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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Something for Nothing

Due to a computer error, I was recently sent four Peggy Martin roses, that I wrote about in my last post. I finished the post with a shot of the new garden bed, hit Publish, and was off, either to bed to to wade through my stacks of endless grading.

But here's the rest of the story: the roses that I didn't order, that were sent to me by accident, that were perfect and rocketed me into a state of blissful delirium, allowed me to create a new garden bed in a fabulously sunny, moist part of my yard. If your garden is already moist and sunny, then this may not seem like a big deal. However, most of my garden is dry and shady, and only has two beds that receive six or more hours of sun. Shrubs fill a few other sunny places better suited for the billowing mounds of viburnum and deutzia than a mixed border.

Creating a new garden bed can be exhilarating but also expensive and despite my windfall, I couldn't justify spending several hundred dollars on plants just to keep my new roses company. Fortunately, I didn't need to. Struggling to grow wedged behind more enthusiastic bedmates, desperate to stay alive in bone dry soil, or lying prostrate across the mulch in a futile bid for more sun, lay an entire borders' worth of plants. Many of these refugees were original to the garden, planted when the trees were smaller and the beds moister and sunnier. The soil was so compacted and the trees so scrubby when we first moved in that I didn't plan for shade. I simply didn't plan on many of the trees surviving the first winter. Eight years later, shade prevails and moist, sunny spots are the equivalent of the Ritz-Carlton, Trump Towers, or the Taj Mahal.

To fill the bed, I went shopping in my own garden. Here's what I found:
  • a bird bath and stepping stone
  • pink wood aster 'Fanny'
  • heliopsis 'Tuscan Sun'
  • Persian cornflower (Centaurea dealbata)
  • rue
  • pink coneflowers 'Magnus'
  • white coneflowers "Fragrant Angel'
  • rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' seedlings
  • phlox 'David', "David's Lavender', 'Nicky'
  • phlox - assorted seedlings in shades of pink and white
  • blue mist flower
  • hostas (beautiful but unnamed, from a friend)
  • white double balloon flowers
  • achillea 'The Pearl' 
  • aster 'Alert'
  • nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' ( I think!)
  • daylillies - shades of yellow, pink, purple
  • variegated iris (iris ensata)
  • blue eyed grass
  • slender leaf mountain mint
A section of the new bed is slightly drier and receives high, filtered shade from a neighboring river birch. I used the phlox, hostas, blue mist flower, balloon flowers, and daylilies as transition plants from the slightly shady area to the sunnier, moister side. A stepping stone next to the bird bath makes filling the bird bath easier. My only expenses were the compost, mulch, and the highly effective bunny barricade. Considering our gas prices jumped 8 cents a gallon while I was at work Friday, something for almost nothing is my favorite way to garden!

Many of these plants are growing sideways or have strange root systems because of the stressed conditions they were growing in. I have faith they will all be gorgeous by next summer!
Compost + the right growing conditions are wonderful healers (if you're a plant!).

I used the hostas that formerly grew in a semi-circle at the base of the river birch to guide the eye around the curve of the bed towards the sunny side. This new garden also creates a more beautiful view than my neighbors a/c units currently provide. 
I used a shovel to remove the sod and brought in 50 bags of compost since a bulk delivery wasn't an option.

I left a grass walkway between the Dogwood garden and the new sunny border. I'm going to dig out about another 8 inches of grass to give the plants in the new bed more room to grow. 

As I was creating the new garden, my dogs were on a week long mole hunt that involved them destroying more grass than the mole. They finally caught the mole, but part of my Dogwood garden and a long section of grass looks like swiss cheese. Baby, a sturdy daschund/corgi mix, is on mole patrol in this picture. When we adopted her from the no-kill shelter all of our dogs came from, she was already named and since it had been her name for eight years, we kept it. 


  1. Dobrze, że jest miejsce mniej zacienione i nowa rabata pewno będzie śliczna w przyszłym roku. Na pieski się nie złość, one chciały pomóc, a trawę możesz dosiać :-). Pozdrawiam

  2. You've been busy! I had to laugh at the thought of a sunny/moist spot in a garden...really, I'm glad to hear someone has one! Your new bed is going to bring you so much joy and I'm sure the plants are thrilled in their new home. What a feeling of accomplishment you must have!

    8 cents in one day? Dang!

  3. What a pleasant surprise to receive flowers that you did not order!

    I am hoping the mole doesn't go near the new garden bed. My dogs would bring down a lamp post to catch a mole.

  4. Nice! It's amazing what you scavenged from other parts of your garden for such a long list of great plants. Your new sunny border is going to be great. Isn't it fun to start a whole new project and watch it take shape? Especially when you see the struggling plants fill out in their new lush space.

    50 bags of compost?? wow.

  5. Cheap is good. Free is excellent! Love the design of the new bed and plant placement. Will enjoy watching your pics of it as it matures. I'm with Laurie -- 50 bags of compost? (ahem - you mean you don't make your own compost??)

  6. Yep, 50 bags of composted leaves called Leaf Gro!! This spot is fairly low and after I took out the sod, it was even lower. It took 50 bags to bring it to the same height as the River Birch garden. I do worm composting in my basement, but they don't make enough to fill a new bed.

  7. I love this idea of rescuing plants from all over your garden to make the new bed. You invested in what is really important--the soil amendments.

  8. Jennifer@threedogsinagarden
    Hi Tammy, You have been very busy. The new bed looks great. Our back garden is mostly in shade as well. I often wish I had more sunshine, so I could grow a wider array of flowering perennials. I have been doing some similar shifting of plants in my overcrowded beds. I also find that more robust plants can really take over. I sometimes feel like I have the role of an equalizer.

  9. Great story in your previous post about how the roses arrived, and nicely done how you managed to complete the bed.

  10. It's amazing how many treasures you could find in your own garden! Cheers to your mole hunters! We have moles this summer, and our dog is not helping!

  11. You could rent out your dogs if they hunt moles!! I have one that used to...but she is getting close to hitting 18.
    Lovely new beds! Hard work will pay off big time!

  12. I really enjoyed reading the last two posts on the roses. Tammy sure had a lucky streak there! I look forward to seeing the new bed in bloom next year.

  13. Shopping in your own garden is the best! The new bed is going to look beautiful.


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