filling holes after spring

tempusflitsFebruary 11, 2014

I have a corner of my garden that holds spring bloomers: ox-eye daisies, foxgloves, and columbine. It's beautiful in its season, but after the flowers fade, the area looks ratty.. What do you do in your garden to compensate for the loss of spring bloomers?

Any ideas would be very welcome. The area always looks so sad.

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My garden beds are designed to have early-, mid- & late season interest. There are plenty of hardy perennials that perform well at various times in all my beds. I did my homework prior to planting in order to ensure a long season of interest in each bed. For example, along with columbine there's also astilbe, Virginia knotweed, Daphne, hydrangea, dianthus, hardy geranium & variegated Japanese sedge grass growing in a part shade bed. While I have Lenten roses planted in a couple of beds, they'd likely make welcome additions to other beds as well.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 6:59PM
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Do you have a photo of the area or at least some info about size, sun, and soil? This will help with specific suggestions.

I tend to have quite deep borders, with the shallowest about 6 feet, and the deepest perhaps16-20 feet. This helps since there is enough depth to plant several layers of plants in any particular spot. Like Gardenweed, I have tried to plant so that there's something going on for much of the year, whether it's foliage or flowers or interesting branches & bark, or garden ornaments. I view the tall ornaments such as trellises and the shrubs as the basic structure that will provide interest all the time and the perennials as giving the changing interest over the coarse of the season.

For instance in one bed with hydrangea (midsummer to fall blooming), I have rhododendron (evergreen, mid spring blooming), spirea (summer blooming), daffodils (early spring), crocus and snowdrops (very early spring), groundcover mums (fall blooming), coral bells/Heuchera (evergreen, late spring/early summer), peony (late spring blooms), a small variegated boxwood (evergreen), a dark foliaged bugleweed/Ajuga (evergreen) and sometimes some self-seeded lupine, columbine, or rose campion/Lychnis. So I planned it to have some evergreens for late fall and winter interest, and at least something flowering from April through September. The shrubs provide some substance when the perennials have faded.

Some folks plan to have a garden like yours with a blast of tons of flowers all at once in a particular spot. In that case, having a consistent neat edging plant through out the garden that ties the spot to the rest of the garden helps tidy things up. Also, having spots on either side that have lots of interest later to distract from the daisy/columbine area may help if it isn't an area that you are close to (like the front walk.) Even better, do you have room to plant a shrub, a climbing rose, a clematis or another plant behind the faded perennials that will provide some interest a bit higher to distract the eye? Can you place a birdbath or another tall ornament in the middle of the area?

Here is my largest (and most planned and also the one I am most consistent about taking photos of) border over the course of the season. It has times of more interest, but there's always something to look at. (My apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos.)

Late fall, no snow:
table style="width:auto;"> From December 2010

Winter snow:
From December 2010

Early spring (May):
From May, 2011

Late spring:
From June 5, 2012

I have to upload the summer photos, so I'll add those this evening. I'm out of time for now.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 8:33AM
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Gardenweed and nhbabs, thank you for responding. The garden is in front of my house and is neither long nor deep. However, it manages to go from full sun on one end to heavy shade on the other. My 'spring' area came about in my effort to fill the space with shade plants. When in bloom, it's my favorite part of any of my gardens in ANY season. I love the combination of the plants there.

I have a few variegated hostas nearby but they don't make the place look much better once the spring bloomers peter out. I've ordered some coral bell seeds for winter sowing. Maybe they could spruce that spot up a bit. I was just hoping someone had a stumbled across a quick fix--a potted plant suggestion or such? The way things stand now, I have a lovely display on one end of the garden in spring and on the other end in summer. It looks a LITTLE ODD.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 6:09AM
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Is this area of concern in part or full shade? If there is any depth at all, a flat trellis with a clematis would add to the season of interest if there are a few hours of sun and bright shade. The trellis itself would be ornamental and then a summer blooming clematis would add flowers in July and/or August for several weeks.

Certainly a potted plant with annuals or tender perennials to suit your color interest would work, especially if the pot with plants is large/tall enough or is slightly raised, such as on a stool or a block of some type. Is this area of concern in part or full shade? Coleus would add color (not flowers, but leaves) and once you bought your plant(s) or started a set from seed, they are easily continued from year to year by bringing the pot in or by taking cuttings. Many, many different leaf colors and sizes, and some plants are tall while some are more mounding or even a bit trailing. I have a bright red-orange flowering tuberous begonia (Begonia boliviensis) that I carry over from year to year in its pot. It can be started from cuttings easily like the Coleus. It is a cascading/mounding combination. New Guinea Impatiens, which to my understanding don't get the new disease that affects Impatiens will be a flowering mound. If you have a container with enough size for several plants, trailing plants like variegated vinca or golden Lysimachia would be good, but neither of those is one you want in the ground as they are vigorous spreaders. Both of these can be wintered over in a protected spot if your container is freeze tolerant, especially if the container is on its side or in a cool building like a shed or garage or temporarily heeled into the ground for the winter.

Based on my experience, if you go with a pot, I'd suggest adding a spoonful of "water crystals" to the potting soil along with either time release fertilizer, compost, or a low dose of fertilizer in the watering can. It can be difficult to keep a pot looking good through the whole growing season, and staying moist and well fertilized helps.

If possible (I realize it isn't always possible), consider adding depth to the border over the long term. I started with beds 2-3 feet deep before I realized how much easier as well as better looking deeper beds were for me.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 7:49AM
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I have used potted plants and buried them in spaces and they don't need more care than a plant directly in the ground IF the pot is large enough. I have a rose and daffodils I do this with. Need to check the daffs this year to see if they are outgrowing their pots. I repot the rose every year into good potting soil and a larger pot. It's not hardy to my climate zone but survives with this care and mulching.

I also buy annuals every year and pop them into bare areas. I've been changing my garden over the last few years as the perennials had become overgrown so there are spaces not yet filled. Annuals and herbs can work well in such areas.

For me my garden is, and always will be, a work in progress so if I had a problem such as you have I would add plants that have a different bloom schedule. Requires some research but there are many plans for cottage gardens online which you can copy. Or if you Google for summer blooming plants for sun (or shade) or whatever you will get lots of ideas about which plants may be suitable for you.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 12:58PM
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My house/garden is situated square with the compass and faces east. Due to towering oak trees, the front garden beds get quite a bit of early shade & midday sun. Hosta, coral bells, turtlehead, stokesia, astilbe, dianthus, euonymous, toad lily, balloon flower, daylily, balloon flower, Japanese sedge grass, Hellebore, pulmonaria/lungwort & St. John's wort have thrived in sandy loam the past 5 years. The front beds are foundation beds, separated by a granite walkway from what I call Crabapple Corner.

If I want something to grow in a specific spot, I plant it, watch it grow and make adjustments if/when necessary. So far, no adjustments have been required which could mean conditions are ideal or else I've just had incredibly good luck. Given our weather extremes the past half-decade, I'd be surprised if any long-lived perennial failed to return when Spring rolled around.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 11:52PM
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Thank you for all of your kind responses. I'm thinking a pot of coleus might work there. I need something that looks good in summer but will survive in shade. That's been my problem. If impatiens were still viable. They'd work, but last I heard, there were problems with them. I don't know why I hadn't thought of coleus before.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 8:14AM
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If you like Impatiens, the New Guinea Impatiens (and one other kind which I don't recall) don't seem susceptible to the disease that affects regular Impatiens, so you would be fine with them. They do have a somewhat different look than the sickly type, though.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 9:17AM
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