Posts Tagged ‘potager’

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.

 

Robin

Feb 14
2013

About Last Summer

I’m sit­ting here with seed and plant cat­a­logs scat­tered around—Plant Delights, Botan­i­cal Inter­estsBaker Creek, Cook’s Gar­den, John Scheep­ers…My Lee Val­ley 10-Year Gar­den Jour­nal is open to Feb­ru­ary. My Excel spread sheet plant inven­tory is open on my com­puter screen. The col­lec­tion I affec­tion­ately refer to as my Seed Vault is on the floor under my desk, threat­en­ing to over­flow into Seed Vault Two.

I’m bun­dled in a bulky sweater, fin­ger­less gloves and my warmest Ugg shoes. I hardly remem­ber what sum­mer looked like last year.

Potager in June

Potager in June

I know it was green. I’m pretty sure it was green. I remem­ber pick­ing toma­toes, cucum­bers, tiny mar des bois straw­ber­ries, Bright Lights Swiss chard. My hus­band and I spent many evenings under the stars fin­ish­ing din­ner and drink­ing wine, lis­ten­ing to the crick­ets and watch­ing the bats dart across the night sky. I can remem­ber the smell of freshly mown grass and basil pinched between my fingernails.

Gosh, my feet are cold. I should to make some hot tea.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly

Zebra Swal­low­tail Butterfly

Oh yes, we had lots of but­ter­flies last year. Mon­archs, zebra swal­low­tails, east­ern tiger swal­low­tails, red admi­rals. I didn’t know the name of some of the but­ter­flies and moths but loved them just the same. I remem­ber won­der­ing why the mon­archs seemed so skit­tish and the east­ern tiger swal­low­tails would almost let me touch them.

celeste fig tree

Celeste figs

Oh, that’s right. All those celeste figs! So many I hardly knew what to do with them all. I stood next to the tree and popped them right into my mouth.

Maybe another pair of socks would help warm my feet.

hummingbird

Oh, the birds! That’s right. Our hum­ming­bird feeder had a lot of busi­ness last summer.

I should bun­dle up and go top off the bird feed­ers now. That bird­bath could use some hot water to melt the ice too.

Lemon grass in the foreground

Lemon grass in the foreground

So much lemon grass! I remem­ber I was glad I only planted one since it nearly crowded out the cone flowers.

And the aspara­gus was fill­ing in nicely. I think we can pick some more this year.

Asparagus berries

Aspara­gus berries

Ah yes. There was color too. Pur­ples and blues and oranges and yellows.

20120805-184921.jpg

It’s awfully cold in here. Maybe I should just turn up the heat for a lit­tle while.

Oh, that’s right. It’ll be bet­ter soon.

(Click on the pho­tos to embiggen.)

 

Robin

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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