Drainage question for raised bed next to house

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 time.
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!!
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote in

What kind of plants were they?
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wrote:

They are/were all flowering perennials (supposedly) suitable for partial to full sun. I'll get the full list to you when I get home and can pull out the cards.
Thanks for the response.
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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?
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wrote:

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 inadequate drainage: Blackeyed Susan Goblin Lantana Columbine (purple & yellow) - 1 of 3 seemed to do ok, and it's on the outside corner of the bed Foxglove Lily of the Nile Maiden Pink Red Fox Rosea Termari Patio Rose Wine Periwinkle Mexican Heather - seemed to do really well; suspect it will come back Tiger Lilies "Jim Crockett" Boltonio
Thanks again
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8g2000cwh.googlegroups.com:

I pulled a few facts about these plants just to try and piece this together a bit.

Medium tolerance for drought; likes well-drained soil. Sun to partial shade but will not tolerate a lot of shade.

Is that a moonwort? That's not zoned for where you are, AFAICT.

Ok for NC. Can withstand drought; likes full sun. Lantana camera isn't zoned for where you are but I think all the other ones are.

Wild Columbine likes partial shade; moist, well-drained humus soil.

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 cycle?

Can't find this one listed at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets

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? Collected water?
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.
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wrote:

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.
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Why not try a little experiment. Water your planter and get it pretty wet (about what these plants would probably get per week.) Then see how long it takes to dry off. Is it still 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 dry on 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) Emilie
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wrote:

This probably Gaillardia 'Goblin' a dwarf gaillardia. They need good drainage

I find Lantana is not hardy if it is both cold AND wet. Most of them are 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 doesn't survive reliably with heavy frost.

Tiger lilies can cover a number of species. But remember, they are bulbs and 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 good root system, or were there hardly any roots, ie, rotted away?? Terrific job, FW. Emilie NorCal
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