Monday, October 17, 2011

Urban garden renewal

Ecclesiastes 3:1 states it clearly.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

Fall, 2011 is the season for some garden renewal, and the purpose is one that has itched me for a long time - make the back garden beautiful. Or at least more pleasing with some rhyme and reason thrown in.

This photo may look like it’s Photo-Shopped, but I don’t have Photo Shop. Those pink lines are physically there. They are marking flags with stretchy marking tape running between the flags. Very three-dimensional, don’t you think? I like the pink, too. I’m thinking of brick edging painted pink. Seriously.

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The back garden has several problems.
  • The west side that you see here has a very deep bed along the side fence, too deep to enable easy access and maintenance. A word to the wise: never make a bed two roses deep without access from both sides.
  • Empty space with no access
  • Too much gravel pathway
  • Too little growing room, especially for new daylilies
  • Increasing areas of shade
  • Wrong plants in wrong places 
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I had been pondering this situation for a good while without making much headway toward a solution. Then about a week ago the area in the photo below spoke to me. It said, “Scrape away this gravel, make a bed out of me and plant me with daylilies.” Well, I thought the garden made a brilliant sales pitch, and I bought it.

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The area to the right is the deep bed with no access – except stepping over and around and through green, growing and prickly things, ever and always feeling guilt for compacting the soil with each step. So as you can see, I have made a narrow person-sized path – with a few deletions. You would have laughed had you been watching.

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The artistic thrust when I made the beds originally was curves, but what the curves created was a lot of wasted space in a garden without an extra inch of space. So starting at the birdbath on the left which is standing in the future path, I have added about a foot of depth on the left and on the right (hmm, I can see that I can make that line a bit straighter), making the path wide enough for the wheelbarrow and the beds roomy enough for those homeless daylilies. There is weed cloth under the mulch which will have to be cut, the devil-ground beneath must be removed deep down, and good amended soil with lots of sulfur and kitty litter will replace it. Here’s a thought: I can take the good topsoil from the paths out, replace it with the crappy stuff, and then I don’t have to haul it off. Oh, my, is that a relief to my back!!

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Perhaps you can see what’s wrong with this picture. It’s the 4x4 post in the path and the ‘Souv de la Malmaison, Climbing' planted next to it. This rose was a good idea for a season, but now at the end of its second season maintaining the “pillar” growth habit has been impossible. The rose has reached the top of the eight-foot tall post and I can’t put a ladder next to it because of that sinking feeling I get in the soft garden soil. As a result, SdlM is a good twelve feet across, sticking its prickly canes in its ears while wagging its tongue at me, and chanting “Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya. Come and get me, Mama.”

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Also planted at the post is Clematis ‘Henryii’ whom you can sort of see below. ‘Henryii’ has done very well, showing off his big white flowers with decent regularity. He will be moved to the left side of the ‘Jaune Desprez’ arbor that is against the fence.

I will readily admit and apologize for the difficulty that you are having seeing rose bushes. The reason for it is their lack of foliage. So please just take my word for what is there that you’re not seeing. The purple pot is home to ‘Marquesa Boccella’ who does have a decent showing of leaves and is in bloom. She has earned a spot in the ground, sadly replacing ‘Baronne Prevost’ next to the birdbath. Hopefully, MB won’t think it’s a demotion. The bush form of ‘Souv de la Malmaison’ is behind the purple pot, successfully hiding in plain sight. There is room to her right to move her that way, giving me the opportunity to greatly amend her area next to the expansion zone. I hate to make work for myself, but what else have I got to do? Do you see the pink flower at the back behind the amber glass ball? It is attached to ‘Arcadia Louisiana Tea’, the Invisible Man himself.

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Here he is up close, even more invisible! He just finished blooming, but his 100-petal flowers got caught in last weekend’s rain. They pretty much all balled, so sad. I need to lop off some of him or there will be no path. Not sure but he may get moved, centered on the arbor. Honk if you think I’m crazy yet.

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This is the ‘Mrs B R Cant’ bed at the back of the west side bed. She is the proud Tea rose bearer of the raspberry blooms and sits between those two massive oak trees that now give her too much shade. Not a stroke of temporary brilliance, even though it was the roomiest spot in the garden and would afford her room to grow eight feet in every direction and provide lots of sun under the five-feet wide canopy of the trees - at the time. What!? Trees get wider? Well, clearly you should buy a lottery ticket, because you can see into the future. I on the other hand…well, no, let’s not go there. She blooms and grows leaves on her back side which never sees a ray of sun. She just doesn’t bloom a whole lot, so she’s a candidate for moving into the driveway bed this winter. ‘Souv de St. Anne’s’ will be moving somewhere else in the garden.

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There’s also a ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea next to MBRC, recently moved from dead shade to partial shade. Next is a skinny, two-cane ‘Quietness’ for whom I am obviously an inept caretaker. Then in the purple pot there is ‘Leonie Lamesch’ whose canes are close to five feet long and highly inappropriate for a pot – at least this pot. If I pivoted the camera 180 degrees you, could see her new location – or maybe next to ‘Louis Philippe’ against the fence behind the new path. I think I was saving the first spot for ‘Mary Rose’. MBRC’s bed is a good twelve feet wide and is backed by Pampas grass on the property line. I think azaleas will like it here. You don’t seem very positive about it either probably because of the limey soil..

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If you grab a magnifying glass, you can distinctly see from left to right ‘Leonie Lamesch’, Quietness’, ‘Pinky Winky’ and the long arms of MBRC bearing luscious raspberry-scented blooms.  And no, you don’t need your eyes examined. Sherryocala’s garden – home of leafless roses. And see…I’m not at all upset or stressed about it. Seems to be a way of life I’m getting used to.

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The future crossroads of the garden. Thank goodness those broken paver pieces don’t need rerouting.

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Here’s the brilliant part of the garden that came up with this scheme.

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That’s a lot of room for daylilies, don’t you think? And maybe an evergreen something-or-other – or two. That’s ‘Francois Juranville’ climbing up overhead, and something keeps moving my bricks.

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At this end of FJ’s bed I will widen the path. Monsieur Wheelbarrow has difficulty squeezing though here. Tubby fellow.

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After piddling around taking photos I thought it might be good to annex this gravel area into FJ’s new daylily bed.

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This is quite a considerable bit of potential growing space.

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Do I have any volunteers for breaking the news to Miss Periwinkle? She simply vants to be alone.

I’m thinking this will make a nice seating nook surrounded by blooming daylilies. Ah ha, but wait. See that purple pot? That’s ‘Rose de Rescht’. I said  take my word for it, remember? I think he’d like that new spot in the ground where ‘Serratipetala’ is now in the rectangular pot. (Yes, there’s a rose in the pot.) Soon to be somewhere else, but I’m not sure which county.

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That tree behind the glass ball is also leaving. Yay!!! Somehow he’s coming down and then out.

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He makes a lot of shade, but the huge horizontal limb is staying. It’s attached to the big tree next to MBRC.

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And I was happy to see that he bends backwards so his removal will provide even more sun than I thought. Unfortunately, that may mean sitting in the sun on the bench – not too cool. So in an ideal world I would simply move a few bushes farther back behind the bench and slide the bench backwards into the shade. Anyone else live in an ideal world?

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The Giant Apostle's Irises also have appointments elsewhere – way elsewhere.

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Below is DH’s den bed. With your magnifying glass you can see him squinting out at us. (Let me know if you can. Ha!) And that sweet red tea rose is, of course, who else but ‘Madame Antoine Rebe’. She’s a fluttery single that never fails to thrill my heart. Somebody please tell me where I can put her!! This northside spot just is not to her liking, even though she has been so brave about it. She blooms nicely. How magnificent she must be in more sun! Ya think she’d be more leafy, too??? Perhaps given her red color she wouldn’t like a lot more sun. Oh, poo, what’s a mother to do?? Sun or shade, I don’t have anymore.

The plan is to move another ‘Merritt’s Supreme’ under the right window and move the ‘Red Ruffle’ azaleas from there to the front of the bed where hopefully the summer morning sun will make them bloom. Something else will need to go in there. If only I could find some ‘Japanese Holly Ferns’ to buy. Oh, the trellis on the left is home to ‘Nur Mahal’, a nearly red Hybrid Musk. DH says he likes its flowers poking in at him and the perch it offers for the Cardinals, so he stays, even with his leaflessness.

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Here’s DH’s bed sideways. Pretty roomy. On the other side of the path is ‘Crepuscule’ on the arbor, ‘Le Vesuve’ and then ‘Duchesse d’Auerstadt’, the yellow tea-noisette climber on the arbor. She would have many more canes if the squirrels didn’t chew them all off at the knees.   I   H A T E   S Q U I R R E L S ! !

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With a magnifying glass you CAN NOT see ‘Crepuscule’ to the left of the arbor. So she’s gone. Too slow, so sad. Thinking of a big clematis for the arbor.

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Poor pitiful ‘Pink Gruss an Aachen’ is being smothercated by a Giant Apostle’s Iris. I think I will dig up him and his brethren, pot up their parts two or three to a pot and send them out to take over the world.

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His other brother, Darryl, is smothercating ‘Rita Sammons’. Beauty and the Beast, wouldn’t you say?

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Hopefully, my second "job" begins tomorrow. Little by little.

Now, friends, I hope you will be much kinder to your own gardens after this, thinking twice about  those belittling, negative remarks, because now you know how ugly a garden can be. Don’t you feel ashamed of yourselves. Go quickly and apologize to your gardens.

Apologies to you all for this extremely long post.


  1. That's funny, some of your pictures really do look Photoshopped! Also funny about letting your garden speak to you. I do that too.

    Can't wait to see your garden after the changes!

  2. That's a lot of changes, Sherry! I just keep thinking of all the work involved. However, I think you are brilliant for coming up with the pink tape to lay it out. This gives you a way to walk around and really determine what will work. Seems like you just have a bit too much shade - or am I simplifying things? I think your garden is wonderful, and I'm certain with all the changes it will be even more wonderful.

  3. I love the way you have planned this out and the pink tape marking off the beds and paths is brilliant!