Border Garden Ideas?

Hi, I am new to the list and curious to get some opinions about the kinds of perennials to plant this upcoming growing season.
My bed in question runs the southern and western perimeter of the house, which is approximately 80' and 42' long. The bed extends 2' from the wall with full sun on the south and part-sun on the west. The bed is irrigated with a buried drip line, which is on an electronic irrigation system. The bed cannot widened due to the location of the sprinkler heads for the lawn.
Last year was our first year in the new house, so I kept it very simple by planting pale yellow petunias that complimented the color of the siding and the brick. Now that the lawn is in, I want to be able to devote more time (and color!!) to my largest bed.
Thanks,
Riddles
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Riddles wrote:

Your answers could be entirely different depending on where you're located. You're posting from Comcast, so the only thing we know is that you're in the US. But you could be anywhere from New Mexico to Massachusetts to Florida to Washington, or anywhere in-between. Can you narrow it down a bit?
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Warren H.

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I left out an important detail... I am in North Eastern Indiana. Ft Wayne to be exact. Sorry about that.
Riddles
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A 2 foot depth is pretty skimpy for a perennial border, in fact a good many mature perennials will exceed that spread easily. Traditional perennial borders are 6-8 feet and upto 15 feet deep - larger borders tend to be double, that is accessible from both sides.
If you cannot increase the size of the beds, what you will have is a long row of perenials - not necessarily bad, just not offering the same level of interest as a true border with planting in tiers.
To offset this, I'd suggest varying heights of the neighboring plants so that you develop a rolling mass that undulates up and down in height. Since there are a huge number of full sun perennials that are hardy to most of the northern hemisphere, you are certainly not limited in your selection. Send for a few catalogs or get some books on perennials and pick out what you like. The border will present a more cohesive appearance if you limit your primary color choice to three with other colors playing a lesser role as accents. Repeating of certain plants or plant forms throughout the length will also help tie everything together.
To avoid having this area totally bare ground in winter, consider adding a few small evergreens, either perennials, evergreen grasses or small woody shrubs like lavender, hardy salvias, candytuft, dwarf conifers, etc.
pam - gardengal
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I really like this particular idea and the possibilities it allows. Absurd or not,increasing the width is not going to happen, atleast not this year. Thanks for help!
Riddles
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You *can* increase the depth of the bed, and probably should, because (IMHO) that depth and length looks absurdly skinny.
Those spinkler heads which are enveloped by the new bed can be switched out for mulch irrigation instead of turf irrigation-- typically these mulch heads telescope up to throw the water over a larger area around shrubs.
Dave

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One thing you might consider is to contact the Native Plant Society in your state and see what the recommendations are. Lots of color potential. Most likely, you'll probably find a wide variety of plants and small understory trees and large shrubs/small trees that will cover various layers of height that will lend to biodiversity of your site, attraction to diverse species aof wildlife and increased resistance to diseases and blights. You have a drip line which is extremely Watersmart, http://www.watersmart.cc /, and with the occassional use of an organic fertilizer, you could have a champion award habitat with that kind of southern exposure. If you like butterflies and hummingbirds, you could select a number of nectar plants and then offer tall shrubs/small understory trees for other wildlife. This variation of cover would enhance that. J. Kolenovsky http://www.celestialhabitats.com
http://www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat / http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/wildscapes / http://www.prairienet.org/gpf/natives.html - all Native Plant Societies in the US http://www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat/habitatsnearyou.cfm https://secure.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat/certify/page1.cfm (your state may have a Master Naturalists chapter in your county and they can be of great help as they normally are part of the Cooperative Extension in your State)
ps - if this sound overwhelming, it 's not. Do it on your schedule and at the pace you enjoy. Have fun while learning and observing what you are persuing and trying to accomplish. When the day arrives, you will beam with accomplishment, joy and satisfaction.
Riddles wrote:

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Celestial Habitats by J. Kolenovsky
2003 Honorable Mention Award, Keep Houston Beautiful
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First thing Riddles is, identify your location. It would be much more helpful to us to assist you if you at least tell us the city and state where you are. We will determine the zone and such. Opinions are fine from all of us but we can't help you much if we don't know where you are! <g>

that gives you roughly 3360 cubic feet to plant in. Quite a bit actually, but it's way too skinny..........two foot wide is just too narrow.
The bed extends 2'from the wall with full sun on the south and part-sun on the west.
If it's two foot wide total from the outer edge to the wall of the house, you have to compensate for the drip line of the roof's sophit. Way too dry for most things and you don't want to plant right up against the house anyway. Southern and western exposure will be good for all the sun and heat lovers, but you have to allow space between the house and the bed.

It will HAVE to be widened, as two foot is just not wide enough to allow full growth to a lot of perennials. Most perennials except for the dwarf varieties, girth out over two foot sometimes. I realize the sprinkler heads for the lawn are out there, but you can widen the bed in curves around the sprinkler heads. A good width is perfect at four feet because that allows easy reach on either side by the length of one's arms comfortably. And you have to allow a foot between the back of the bed and your house. Even I who has planted the whole front southern and western sliver of yard has a buffer space between the raised bed and the house defined by a sidewalk that I refer to as the dog run.
First I would define a foot out away from the house along the back and partition it off. That will give you back access to the bed in the future. Then once you do that and curve and widen the whole bed around the sprinkler heads, you can lay out at least three foot width of bed. And you don't have to dig this up just because the bed is on a drip line with the system. You can do a raised bed. The sprinkler heads will just water the bed as well as the lawn. A drip line is easy to lift and move, but even if you're unwilling to do that you don't have to, you just raise the bed. All my beds are raised up. And I've extended beds off those raised beds.

I would suggest you look into dwarf and small perennials in the narrow space if you are looking for color. Baby Cole gaillardia is small and never gets more than a foot wide and will reseed daughters later on. There are a lot of annuals that stay a nice size. Petunia's were good because they live in the space they are planted and don't take up a lot of space unless it's wave petunia's.
The first rule is to access what you have and unless you really are willing to widen and raise the bed to allow for mature perennials, you should stick to the wide assortment of annuals which will provide you with lots of color for three seasons. Small spirea's will fit in that tight space, and I'm sure there are LOTS of people out there in the newsgroup that do compact gardening and can help you further. I plant alot of things in containers and have discovered there is a huge diversity of perennials that don't mind bound up roots. You can also put a LOT of bulbs in that two foot space that like sun.
I hope this gives you an idea at least. madgardener up on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler, overlooking English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee zone 7, Sunset zone 36
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