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!

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

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