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.
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?
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
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.
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
http://www.prairienet.org/gpf/natives.html - all Native Plant Societies
in the US
(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.
Celestial Habitats by J. Kolenovsky
2003 Honorable Mention Award, Keep Houston Beautiful
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
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
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
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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