Come tour my front-street garden

firefightergardener(7/8)August 5, 2011

Two Summers ago I began the process of removing large, umkempt shrubs from the street side garden beds(at the request of Ken!), and found a very desirable palate for a garden planting. A few dump trucks of compost, Fifteen yards of bark, Twenty tons of rocks and a few hundred plants later, I finished up a wildly overpacked composite garden featuring conifers, Japanese maples and Autumn/Winter coloring heather. Finally I added Spring bulbs and warm-colored perennials and stepped back and watched it go. In it's second year, the plants are leaping, aided by 12+ hours of sun and a nice, well-draining mix of soil on the slope. From the street, it's a chaotic mix of colors, shapes and textures and almost all of the photos I have shared were from a distance. I want to invite you to wander through it with me as I wade through and took some photos of some of the plants less noticed at a distance but still neat, to my gardening eyes at least.

My goal in this project was to create all-season beauty, a heavily textured garden of colors, shapes and different types of plants that would be anything but green in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. The only real requirement was that the plants be moderately drought tolerant or better as this will have NO irrigation in the future years.

Dave had the great idea of labeling images when there are many, so I have done so here with a few notes as well.




3. Heathers contrast well both in Summer and Winter when these turn a fire-engine red against the softer colors of the conifers. Looks nice all year.


5. I'm a huge fan of cone flowers, mostly because they flower abundantly for months and are very drought tolerant(key in our climate). The fact that many new varieties come in warm colors of peach, orange, red and pink help contrast well with the subtle blues and greens most conifers provide. Cedrus atlantica 'Horstmann' provides the blue here.


7. Like the rest of my garden, crowding of plants and competition for light is always present. At least in these beds though there is SO much sunshine, everyone seems to get more then they need.



10. A very neat spruce, I believe it to be Picea meyeri. A nice blue-green and the needles are very similar to Abies procera, plump and facing upwards. Moderately slow growing so far, 4-6" a year.




14. The final part of the garden sweeps alongside the house and my neighbors property. This was all St. Johns Wort and having removed this finally, my neighbor and I are both filling the space with more desirable plants. Mine of course, is mostly conifers and maples, while they have planted a variety of lavender, dahlias and fruit trees. The rock wall seperates our gardens and helps keep the soil and mulch in place.


16. About a dozen Japanese maples are planted towards the back, provided with a little shade from the large doug-firs and also create a beautiful fall scene. Most can be pruned up to keep them from overwhelming the conifers below them.


18. Chaos! It makes me happy though. :)

19. No space was left alone as I planted three different colored Japanese maple weepers beneath the doug-fir. For the first two years it will provide some shade before they are established at which point I will limb it up a little to let them spread and enjoy more sun.

20. Though many rocks are placed throughout the planting, this is the only significant 'garden design', a twelve foot dry creek bed flows from beneath the trees and empties down towards the street.










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Will, you seem very satisfied with the outcome of your efforts. You should be! This amazing! You've made a garden that anyone would love to walk around for hours untill every detail is seen! I like your 'chaos' as well!

Best regards,

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 5:11PM
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coniferjoy(z7 The Netherlands)

Hi Will, I've never seen such a big variety of plants situated in one and the same garden, my compliments to you!

It looks like that perennial in the first pic is reverting at some places ;0)

Please rename the Cedrus atlantica 'Horstmann' in the 5th pic into Cedrus libani var. atlantica 'Horstmann'.
Normaly seen it grows into a little tree with a single leader, your's does have several...

Friendly advise from my side: stake the weeping Abies lasiocarpa in the 24th pic and the weeping Picea omorika in the 26th pic, it will save room in future time :0)

Thanks for this great tour!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 5:27PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Definitely a beautiful chaos!

Can you please tell me what that forward facing perennial in pic 23 is?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 7:24PM
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I really like how the perennials really fill in and tie everything together. It'll be a good 2-3 years before I can start to fill in like that, can't wait!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 8:05PM
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Rick, it'll happen faster then you expect. It seems like just a few months ago that I dug the holes for these gardens. Now the plants are going wild. Gardening is one of the best hobbies for creation. The sense of completion is powerful.

Will, the perennial with the Red flowers is a Dahlia, one of the newer hybrids though I don't know it's cultivar name. You could grow them well there but you'd have to dig them each Fall or they'd die off in the cold.

A couple more photos of some of the 'forgotten' stars.

Acer palmatum 'Vic's Dwarf'. Very very small leaves are wonderfully colored and this tiny Japanese maple grows only a few inches a year.

Someday(soon?), many of the cute, pretty specimens in this mass planting will have to be sculpted, trained or removed entirely as they grow into giant trees. This for example, is a newly taking-off specimen of Pinus wallichiana 'Zebrina'. SERIOUS new growth!

Many plants can stay indefinetly, including Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Chirimen'.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 1:58AM
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Cher(6 SW OH)

Some incredible conifers there. I love seeing the Heather planted with them, they really help set them off and add a little more color into the mix.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 7:48AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Will #25 the coneflower with the the down turned petals. Would you be as so kind and save for me an entire bloom that fades to brown? Many thanks. And which cultivar is this?

I'll trade you for seeds of coneflower 'Milkshake' if you don't have it already or starter plants (next year)... either or.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 8:06AM
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Appreciate the tour!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 11:44AM
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Amazing results in such a short space of time. You may have to organise visits by helicopter if things keep growing at such a fast rate! Thanks for the show. T.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 4:35PM
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Beautiful garden,

very nice colour-mixing.



    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 8:28AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

just stunning.. glad to be of assistance in demanding you get rid of the ugly shrub nonsense ....

any chance a some 'before pix' .... just for reference ...

one thing for sure .... you are a worker bee ...

other thoughts:

22 === whats that mass of green, center, towards upper left???

I'm a huge fan of cone flowers ==>>> oh gawd.. sounds like another collection ... lol ...

now.. what space is left.. other than paths.. you are you finally 'filled up'??? .. lol ... [or are you left with a few feet out back in the tree line???] .. have you pawned your lawnmower yet for more plants.. lol ... or do you still have that little bit of grass out the front door ....

congrats.. and thx


    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 11:43AM
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Great stuff, Will. One question about the coneflowers: Have you had some of these newer, orange/peach/red varieties long enough to determine their ability to come back year after year? I got into those guys a few years ago, but mostly, have not had great luck with them making it through the winters. Of course, your winters and mine are two different animals!


    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 2:38PM
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Glad you folks enjoyed it. The coneflowers seem to be popular with others as well. So far, all have over-wintered here though we don't get severe weather like you folks do in the rest of the country. The hardest thing they had to endure was about thirty inches of rain from November to May. All of the coneflowers you see here are in their second or third year. The gigantic pink flowering mound in pic #7 was planted two years ago and now it is exploding. There are just a TON of flowers coming.

This is another part of the coneflower difference here, these are the FIRST wave of flowers from my plants as Summer comes late here(and stays into October many years).

The double-dark red/orange cone flowers are 'Hot Papaya'. I'll be glad to save you a seedhead Dax, and it will help if you remind me here or email me around October/November. Is this how they propogate? I'd love to have more.

Ken, still a few projects left but the only major project is the grass which is gone probably in the Fall of 2012, replaced by rock paths, a sitting area and perhaps a water feature. I plan on having NO grass at all after 2013/2014.

Ken, the conifer I think you're referring to in pic#22 is a Picea glehnii cultivar that Bob Fincham contributed to the garden. I'll have to look up the cultivar name.

I'll work on some 'before pics' as well. This is the best I have for now:



    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 7:23PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I'll remind ya Will. When the entire flower head turns brown, you'd want to clip it off as the seeds are the 'flower petals' for lack of better terminology. Also fyi, all the coneflowers will be hybridizing so you never know what you'll end up with, however, there will certainly be some that are true to type.



    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 7:25AM
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Wow Will this is beautiful. I can't wait to come and visit. I can't believe you still find plants to buy at my place. It looks like you have about everything.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 11:40AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i doubt the mass of greenery in 22 is a conifer.. because it is huge .... covers a lot of space ... it is behind the JM ... not the conifer in front of the mass ...

thx for the before and after ...


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 12:10PM
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Pic #27 what are the three smallish green/yellow mounds in the center of the picture?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 12:42PM
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Looking forward to a visit(and Coenosium Gardens), Heidi.

MoleX, it's either Irish moss(towards the left some) or a scotch heather, name unknown from this photo.

Sorry about that Ken, that's a scotch heather of some kind, flowers regularly and was planted long long ago. I'd take it out if I felt so inclinded to sneak in more plants but it's a nice backdrop for now.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 2:51PM
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Windhaven(5- Midstate IL)

I came upon this thread in searching for information on Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Chirimen'.

Breathtaking! Visiting the Conifer forum has changed the way I look at gardening and planting. I'm going to save your statement from up above in this thread ..... "Gardening is one of the best hobbies for creation. The sense of completion is powerful."

Growing is powerful.

I love your gardens and thanks for sharing your pictures!!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:34PM
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