Choosing Plants

urvilleMay 7, 2013

Map says 5a, but I think we are more like 4b.

I've seen this extraordinarily executed. I am quite afraid I might extraordinarily fail, and primarily because I just do not have a frame of reference or clear understanding of plant placement. They like to show you a couple of photos, and go, okay got it now? I've read so many articles that really don't say anything except the same few things, primary among them, that the wild untamed look is actually quite planned.

I'm gonna do this in phases.
In this picture you can see the side yard i want to use. We can only go up to about the weird little ditch in the lawn. This side yard is about 30x50. The yellow is where I want to put the path. Everything else to be flowers, maybe some veggies. This is facing west. The lawn along the trees gets the most sun.

Next year, I'll go across that walk into the mulched area for sahde up to the main vegetable gardens which I will clear the mulch behind the tables area to install raised beds. I plan to do this this year as well.

The cottage side yard, i plan to just drop soil on in mounds into the shapes left after the path.

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I'm going to take out the fenced off areas and fence the entire perimeter, fyi

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:09AM
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"I am quite afraid I might extraordinarily fail . . . "
Starting a garden can be a little intimidating, but realistically just about any garden has appeal to me - I am not sure how one can fail short of killing everything. Each garden is reflective of the gardener that made it. Gardening is a process - if you end up not liking your arrangement, you can always change things. There are some general guidelines, but remember that they are often not followed.
-In general, for placement, you will want shorter plants closer to vantage points so they can be seen, and tall plants toward the back of a bed (or the center of a bed that can be seen from more than one side) where they won't block the view of shorter plants.
-Decide on a color palette that appeals to you, ranging from one color to all possible colors.
-Remember that the leaves of the plant are there the whole growing season, while the flowers of most perennials are there for only part of the growing season. Consider the color, size, and texture of leaves for interest.
-Cottage gardens can have perennials, annuals, vines and shrubs.
-You might want to get out of the library one of Tracy DiSabato-Aust's books such as "The Well-Designed Mixed Garden: Building Beds and Borders with Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs" to help you plan your plantings.

How are you envisioning the path that you have outlined in yellow will be used? Is there a reason that it makes the large S around the raised bed rather than going straight out through where the fences are now? I just know that if it will be used for traveling that human nature is to go on a shorter path. If most folks leaving the house will use the cement path and this will just be used for garden viewing and maintenance, this may be fine.

What general maximum height do you want in this area? Plants that you can see over (best if this is your main door so that folks can see where to enter) or tall plants that block the view?

The best advice I can give is to have good quality soil before you start planting. You might do better to get good compost and turn it in with your current soil rather than " to just drop soil on in mounds" depending on your current soil and the soil you plan to add. If you do end up putting soil on top of your current soil, prior to doing that take a spading fork, plunge it into the current soil, and wiggle it to loosen what is there. Repeat all over where you plan to have beds so that roots can grow more easily into the underlying soil.

Enjoy the process and we'd love to see updates!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 9:33AM
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In my 3rd year of creating and tending a big side yard garden, there are a few things I plan to address this year.

Amend the soil more thoroughly.
Create sections for different uses/plants.
Plan for side paths for plant access.
Plant more grasses and evergreens for fall/winter and early spring.
Plant smaller shrubs in grouping of three.
Avoid small curves, make bigger sweeping curves.
Consider focal plants from different viewing points.

I mostly planned the gatden from the vantage point of me as a gardener within the garden. I found approaching the house from the side(as we drive into the driveway) the area was pretty lacking. So now I am trying to also address arranging plants based on different vantage points.

Good luck! Looks like a fun project. :)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:28PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I agree with all of the advice above, but will add a couple of pointers from my experience. Buy plants that will do well in your area, get a lot of the same instead of many single specimens, and when you bring them home take some time to set out the pots in your planting area and look at them from various angles, then move them around and look again until you find the best arrangement. This has worked for me, and I don't care if my boyfriend and neighbors think I'm crazy for doing it!

A good way to find plants that will do well for you is to drive around and look at other people's gardens. I always notice certain flowers looking good in midsummer when most gardens are getting ratty and bare of blooms. I like to do lots of planning to try to get blooms or other features throughout the seasons, I find making lists and charts helpful with this part. Usually you can't fit everything into one place, but instead you can have a spot that is prettiest in spring and another for summer, fall, etc.

Also, be patient and take your time, you have a large space so it can be overwhelming. Pick one spot to make into your first bed and do it this year, learn from what does well and what doesn't, and use what you learned to help plan your next bed. Going bed by bed instead of all at once keeps the work at a more manageable level and gives you time to see what you like before you start your next project. I'm in the process of redoing my entire landscape, and the hardest part is waiting. But I've been chipping away at it bit by bit, and every completed project brings happiness at the change as well as a greater desire to get started on the next one.

Have fun! And post pictures to keep us updated on your progress, please!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:04PM
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"Consider focal plants from different viewing points."

THIS! From the first two posts I KNEW, this is what i had not realized. I have to consider it from many angles. Just because i cant see something from the walk, doesnt meant i won't see it from the path.

Soil - Well, i have terrible, VERY alkaline soil. off the charts. They sell compost and screened topsoil in a mix by the cubic yard and I love wandering mounds that terminate in swooping circles, hence the path. I should have been more specific. Thats what i meant by dropping mounds, you know you get to talking to yourself in your head about these things while you type them, you forget the people in question arent privy to the information too!

Path - probably just gravel and for viewing and some working, I have knee pads, though i might need to have some small little kneel down offshoots to make the thing accessible. I watched alot of youtube videos. One thing I dont like is straight lines. i like mess and wandering paths, meandering paths as the British like to put it. i watched a number of British publications on the subject.

Height - Let me post pictures that might illustrate my little internal vision going on in my head.

Plants - yes this has been of some concern, my growing period isnt long. i was thinking lots of easy outraegeously self sustaining plants. Hollyhocks and fox gloves do wonderfully here, so lots of things that just go wild. Big, blousy, easy plants. One lady on the British programs said, "You want to be focusing on managing thier growth than struggling with alot of maybes. Hardy plants that need more trimming back than tender care, leave the tender cares to be focal points and occasional encounters as it were. Does this make sense. i need to brush up on my plant knowledge and quick.

Some concepts of what I love... what this one lady called planned chaos

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:39PM
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love this

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:41PM
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Maybe this kind of path? No one really goes to the other building but by the walk, but the garden will at some point go across the walk as in that photo and become a shade garden over there on its way to the vegtable garden

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:42PM
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    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:44PM
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Wow, some stunning photos! I'd love to see planting schematics for those gardens, especially the last one.

I like the look of grass paths but don't like the edge maintenance. We have yet to find a good edging. Shovel edging grass works in some places in my yard, but along most of the beds the water moves parallel to the edge and I end up with mulch washed away and soil eroded.

Interesting that in the last photo it looks like a curved path then straight then curved again.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 4:27PM
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On buying many of the same plant, I'd maybe temper that by saying not to buy more than 3 of the same plant at a time, unless you are sure it will grow well, you will like it, and it is one that isn't a self-seeder or rapid grower that you will be able to divide. Ok, so I've broken this myself - tho I've limited myself to 6 at a time.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 3:24PM
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eclecticcottage(6b wny)

I am on year #2 at a house that USED to (a very long time ago) have what I think were nice gardens. the evidence is the few plants that survived, but the majority of the gardens were engulfed into the lawn/became weed beds.

My first suggestion is to do the entire bed at once. I don't have much of a budget to work with and have basically 8 beds (either created or planned). I tried at the beginning to fill in here and there with impulse buys, cheap plants I couldn't resist and freebies. In the end, I made a LOT more work for myself later, because I had to work around them to really create the beds. If you can do it, do it all at once-even if what you really do is just the prep work with some basics like a few perennials and shrubs.

Pick some foundation plants like small.medium sized shrubs to start with in the "back".

Check out other gardens to see what's blooming when around you.

Haunt Pinterest for ideas.

Buy what you like as long as it's hardy for your area and just start putting things in. I managed a pretty darn nice bed last year by just filling in the empty spots until I was done this way.

Consider some direct sewn annual seeds to fill in the gaps, last year I did cosmos, zinnia and cornflower (except the chipmunks ate all the cornflower seed heads!) as well as a few others and did the same this year (substituting love in a mist for cornflower, hopefully the little rascals will leave those alone).

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 4:22PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

There is some ground between doing it all at once and filling in with impulse buys here and there. My method is to start with a plan, and then work within that plan to get things done in manageable segments. Going bed by bed has the added advantage of being able to divide and propagate what does well as you go along, so you end up spending less money total on plants.

A useful tip I recently read (I forget who to credit, sorry!) was to spread wildflower seeds in areas you want to turn into flower beds. That way you can experiment with color and shape without having to put in so much work up front, and then you can gradually change from completely informal wildflower swaths to apparently informal cottage beds as you have the time. But beware of wildflowers that are too aggressive, remember that one man's wildflower is another man's weed.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 5:56PM
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I'm not sure from your pics why you have chosen that area for a flower bed. There are many straight walkways and I think it may make more sense to do curved beds with the straight walkway on one side. I'd start at the front of the house and make beds there which will improve the curb appeal, then work out from there in subsequent years.

A 30'x50' bed is quite large to create so starting with a smaller area will be more realistic. Do you plan to remove the grass? That is a lot of work but the alternative is to use cardboard or layers of newspaper with mulch over to smother it. That takes time tho but something you might want to do to prepare for planting in the fall or next year. While it's good to plan I recommend not trying to do too much too quickly. Gardening is hard work and it can be frustrating to try to accomplish too much all at once. I would start with a small area, finish that, and extend it. Amending soil before planting is very important. Read about organic gardening - there are many benefits.

You might start soon with seeding perennials into pots (in good potting soil) which won't flower this year but can be set into your prepared garden as small plants in the fall and will bloom next year. Some hardy perennials are very easy to grow from seed. Some I've grown from seed are shasta daisies, red/pink yarrow, various poppies, Maltese Cross, columbine, Jacob's Ladder, Delphinium, and perennial (blue) flax. Many of these will self-seed in the future as will peony poppies, lamb's ears, feverfew. Herbs are also great plants to use with perennials. Chives, thyme, oregano, dill, parsley, mint (in pots as they can be invasive), rosemary, and lovage are the ones I grow the most often. Some plants can be fairly easily propagated from stem cuttings. I did a lot of Walker's Low Catmint 2 years ago and will do more this year as I'd like to edge my beds with them. Another inexpensive way to buy plants is to buy plug packs which come either 6 or 12 to a pack. When I buy these I immediately pot them up in larger pots, baby them along until they grow larger, then put them in the garden.

Please don't even *think* about failure! I know I've made many garden mistakes (as most gardeners have) but just corrected them and moved on. Learn as much as you can from various sources. I always recommend new gardeners join a local garden club if there is one. More experienced gardeners will share their knowledge, their gardens on tours, and also often share plants. I suggest reading everything you can about gardening and plants - take books out of the library and search online for pics and info. Save pics and make lists of ideas you like. This will be invaluable for making your plan of which plants you want and how to use them.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 10:49AM
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Well, to be perfectly honest, I have little concern about curb appeal. We'll be fencing in this year to keep the giant rats (deer out). Horrible creatures really. Garden killers. hence all the tall fences. We'll be hedging too. i know some people will balk at that, but I'm doing this for me alone and those factors have no real bearing. We spend our time in that yard, but really only to sit and look at the little square corner thing next to the house. It was high time I realized the lawn was better suited to gardens. I'm something of a "grow food and flowers not lawns" kind. The more front yards are really not paid much attention to. Too close to the road, not private enough. Those are our future expansion areas.

It's the one area as you can see in the pics is totally mulch. Not done by me. So I;m digging that back to put in the vegetable beds, right behind the white table into the mulch area. that circle is full sun, the best sun really. The sidewalks are functional, but beyond that function, I'm not terribly interested in them. Too straight and formal. I like messy looking chaotic cottage garden like the english are famous for. I guess, i am really making them irrelevant if I can, heh.

I plan to plough or till the beds every where but the yellow line, which will become a 1.5 or 2 foot wide path.

I've been gardening this land for some time, Usually I get into the ground first week of june, to be sure to miss any straggling snow. I start some seed, direct sow some, and plant what cant be had via seed. Soem things dont work in a short season, some things do. Hollyhocks, for instance, plant in early june by mid july they are.. magnificently huge. We get a good mix, its just time to go a new route and do something new. i've aways focused on wildflower garden every other year, with formal gardening every other. It's never been what I liked, but this year I'm going new. I'm just not terribly good at visualization. int he past I garden at the nurseries, by looking at the heights and planning. Short in front to taller in back.

This is, of course, a whole other animal. I wondered if there wasnt a forumla to it. As I said, I was told by one lady. That chaos DOES take planning, and that the best were flowers that sort of run rampant,t hings you have to keep in check because of their strength. The size and work isnt worrying, the work is what i'm looking forward to, its just having a sense of whats going on. compared tot he previously super formal manner in which we gardened.

What I am saying I guess, is that its this kind of garden i am unfamiliar with, not gardening at large. Wild cottage gardens.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 2:57AM
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this guy kind of gives it in the first 3 minutes

hmmm... i think i need to find a local cottage old hand to help me plan... I think if I can work with someone on the initial plan I can tweek it to my style, I just need that initial learning about the form of this kind of style. I like this guys whole spiel ont hem, but I didnt like his execution on the path...

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 2:59AM
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the later part about the flowers, is exactly it... kids around a table elbowing each other

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 3:02AM
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This is why trying to help people on the internet can sometimes be difficult! :)

I didn't 'get' that you are turning all the lawn into gardens. Also what none of us knew at the beginning is that you are an experienced gardener. You really only said you had looked at a lot of info and still have fears of failure.

While I would never dispute that cottage gardens benefit by planning I'm also pretty sure that the chaos as shown in 2 of your inspiration pics occurred after the planning. Many plants grow larger than originally thought, some self-seed and begin to fill in spaces, and cottage gardeners often add new plants without regard to the plan. This leads to what we see in pics 1 and 3. Pic 2 shows a much more restrained garden which may be cared for professionally by it's appearance.

I still advise, unless you have an unlimited budget for full size plants, to sow some seeds in pots or flats. It's also possible to buy plug packs as I earlier mentioned. Are you acquainted with "Richters Herbs?" For large numbers of plants their plug trays could be very useful.

I think you know what you have to do, it's getting started that may be causing you some angst. Just lay out your paths, till the rest, and have fun with planting according to what you know and most of all what you like.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 11:03AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

You mentioned finding someone to help you plan, I cannot recommend it enough. When I first got my house the yard was nondescript lawn, I was really struggling with how to turn it into a series of beautiful gardens until my boyfriend mentioned that he has a friend who is a professional landscape architect. We asked her to help and she was able to take all of my ideas and wishes and put them into a coherent and wonderful plan. A few things have changed over the years as we took them on project by project, but overall the design is the same. It has been so helpful to have a drawing of the ultimate goal, it keeps me on track and pumps me up whenever I'm getting discouraged.

Before the meeting I did a lot of research and inspirational picture gathering, and that helped our designer a lot. I got the better homes and gardens complete guide to landscaping and although it didn't enable me to design my own landscape, the landscape assessment checklist helped me to come up with a very comprehensive explanation of what I wanted. Our landscape architect was very appreciative of all the work I did before meeting with her, and I think my research was part of the reason her plan fit my desires so well.

So if hiring a pro to help is something you want to do, study up first to make sure you get the most out of the meeting and then go for it! I think you'll be very happy with the result. Depending on how much time, work, and money you want to invest you might even consider removing the concrete paths you currently don't like. That was something I never would have thought of myself, but those with more creative minds come up with amazing ideas. I'm really glad we removed all of the old, straight concrete paths at our house, it freed us up to make bigger, better changes.

This post was edited by peachymomo on Fri, May 10, 13 at 12:00

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 11:48AM
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