Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Help Wanted: Redesigning the Yuck Side

Every house has a yuck side and mine is no different. Utility hook ups, the big air conditioner thing, and a giant rain barrel decorate the side of my house that most people see.  I've attempted to make the best of this spot with various perennials, but one particular plant is so outrageously happy there, it's actually caused a problem.


An enormous bleeding heart dominates this side of the house every spring. At the peak of its growth, it will be taller than the meter behind it.


Fragrant sweet box (sarcoccoa humilis) grows in front of the air conditioner units. Wood anemones grow next to the bleeding heart. They look great in the spring but are ragged by summer.


For about a month, this side looks great.


I shear these back in summer to stimulate new growth.

The problem lies in the expansive growth of the bleeding heart. While it's beautiful in the spring, it goes dormant by mid-summer, leaving a big empty spot next to a clump of fried anemones.


The grass is crispy, thanks to the heat wave. 'Miss Kim' lilacs and newly-planted-this-spring daylilies meet the sweetbox shrubs.


YUCK!
The bleeding heart is going dormant and within a few weeks all growth will be gone, leaving a big empty spot.


A motley assortment of homeless perennials thrive here, including Painter's Pallette and a very happy patch of heuchera. I've created a small path from the grass to  the rain barrel for easy watering jug fill-ups. The top of the barrel unzips for easy access. I thought about filling in the empty spot with summer annuals, but they're too hard to establish in the middle of summer. Plus, I'm hesitant to disturb the bleeding hearts roots. 


Wild petunias (native ruellia), white flowered eupatorium, and Maltese Cross (lychnis) grow well here, too. 


A patch of toad lilies from a friend are happy here, too.I don't want to put in something so big and leafy that the toad lilies are overshaded. I was thinking about something with a light, open feel so the toad lilies will still receive a bit of sun. 


Smashed by the Verizon Fios installation crew. 
This area had been full of obedient plants that were completely crushed. 

Here's the problem: I want to plant something tall that will detract from the big empty spot created by the dormant bleeding heart. The tall showy tick trefoil that I planted near the rain barrel and the wall of the house last fall were smothered by the foliage of the bleeding heart. I think I need a woody plant that can withstand the onslaught of bleeding heart foliage, and fill in the empty space a bit, but I'm just not sure. I'm so tired of trying to solve the same problem and always coming up short, that I'm asking for HELP!!! The area next to the rain barrel doesn't have any underground utility lines.

Exposure: Sheltered, northern wall with moist, well draining soil. Mostly shady with high bright shade and patches of sun throughout the day. 

If this was your hot mess, what would you do?

29 comments:

  1. Hi, I think your bleeding heart is too pretty to ever get rid of it, but how about a trellis behind it with some sort of viney thing, like honey suckle or morning glory or something that loves the summer and would hide those things along the wall of the house. Or would it be in the way of the meter reader?? Just a thought. Unless of course, you planted an evergreen, such as a tall skinny type. But I am in favor of a structure to hide the things and in winter just let it be there...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're totally right about a structure. Honeysuckle would smell delicious!

      Delete
  2. This may be too big, but you might think about Viburnum dentatum. They are fairly upright, but arch over with age. Google tells me that they average 6-10', but can get up to 15' in optimal growing conditions. They produce showy berries too, but only if you have another V. dentatum shrub nearby (and the same cultivar wouldn't work, since they'd be genetically identical). And they're native too.

    I just planted three of them this year, and, while I won't be getting a lot of berries this year, I'm really liking their foliage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love viburnum and have them in a few places, but I think they'd get too big. A happy viburnum is often a huge viburnum.

      Delete
  3. Well, here's my 2 cents (and in this economy it probably is worth less than a penny). Why not create a piece of garden art - like a movable folding screen (tied to stakes, of course) that you can set up this time of year. Then, at the end of the season, stow it away and let the plants do their job next spring. Anything you erect would lend focus to the space and you wouldn't even have to water it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The more I visualize a screen there, the more I like it! As much as I can't resist covering a trellis with vines, I can put up a screen when I need it and take it down when I don't. LOVE IT!

      Delete
  4. I was thinking like Kris - either garden art or a potted plant that doesn't require a lot of TLC. It looks so nice when the bleeding heat is in flower you wouldn't want to mess with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I'm going to look for a garden screen with an artsy vibe. I knew the blogosphere would have the answer! I just hope I can find one I can afford.

      Delete
    2. Tammy, you are the arty type - simple to MAKE screens. Some panels (wicker, screen, barn siding, boards, etc) and some hinges and you're in business, girl. Then decorate your heart out. :-D

      Delete
  5. I wish my best spots looked like your yuck spots!

    I won't offer any specific plant names since I garden across the country from you, but I would go to a good nursery or two and see what they have in bloom now. I would look for some summer-fall blooming plants... They might also advise you on what would do well with that exposure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great idea! Daylily foliage would do a good job of hiding the empty spot but I'm leaning towards garden art. :o)

      Delete
  6. Your yuck side hardly looks yucky at all. :) A screen does sound lovely. I don't have much moisture or shade so I'm not much help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A screen is in the works! We'll just ignore the fact that I have no artistic talent at all. But I am creative so I'm hoping my creativity combined with my total lack of talent doesn't inspire disaster!

      Delete
  7. Ah, yes. The utility side of the house--we all find our ways to deal with this. Sounds like you're on the right track. Regarding the Bleeding Heart companions...a couple that come to mind are Hostas, Daylilies, or ornamental Grasses. I'm sure you'll find a great way to make it look beautiful. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think utilities need to be much more attractive! Maybe I just need to convince my bleeding heart not to go dormant. :o)

      Delete
  8. Aaargh, the utility side of the house. We just spent $300 yesterday to repair our broken A/C and the guy said I must cut down the plants crowding the units. Must. Cut. Them. Down. I will not.

    I have panicum 'Northwind' fronting the units. Tall, no flopping, they completely screen the mess. Can you work tall narrow grasses into your plan? You might want to widen the bed, and come way out from the wall, and allow the grasses to grow well away (I only have 18 inches in front of the A/C, and then a walkway, but you could come out into the grass a lot more.) If not tall grasses, how about Sky Pencil hollies that stay tall and narrow and dark evergreen? Mixed in with your perennials they would be a nice accent too. But use more than one or two.

    I also like the idea of an ornamental screen, and I know you are creative enough to make one that looks just right. Maybe a freestanding lattice trellis that supports honeysuckle (John Clayton will take some shade on a north exposure)

    Alberta spruces? I hate them, but I use them angled on either side of the stand of grasses so the side view of my A/C units is also obscured, not just looking front on. The wavy grasses with the dense evergreens look good.

    As always, I love problem solving in the garden!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I widen my bed much more, I'll be in my neighbors yard.:o) Every year I have to prune away the sweet box from my A/C units. It's such a pain because they spread by thick runners. I had our termite prevention guy tell me that my garden was "real nice and all" but that I needed to dig everything up and move it all out away from the house at least 18" so I don't get termites. I convinced he is a member of the functionally insane. I swear he's mad every time I DON"T have a termite. $300?? Dang!

      Delete
  9. It was nice to see that you have some plants that I also have, for example that bleeding heart. I live in Finland. I was visiting Three dogs in the garden - blog and I saw a link to this blog and so I'm visiting here...Visit my blog, if you want to see, how a Finnish garden look like.

    Satu

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by! Your blog and garden are beautiful! :o)

      Delete
  10. I only wish I could get e Bleeding Heart to survive! My first thought was clematis since you have good succes with them, but maybe too much shade there? Then I though of oakleaf hydrangea but maybe too big. Would a tropical plant like Elephant Ear (colocasia) or canna work? They would probably go dormant but perhaps could be grown in pots that could be overwintered. Let us know what you come up with!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm leaning toward a folding screen and have some ideas swirling. :o) I'll post about it!

      Delete
  11. Yup, folding screen was the first thing I thought of when I saw that spot. Chant with me now: GAR-DEN-ART! GAR-DEN-ART! GAR-DEN-ART!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, baby!! Considering I have more enthusiasm than talent the results should be interesting! :o)

      Delete
  12. I'm following everyone's comments because I have a similar bleeding heart problem. Thanks for this post and everyone's wonderful suggestions!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the garden art idea is the winner. Stay tuned for a post in about 2 weeks showing the outcome. :o)

      Delete
  13. I think you'll have few choices if you keep BH so large. Have you thought about dividing it hm uge job but if you don't the roots will never let anything let anything take hold. Good yuck, sorry luck

    ReplyDelete
  14. Good luck with the Garden Art thingy. Glad you're keeping the Dicentra.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oooh I can hardly wait to see how this turns out! Excited to see your progress in a few weeks and good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  16. And on your folding screen you can hang pots with trailing plants for every season, just swap them around and place them somewhere else in the garden when they are not in flower. There are flowering plants for every month of the year, at least where I live :-)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting my blog! Feel free to comment on the posts or photos.