How often do you/have you revamped your beds?

christinmk z5b eastern WAMay 13, 2011

Is it a regular event to re-do your gardens every few years? Do you get borded with how things look and change them, or change when you feel something doesn't look "right" to you?

If a bed doesn't look right, do you tend to overhaul the whole thing at once and start fresh, or move a few things you are specifically unhappy with and go from there? Or a bit of both depending on the situation?


Mostly I do little changes, moving things in an out of areas I am unhappy with. Although, once the ball gets rolling with one move a lot of other things seem to need shifting around too, lol. Last year I did do some major revamping. The front sunny side garden was bothering me, especially come summer when everything got so jaded and faded. So I took out most of the perennials in anticipation of putting in all veggies, herbs, and annuals this spring.

An area of the back garden was looking bad too, since I hadn't done very much since taking out the apple tree a couple years ago. I was at a loss as to what to do with such a large area and how to lay it out since there was established things further I put a pathway in to divide up the beds and make it easier to plant. Then I moved a whole buch of things around the path etc. etc.

Yesterday I revamped the back shade garden by putting in stepping stones (since it was so hard to get around there without stepping on something!), and took out some of the ground covers that just wern't doing it for me. Next area to improve is the area by the side of the fence! Need to get a few things out of there that arn't doing much and put things in with more structure.

How about you guys? How often do you revamp your beds and change it up? How long has it been since your last major re-do? What improvements have you done lately?


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After I have an established bed, I usually just modify according to how the plants are doing. I will admit, daylilies ten to encroach on all of my beds, at least to an extent, but other than adding new annuals and selected perennials, I just replace what needs it...or buy plants I just Have to have and as likely as not scrunch them in somewhere.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 1:31PM
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I add things now and then when I lose others, try something different in its place; but on the whole, my beds pretty much stay the same - as long as they look healthy.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 3:00PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

Every 5 or so years I completely dig up everything, rototill in lots of compost and sea soil and replant with divisions of what I've taken out or, plant something else. Then of course there's those couch grass infested beds that's a different story. A couple of the beds haven't been had much interference from me in such a long time, a good part of these beds are doing just fine but there are bits that need a good overhaul.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 3:18PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

I haven't touched my slope in years and don't plan to. The only revamp there was when I had originally planted cotoneaster to hold the slope in place, but I would yawn every day I drove home and saw my boring slope. So about 9 years ago we dug them all out and replanted with shrubs and perennials. Christin, your idea of the path is a good one. I have found that when I have to work on a big space if I break it up with rocks or a path it makes it a lot easier to picture where everything should go. Somehow a huge blank canvas scares me.

In the cottage area I did do what Annette does and dug everything out after about 3 years and then tilled in some great ammendments and replanted quite a lot of different plants than had originally been in there. That was about 8 years ago and I haven't changed it (yet), just add or take away a plant here or there. I'm tempted to make 3 of the beds a veggie area but I don't have DH on board with that idea (yet).

Most other areas I plant and then tweak here or there. I'll have to see how the backyard shapes up now that I have more and more perennials going in. The trees and shrubs will stay put, but I may shuffle the perennials around a bit once I see how everything does.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 7:14PM
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Every year I've made small changes in parts of my garden but this year am doing a more intense renovation. So far I've completed about 1/10th of my garden so doubt I'll get it all done this year but at least I'm making a good attempt. I'm not moving shrubs, roses, or lilies but am moving a lot of other plants, including all my peonies which I hated moving. They'll probably sulk and not bloom this year but it needed doing. Had potted up 3 dozen perennials and have now replanted some but many will be held until I have spaces for them.

I find it easiest to dig up all the plants I want to keep, remove the encroaching grass and weeds (and compost them), and start fresh. I'm not amending the beds as I add compost every year and everywhere I dig is full of worms. I'm giving away a lot of plants also. I'm not buying any new plants except annuals for my pots until this is done. Too often I've bought perennials I like and walked around the garden with plant and shovel to find a place for them. It leads to a very unplanned garden and no longer works for me after 15 years.

We made some new beds the last 2 years and I'm already redoing some of them as I don't like what I did. Good opportunity to put down more cardboard and mulch anyhow. The more robust self-seeders are going as I'm no longer willing to do as much dead-heading. I'll actually have spaces between plants, at least for awhile.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 7:17PM
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kiskin (5/6 in EU)(5/6 in EU)

I move my plants around constantly. My neighbour laughs that my plants all have legs, they donôt like to stay in one place for a long time... :)

But it is largely due to the fact that I donôt like the look of bare soil between the plants, so I plant them really close, when they are young and start moving them, when they start looking crowded. Plus I am constantly trying out the perfect planting combinations (colour, texture and height-wise), once I am happy with the combination, it usually stays in place.

And I do have a really small garden, so it is all manageable.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 4:39AM
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I bought my home about eight years ago and it had nothing except trees and some really ugly arborvitus - not even foundation plantings. Every year I add a new bed. The ones I put in the first few years need some work, and I have done a little adding and moving around, but the priority has always been working on the newest addition.

The problem is I never developed a grand plan for the yard as a whole, so its not really tied together like it should be. This year I have to take out a dying Maple which is pretty central in the yard. It is going to allow (force) me to change a lot of things around, and hopefully begin to tie everything together into a more cohesive landscape.

I enjoy the fact that gardens are constantly evolving things. If I ever get to the point where all I am doing is weeding and putting in annuals in the spring I think I would get bored. They can always get better, and so far every year they have. Its what keeps me going.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 9:00AM
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oh my I am constantly tweeking my garden beds. Usually in the spring I divide and move plants around. Sometimes I realize that a certain plant is working for me. Like daylillies with a blah color, or the yarrow that looked all washed out and flopped all over everything. I am also discovering that I really need the structure of interesting shrubs. In the fall, winter, early spring I love the forms of shrubs. I started out with all perennials and boy did my beds looks drab 3 seasons of the year.
I also take pictures and try to add more for each season.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 9:33AM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Mandolis, after visiting some English gardens, both public and private, I realized how very lacking I was in a grand plan. It seemed like every garden we were in had the beds so well planned and blending together so seamlessly, not to mention walls of shrubbery or rock or brick with wonderful paths. In my yard I seem to go from space to space and "hope" everything looks coherent, so I know what you mean about not having a grand plan.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 10:56AM
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My garden spaces are still fairly new, so this was my first winter for many of the roses. Some did very well, while others took a beating, so I've been moving them around to more protected areas. I've been mixing in a lot more companion plants that are perennials, but will still add some annuals (especially stock and alyssum) while they fill in.

This year, my big 'project' for this summer, will be the kitchen garden. It's grown into a big space (although much of it is grass paths) so that will take up a lot of my time. While it still has a fairly formal layout, I'm going to add more fun and whimsical accents, to incorporate my nephew's garden style :)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 1:11PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Plant dominoes!

We installed our garden in phases as some hardscape had to be built - we're on a double slope (front to back and side to side). Most plants did well, but some didn't take, some were in the wrong places, and so the 'moving around' began.

I revamp more for fun than anything else. Some plants I've fallen in love with at the nursery, but they can struggle against the more established shrubs. I love roses, but have a lot of shade so two new ones are really struggling to establish themselves in odd corners that aren't quite ideal but were the only places left.

Because we live in Northern CA, everything MUST look good year-round. Anything deciduous has to be really tough to make it here, because evergreen plants shade/crowd/flop and generally muscle themselves over anything not vigorous enough. Out here, evergreen vines are fence-crushers, and roses never go dormant. Gladiolas, callas, CA poppies, and osteospermums are weeds that once planted, go everywhere they can.

Labels are only guidelines; I have dozens of plants that have grown far larger than they were supposed to. I have learned not to hesitate to take out or move larger plants - there will always be something I can put in to take its place.

My biggest problems are: 1) I've learned I have to site my plants more carefully - I have a tendency to plant big plants too close to walkways, and 2) adjusting to microclimates. Some spots in the garden are very prone to winter chill and the plants get denuded or die off.

Our lack of summer water also means I keep the garden on minimal water rations so nothing thirsty is tolerated. When there are plants I love, sometimes I have to try them in several different spots before I get them successfully sited.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 2:41PM
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chickadee_42us(8a Tx)

I love this post. I do a little of both. Leave the beds alone and then when the energy hits I tweak or revamp an entire bed. This spring I am revamping my entire front. It desperately needed it! I hope we get the wooden deck removed this year as it has turned into a cat nursery and bug haven. That means removing the items around it which have gradually grown to only monkey grass, daylilies.
I am amending the soil in the front too and I try to use an organic program. Adding leaves and stuff freely deposited from the trees and winter plants creates fantastic soil. I am fertilizing with Texas Tee. I think it is chicken poop, haven't looked in years. It definitely has an aroma when first laid out for a day or two.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 10:02PM
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ripley529(z7a IL)

I haven't redone entire beds, I don't have that kind of energy anymore. I did smother 1/2 of a bed with newspaper couple years ago due to some poison ivy I couldn't get rid of and I am highly allerigic. It's finally starting to look good again this spring. I love trying new plants, and I am trying to make my beds more color cohesive by moving some plants around. The pictures on these forums are most inspiring! The most drastic thing I did this spring was have my husband take a chain saw to a Rose of Sharon I had growing for about 10 years. I never really liked it, and this spring I had volunteer Rose of Sharon all over my garden bed. That was it, now it's a stump, lol

I'm learning life is to short to live with plants I don't really like :)

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 8:16AM
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Wow, those of you that totally dig up and revamp your beds every few years are making me feel like the biggest slacker... I only hope that I will find the energy to do that at some point!

On the other hand, I got rid of all the grass in my (small) front yard last year and put in a path surrounded by a hodge-podge of perennials (I too am bad at planning). Now that spring has sprung, it's pretty apparent that I should have considered the spacing a little more; moving plants around is definitely in my future!

For those of you that do a lot of moving around, do you usually try to stick to spring/fall for transplanting? Or do you just let your whimsy determine when you make a move? :)

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 2:43PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-Sararock, Lol! I'm always calling myself a slacker when it comes to weeding and doing things I don't like in the garden! But moving plants is kind of fun so I don't mind doing that ;-)

Technically, fall and spring are the best times to move things around. The cooler and usually wetter conditions make it easier for the plant to recover and re-establish itself than if it were moved in the full heat of summer. But I've never been one to follow rules ;-) It was last summer that I became fully annoyed with how the garden was looking, so decided to get things moved around right then and there! Of course, it was hot out and after I moved everything they started to wilt terribly and look as if they were on the brink of croaking. I was left scrambling to keep everything hydrated and even got out a big beach umbrella to shade a few plants, lol. But it felt good to get it all accomplished and everything came back nicely this spring.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 3:41PM
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sharoncl(z5 WI)

Pretty much constantly... whenever I add anything new, I change everything around. Other than the really big shrubs and small trees, I doubt anything in my garden is in its original spot! I try to stick with moving things in spring and fall, but sometimes a plant really bugs me and I just have to move it in summer.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 5:23PM
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I am with Sharon - the garden is in constant state of redo - I look at other peoples gardens, get ideas and am off moving stuff around. We are also gradually adding more and more shrubs in anticipation of getting older and not being able to handle the large gardens we have now. I am planting more and more containers and setting them in bare spaces. The voles love my bulbs and hosta roots so I am moving them to containers. This year I did 7 containers of lilies and move them into spaces once the foliage is full and they are budded. I wouldn't be happy if I didn't have something to do in the garden :) .....


    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 11:39AM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

I'm a rule-breaker like CMK too!! I move whenever the mood strikes. When I completely dug out and replanted the cottage beds it was fourth of july week. It was about 90 degrees and I think the plants actually survived better than I did. BUT...being in Z5 I can get away with moving plants whenever the mood strikes. If I lived further south I don't think I would be trying my luck with moves during summer.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 6:25PM
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Well hopefully I can get away with it too, thyme2dig, because this rain doesn't look like it's letting up any time soon so god knows when I will finally get a sunny weekend to really start moving things around! :)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 9:53AM
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I should say I just tackled the pond. Took out the rocks (quite heavy) lined them up to make a little rock wall for my garden bed. Then started to remove the water (so stinky) and all the rocks. Then I had to remove the plants around the pond. BTW - if anyone hasn't ever used Rumex as a decorative plant, I would encourage you to try. It's fabulous. It will also spread but easily controlled.

So far that's been it. Work continues. It was hot and sunny today and I had to wear a hat to keep the sun away from my face.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 9:47PM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

The ones that were well planned get tweaking. I've got one that was poorly planned, and it just all clicked (the most amazing gardening surprise ever!). That one doesn't get much, but after 8 years, it's starting to need help. Next year. Our most important bed was very poorly planned. I am forever reworking that one. Of course, when you move around some shrubs and roses, you have to move around the supporting perennials. Ugh. After much work on that this spring, I realized my clems just aren't going to work with the color/timing scheme. I don't want to dig up clems, so I'm hoping they work. They won't though.

I tend to get more desire to rework things when we have a string on drizzly, rainy days on the horizon. Then I become obsessed with getting stuff done. When the forecast calls for days and days of sun, I try not to rework anything unless necessary. Sunny days = rest days.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 8:38AM
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