I will admit to my fair share of fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants gar­den design. Just give me a cart at a gar­den cen­ter and I’ll emerge with enough plants to fill an SUV, a happy smile and not the vaguest idea of what I’m going to do with them. But (and here’s an ugly truth) I have also had a fair num­ber of those plants lan­guish in pots while I wan­dered around wring­ing my hands and won­der­ing what should go where.

When I decided to add a new gar­den bed last year, I decided to take a dif­fer­ent approach.

Plan­ning! What a concept!

North side potager bed in July with butterfly bush, Gladiolus callianthus, castor bean

North side potager bed in July with but­ter­fly bush, Glad­i­o­lus cal­lianthus, cas­tor bean

The new bed is 4′ x 40′ and extends along the north side of the potager. Last fall I ordered up a truck­load of leaf mulch that we lay­ered over news­pa­per. Nature did a good bit of work over the win­ter break­ing down the news­pa­per, smoth­er­ing out the grass (and weeds) and improv­ing the hard, clay soil underneath.

In the mean­time, I went shopping—this time by cat­a­log and with graph paper and pen­cil. I selected plants I liked, printed them out on a color printer with their vital stats (height/bloom dates, require­ments) and cre­ated a col­lage on a pin board.

Gladiolus callianthus 'Murielae' and castor bean

Glad­i­o­lus cal­lianthus ‘Murielae’ and cas­tor bean

A but­ter­fly bush anchors one end of the bed. I added a pieris ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ in more-or-less the mid­dle and a fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’ at the other end. Tall plants I started from seed included cas­tor bean (rici­nus com­mu­nis) and Mex­i­can sun­flow­ers (titho­nia rotun­di­flora) pur­chased from Botan­i­cal Inter­ests. I wanted col­ors we could enjoy at night, so I added a gen­er­ous num­ber of white glad­i­o­lus cal­lianthus ‘Murielae’ and white physosegia ‘Miss Man­ners’ pur­chased from Brent and Becky’s.

coreopsis and butterfly weed in July

Core­op­sis and but­ter­fly weed in July

Accent col­ors are reds and yel­lows from Glo­riosa superba ‘Roth­schildiana’, Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’, Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, Core­op­sis ‘Moon­beam’, Trades­cantia ‘Blue & Gold’ and assorted but­ter­fly weeds and core­op­sis that I allowed myself to pick up at the gar­den cen­ter on a whim.

Gloriosa superba 'Rothschildiana'

Glo­riosa superba ‘Rothschildiana’

Not every­thing came out accord­ing to plan. For exam­ple, the glad­i­o­lus cal­lianthus ‘Murielae’ were adver­tised as reach­ing 12″ to 24″. They are eas­ily more than 36″ tall and con­tinue to grow and push out more and more white flow­ers on long, sturdy stems, so I’m not com­plain­ing. But they are in front of the ‘Hot Lips’, so place­ment could be bet­ter. And although I like the Mex­i­can sun­flow­ers well enough, they are mostly foliage topped by small orangish flow­ers. Mam­moth sun­flow­ers would have given me more bang for the buck.

But hey, there’s always next year.

And speak­ing of next year, I have a whole new bor­der to plan over the com­ing win­ter. The graph paper and pen­cil approach worked well enough that I’ll do it again. It also gave me a gar­den­ing project for those long, cold win­ter days.

 

Be Socia­ble, Share!
Robin

5 Responses to “Expanding the Summer Garden: The Big Reveal”

  1. Kylee from Our Little Acre Says:

    It’s beau­ti­ful, Robin. And you gar­den the exact same way I do. :-)

  2. Marian St.Clair Says:

    How fun! Love that Glo­riosa lily…and the but­ter­flies will love the titho­nia if it ever stops rain­ing and heats up!

  3. Nicky Dowsett Says:

    I love these plants! Your gar­den­ing project is awe­some. I wish I have time to do this. I really like to improve my gar­den. Plan­ning is really impor­tant to get the best results. :-)

  4. Casa Mariposa Says:

    I have the same glads, also known as Pea­cock lilies, and mine are huge, too. But they’re so pretty, it’s hard to com­plain. Your redo looks great. :o)

  5. Mitch Parker Says:

    Plan­ning is really impor­tant. I also do that and I don’t usu­ally decide ran­domly. I am now enjoy­ing the fruits of my labor. Any­way, great choice of plants!

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