What to plant in long, narrow bed?

chmpgntst(USDA 10 Sunet 23/24)July 14, 2012

Hello everyone,

My family and I just moved back to San Diego last year. We have lived here once before, for 4 years, so I have some gardening experience here, and I had a garden in our last home on the East Coast that was barely controlled chaos. :-) We are maybe 2 miles from the coast, on the border between zones 23 and 24.

I am trying to decide what to plant in this bed. It is 22' long and 3' wide. The windows above it start at 30 inches so I'd prefer plants with a max height of 36". Our yard is very green but with little color, so I'm looking for flowers. I'm considering:

Trumpeter roses or other floribunda

Vera Bougainvillea (2' x 2'! thornless!)

Lantana (not my favorite but I like the idea of continuous blooming and hummingbirds and butterflies. Bees are a negative b/c I have 3 kids under 10).

I'm thinking about something vining on trellises at either end. Was thinking about star jasmine, that the dark, shiny leaves would look good against the house. Other options would be climbing roses or even a cool bottlebrush espalier I saw at the garden center.

I also like lavender and rosemary, but what could I mix in to bring more color?

The is a south-eastern facing wall so it gets lots of sun in the winter and until at least 1 pm in the summer.

I'm worried about such a narrow bed looking like a line-up, but I'm not sure how to stagger plants with only 36" of depth. Alternatively, I could do a hedge.

~sigh~ so many options! I would welcome any and all suggestions!

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

It's a bit narrow for a lot of stuff. Luckily within 2 miles of the ocean in San Diego you have the most perfect mild climate in the entire United States.

You have three little ones and they probably take up 99.999% of your time so I would not do anything too elaborate or high maintenance.

Idea 1: a hedge of 'Iceberg' roses would be easy--quick repeat nearly year round very few prickles (thorns), deadhead quickly with hedge sheers. You could do Geranium 'Rozanne' at their feet to cover the bare ankles and get an elegant combo of white and lavender-blue that would bloom most of the year without a lot of effort. That combo will look good with your house color.

Keep in mind anything, anything that blooms is likely to attract bees, but unless your kids go out and barehand grab them, the chance of a sting is near zero. I walk through clouds of bees daily, and have only been stung once, when I grabbed a rose to deadhead it, and there was still a bee inside. There's no need to be paranoid about bees. They are good animals, not bad ones!

Idea 2: a lot of succulents such as Echeverias and Aloes mixed in with an Agave attenuata or two (no spines). Have a look at the "coral reef" of succulents at San Diego Botanical Garden and do your own version. Kids just adore that section of SDBG, so it would be a lot of fun for them. You will get hummingbirds for the Echeveria and Aloe flowers, and succulents are very low (not zero, but low) maintenance. Also save you money on water.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 5:45PM
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Does it get morning sun then shaded in the afternoon?

I can comment on the star jasmine as we have a ton of it. It does like full sun, won't bloom as much in part sun and will be a little thinner. It's quite easy though, just needs trimming once or twice a year.

For color you might think of colored foliage. There is golden euonymous, bloodleaf. You could also use a couple of perennials and intersperse with annuals, changing them as the seasons change. The kids could help with that. Or even better, if it's sunny, you could do a little veggie garden which would be wonderful for the kids as well.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 5:48PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

If you cook, that's a perfect spot for an herb garden. Easy enough to mix in a number of different herbs and some lavender for color, also the odd gerbera daisy to jazz it up...

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 12:29AM
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chmpgntst(USDA 10 Sunet 23/24)

Hi again,

Thanks for all the responses!

Hoovb, I love those geraniums! What a great color. I was worried that white flowers against the house would look too bland? But I always love the white roses I see when I'm out and about. I'm not worried about the occasional bee, but some plants seem to attract more than others, and with this bed being right next to the walk, it seems a little more likely that children and bees might mix with bad results. We are members at the SDBG (the one that used to be Quail Gardens, right?) but have not been to the succulent garden yet (spend most of our time in the two children's areas). I will make a trip there for sure.

Socks, the bed gets pretty much all day sun in the winter and morning/early afternoon sun in the summer. We had several jasmine plants last time we lived here and the star jasmine was so hardy, never getting the bare legs like the others.

Catkim, I've just planted a bunch of herbs in another bed in the side yard. Rosemary, thyme and oregano so far, need to get some basil in there. I used some rosemary and thyme in last night's dinner. :-)

Thanks again everyone for your help!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 10:26AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

It looks like you have a tropical garden in the background there, and a pool?

If you want roses, Showbiz is a bright red that stays very short for me- under two feet. I don't know how it will fare in a coastal climate- it might get mildew. You could ask on the Rose Forum. Iceberg gets very big here in the hot Simi Valley, about six feet tall and wide.

My default plant choice for tall narrow spaces is Nandina. It's less work than a trellis. If you like tropical plants, you can plant canna lilies for height, but they require a lot of water.

The bottlebrush sounds wonderful- I saw a 'Little John' standard at a nursery that I still lust for.

'Little John' is another option for the space under the windows. They can be sheared if they get too big or tall. I just planted clusters of white dwarf agapanthus next to mine, and I like it. I saw them interplanted with chartreuse bacopa, blue senecio, and large boulders in a narrow bed at Enchanted Way Nursery a long time ago, and it was gorgeous. You could substitute some blue echeverias or blue fescue to avoid the rampant growth of senecio.

You can also plop a big barrel along that stretch to give some variety in height, or put a few plants on tall posts. I use asparagus ferns, which cascade down nicely.

I worry that any bougainvillea will grow bigger than advertised, and the flower leaves sure can be a mess.

If it was my house, I would use a few big clumps of tall bearded irises just under the windows(of course! I'm an iris fanatic) but they have to be divided on a regular basis. Daylilies are a good option for the spot- you would be able to see the flowers from inside. There are oodles of gorgeous new varieties to choose from- check out the daylily forum here. Just be forewarned that the lavendars and purples turn mauve in Southern California.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 1:14PM
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chmpgntst(USDA 10 Sunet 23/24)

I'm posting a pic of the Coral Reef Garden that hoovb mentioned. It's amazing! Thanks, hoovb, for mentioning the SDBG. You reminded me that it was Insect Days, so we took the kids and had a great afternoon. I didn't realize this garden was in one of the children's sections! :-0

Horsenemesis, you are correct that we have a pool and a [very overgrown] tropical yard. There's a ton of giant bird-of-paradise that needs to be thinned, and I need to thin some ferns next to the pool. Thank you for all of your suggestions -- I like the idea of bringing in some height.

I'm a little paranoid that in this wonderful growing climate, almost everything is going to end up larger than advertised. Ah, the curse of perfect mildness! ;-)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 8:45PM
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With all due respect to Renee, a few words of caution about nandina domestica may be in order. It is considered an invasive species in Texas and some parts of the US Southeast, although not in California. Many cultivars have a tendency to get leggy, and with the narrowness of your space, you may not have enough room to plant something to cover their ankles, or eventually their kneecaps. Some have written--and I have nothing concrete (you should pardon the expression) to back this up--that nandina's stoloniferous roots may be damaging to foundations. Of greater concern, perhaps (at least to me) is that its berries are toxic to cats. (Death of Fluffy by toxic heavenly bamboo ingestion, not something I wish to contemplate.)


Here is a link that might be useful: Nandina invasive in Texas

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 9:23AM
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