I live in central/eastern NC and do not have a good track record
keeping perennials growing in a partial to full sun setting. Soil at
ground level is mostly clay.
Specifically, we built a raised bed of about 1 foot in a bed located
between our sidewalk and house (about 4 feet wide by 20 feet long).
After we built our wall using large decorative concrete blocks, we
filled it with topsoil, put a weed block material over the dirt, and
finished it with 1 - 2 inches of cedar. Planted many different kinds
of flowers according to instructions on flower pots. Most of the
plants either died or did not come back.
I suspect the issue is that I didn't provide any method of drainage.
I've used a little permasoft (I think that's what it's called - a
small, light, rock-like substance) mixed into the soil around some of
the plants, but it didn't seem to help. Now, we're getting ready to
build another bed on the other side of the house, though it'll be
around twice as long and half of it on a pretty good side to side
slope. The new bed has an existing French drain running along just
underneath the ground from a downspout. I'd like to get it right this
Sorry for the long background. Here's my plan. Please let me know what
I need to do differently.
1. Dig up the existing bed
2. Add 2-3 inches of gravel in both beds
3. Lay a couple French drain channels between the rocks
4. Top with 1/2 to 1 inch of sand
5. Top with top soil
6. Top with weed block
7. Top with cedar.
Will the gravel, drains and sand solve my problem? Computers I can do;
plants just make me scratch my head! Thank you!!
You need to make sure their ideal zone matched your zone, too. And, of
course, the conditions (light, heat, humidity) were appropriate. Failure
sometimes happens for those reasons and sometimes it happens for no
reason at all. For example: last year I planted over 100 sunflower
seeds, in full sun, along a nice windbreak -- a spot where they should
have thrived. Not one grew.
However, I did get a crop of spontaneous pumpkin vines which produced a
dozen nice sized pumpkins. I didn't plant a single seed. They sprouted
in places where my horse enjoyed his pumpkin snacks.
Sometimes the garden just doesn't make sense. :)
Did you notice the beds were unusually boggy during the year? Was there
any reason to think that all was not well with the drainage? What zone
are you in?
The soil just reallly seemed to stay overly damp. Also, most of the
flowers didn't make it to the winter. They died in the summer. We're
in zone 7b - east/central N.C. Of the couple flowers that did survive,
I suspect a couple of them will return this year.
Here's a list of what we've planted, though I think the issue is
Columbine (purple & yellow) - 1 of 3 seemed to do ok, and it's on the
outside corner of the bed
Lily of the Nile
Termari Patio Rose
Mexican Heather - seemed to do really well; suspect it will come back
"Jim Crockett" Boltonio
There are some varieties that aren't grown in NC. Perhaps you have the
wrong kind? Most varieties (if not all) like partial shade.
They like moist but well-drained soil.
Likes full AM sun but perhaps PM sun was too much for it?
Is that Dianthus deltoides? Being a wildflower, it should have been able
to take a bit of neglect. Perhaps the dieback was a natural part of the
Can't find this one listed at:
Can't find this one, either.
Or this one.
Can't find this specific one but Periwinkle likes partial to full shade.
Couldn't find this one, either, but I suspect that something from Mexico
might appreciate a NC summer. That it did well would make me think that
you *didn't* have a drainage problem.
Again, "Tiger Lilies" didn't come up on the
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/ search but if you
have the scientific name, perhaps you can look it up, but I thought (but I
could be wrong) that all lilies liked things a bit on the damp side.
Bombed out on that one, too. If you have the scientific name you might be
able to find it.
I'm wondering if heat and too much light didn't kill off a lot of your
flowers, not a drainage problem. Did you actually notice boggy soil?
One thing I'm currently learning about clay soil (I'm in Indiana and we
have it, too) is that plants may grow fine in their from-the-nursery matrix
or in an above ground bed, but when they hit that clay, they haven't
developed the strong roots necessary to go through it. Their roots not
having anywhere to go would also concern me if you had several inches of
gravel in the bottom of the bed, too.
The only other thing I can think of is that maybe the bricks generated a
bit too much heat to the plant roots.
Where did you get the plants? Was it from a nursery? Do they have a
warranty on their plants? Some do. If you take back the dead plants, you
might get new ones. If you haven't pulled out the plants yet though, you
might want to give them a chance to come to life again. You never know...
it might happen. :)
Well, I don't know how much help that was but it was fun looking them up
for you and trying to brainstorm with you a bit.
Well that certainly provides me with a lot of information, and far
more than I could have collected in that amount of time, since I don't
really know where to look. That gives us something to work with going
forward into this year. I don't have the ironclad solution I was
hoping for, but I guess in gardening there seldom is. Thanks for all
your work; good luck with your Indiana soil!
Oh, the plants were from a big box store (Lowes) and they have 1 year
warranties, so we'll be doing some digging over the next couple weeks.
They said that with a receipt, which we kept, they'd take back just
about anything - down to a pile of dirt.
Why not try a little experiment.
Water your planter and get it pretty wet (about what these plants
probably get per week.) Then see how long it takes to dry off. Is it
wet and soggy? Then dig down to the bottom and check it also Check
again after a few days, a week. Is is really wet on the bottom, but
the top ? That should give you some idea of what's going on.
Then do check the root balls. Did they grow at all? Rot away?
The best way to find out what's going on is to observe your own plants
(not what mine do in CA <grin)
This probably Gaillardia 'Goblin' a dwarf gaillardia. They need good
I find Lantana is not hardy if it is both cold AND wet. Most of them
not hardy here in zone 8 NorCal
This might be Veronica 'Red Fox'
Rosea and Wine Periwinkle might be Catharanthus roseus. Another one
that likes it
hot, but does not want to be cold and wet. Doesn't usually overwinter
here unless it's
warm and not too rainy a winter
I assume this is a small rose???
That periwinkle is vinca minor/major, confusing, no??
This is Cuphea hyssopifolia; same story not for cold and wet. Usually
survive reliably with heavy frost.
Tiger lilies can cover a number of species. But remember, they are
might still be down there underground
Perhaps, Boltonia, is a small daisy like flower?
Most of those really like heat. They all grow here in 100 degrees,
except the columbine which likes part shade, but we
are dry, so there could be not enough drainage. Did the plants have a
root system, or were there hardly any roots, ie, rotted away??
Terrific job, FW.
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