My other favourite thing is to plant bulbs and perennials as the basic, foundation plants, and then fill in if needed with annuals. The perennials are more expensive, but (obviously) don't have to be replaced. On the other hand, if you don't like an annual you've tried, you just have to live with it for a few months.

Bottom line: have fun with it--and keep us posted!

SingingOwl said...

I vote for golden or yellow annuals with the burgudy stuff too...and then fill in with petunias and fuggetaboutit! ;-)

I'm also planning changes in my landscape, and will try to wait till Memorial Day to put it in the ground.

LutheranChik said...

At the bank today I noticed the dwarf red barberries, with little variegated hostas and Stella D'Oro daylillies just starting to come up...this space is I think too dry and hot and bright for hostas, but that yellow/burgundy-plummy thing looks nice in the summertime when the lillies are blooming.

Also, the year I attempted an edible garden I wound up with a lot of reds and yellows in various shades, with chartreuse here and there to cool it down a little. So that's an idea too.

Mata H said...

I would be tempted to do one of two things:
1. The crowded old fashioned perennial garden complete with iris for the spring ,hollyhocks, delphinium, larkspur, cleome, then asters for the fall, daisies, poppies, lilies...etc...

2. A series of flowering/colorful shrubs and maybe some clematis winding it's way up a trellis, or an arch that goes above your window ...shrubs like Bridal Wreath, Mock Orange, Quince, and Firebush for the fall. Low care option, this.

cheesehead said...

I would let the patch lay bare, and drink lemonade and read good books where I don't have to look at it.

But then, I have the most non-green thumbs God ever created.

Trish said...

Hey, I don't have much of a green thumb (I enjoy killing weeds MUCH more than I enjoy cultivating new plants) but if the space is by the foundation, I'd take into account roots and how so many plants can and do grow into the foundation and cause problems later on. We've had that problem with some roses that I've tried multiple times to kill. Good luck!

net said...

wally world has some wildflower mix, butterfly & hummingbird mix, and something else i can't remember that are fairly inexpensive. all you have to do is cultivate the soil, dump - er, sprinkle the canister of seed over the soil and let God do the hard work. viola! the mix of flowers is incredible!

Naomi said...

Cathy is correct that the 'knockout' roses are great down south here, but not sure about your climate. They are disease resistant, don't need deadheading and are pretty carefree.

Daylilies are great and come in so many different colors and are compatible with other plants. Pretty carefree unless you plan to enter them in competition.

Colors-Just remember God made all colors and they really do all go well together. Hostas might grow in the shady area but in my garden the slugs love them.

Gardening is a wonnderful time to spend with God for me.
Good luck with your gardening.. Naomi

RainbowKate said...

I'd go with the yellow and orange, but that's been my favorite combo for a long time. Also some reds mixed in.

Roses are wonderful (and Joseph's Coat is a great climbing rose) but they can be a lot of work in humid climates because of blackspot and other fungus type diseases. Where I live they need weekly treatments to stay healthy. Not sure what the climate is like in MI so you might be fine with that. It is much further north than I.

Lorna said...


out of my league. But I'd love to see a photo when you're all done :)

St. Casserole said...

I can't comment on anything in this post because I'm busy wondering how Mr. Dumbass the Builder got to your area. I thought he worked in my neighborhood exclusively...

Gigantic Hound said...

I'd grow annuals from seed for this year (lots of sunflowers for a start), while choosing perennials as they appealed. Kind of what rainbowpastor said.

If you have the room, I'd buy both the native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and the hybrid kind (Hamamelis somethingorotherelse - intermedia, I think). One blooms very early, the other very late.

For a September planting of bulbs:
- lots of snowdrops, since out-of-season bulbs give more pleasure than any others;
- autumn crocuses, on the same principle;
- then the basics: daffodils, allium.

Home Depot often has good prices on bulbs; go figure.

Two good books: Marjorie Harris's Seasons of My Garden:

Allen Lacey's The Garden in Autumn: