Have you ever 'Given Up' on a garden bed?

christinmk z5b eastern WANovember 19, 2011

A couple years ago I made a semi-round garden under the sycamore tree in the front yard. It was sort of a continuation of the strip of shade garden under the overhang of the house. I was SO excited to have more space for shade plants! Unfortunately, I didn't work out like I had hoped. The area has poor soil that drains very fast (even with tons of soil amendments), and dries out like crazy. Sometimes the spot has to be watered twice daily in the heat of summer! Things are surviving, but not all are thriving. Only the Epimedium, Brunnera, a couple of Coralbells, and those amazing Japanese ferns are doing and looking good under those conditions. Hostas are another doing okay I guess. Now I suppose that doesn't sound like such a bad spot if all of those plants are prospering, but it has not turned out at all like I envisioned!

The year I made the bed (a crummy year weather wise- early thaws and very prolonged damp n' cool spring) the tree contracted anthracnose pretty severely and hasn't gotten better since. I'm not sure what is going to happen with it in the future. If I had thought out the bed before making it I would have realized that it would have been better to leave the space underneath the tree clear for when it needed pruning. Now who knows. If it ends up dying there won't be any shade there whatsoever. So, I think this spring I will dismantle most of this bed and let the grass/clover/violets creep back under it. Then I can wait awhile and see what happens with the tree. Thankfully I didn't go hog wild and fill every space of the front bed with plants! At least I won't have so much to relocate. I will probably end up taking out the onions and garlic from that plot by alley garden. The alliums never did very well there anyway since it is in shad for a good potion of the day.

Normally I would feel bad for giving up on a bed and hate to admit when something just didn't work out. But this time I don't for some reason. Maybe it is because I am getting fed up with all the watering required to keep everything perky under there. Or maybe it is doing that and STILL not getting the lush bed I was hoping for that makes me less upset with dumping it.

This got me to thinking, has anyone else here "given up" on a bed? Do you tend to live with it for awhile until you are fed up with it, or scrap it as soon as you know it isn't working out? And do you feel bad for it, or consider it a learning experience or simply part of the evolution of a garden?

Is there any other major thing you have given up on in or for the garden? Perhaps you had a project that ended up being too big or not what you wanted that you scrapped or redid? Have you ever had a particular theme going in the garden that you ended up not being pleased with/not having success with that you ditched?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had to ditch my vision of a a lush shade garden under a huge old oak tree in my front garden, and it was just beginning to do nicely, too, when the electric company butchered the tree and I lost the shade. It had to be dug out and entirely replanned for sun-loving plants.

And then there was the daylily garden under a big black walnut.......it looked great while the daylilies and irises that shared the bed were in bloom, but when they were done, it just looked weedy and shaggy. This spring I'll be digging out most of the daylies and putting them all in a border at the foot of my wall, under a golden rain tree. They will be in front of some tall garden phlox, and hopefully will look better there. At least they won't be in the center of the garden any more and when they get done blooming, not so noticeable. There will be hardy geraniums in front of them so there should be some color at least, and a few Autumn Joy sedums for fall. Spring will have daffodils among the daylilies, which will hide the daff foliage as it matures.

Not sure what I'm going to plant under the walnut now. Irises, sedums, larkspur, Queen Anne's lace, daisies, maybe. Back to the drawing board.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 12:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sandy- Sorry about your tree! Those power companies don't care too much about garden spaces...but would a woodland garden work, under your black walnut? Maybe some bleeding hearts, woodland hyacinths, sweet woodruff, bee balm, ferns and a bunch of violets? Always fun to plan a new garden :)

CMK- I know this garden has been frustrating you for a while. It sounds like the soil drains too fast, for a shade garden. Moving everything out and rethinking the garden is a good idea. Maybe if you take the tree out...it would be a good place for herbs? They love sunny areas with well draining soil. Or, it might be a great place for an extension of your potager. All kinds of possibilities, when you think about it!

As you know, I'm constantly moving plants (especially the roses) to either hide them from the deer or give them better winter protection. Sometimes there's an area of the yard that just doesn't seem to want to be a flower garden. I have had a terrible time with the area in front of my porch...great exposure, easy to water, BUT tons of tree roots, on their way to the damp area, under the porch. So, I moved out all the plants this summer, to try it as an annual/veggie bed, next spring. Now, it looks like the new steps might end up there...so I'm glad everything was moved out of the way :)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 3:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lavender lass, this black walnut is limbed up high, and pretty much full sun. I already have a huge half-acre or more woodland garden with about 800 hostas, ferns and wildflowers that I love.

What needs to be under the black walnut by the house is sunny garden plants. And juglone tolerant, also.....it might be kind of a challenge, but it will be fun! It may also be a wildflower garden of sorts, but it will be sun wildflowers! Wish I could grow roses under the black walnut, but that just isn't going to happen. There is already a border of Poeticus daffodils, lots of surprise lilies, Siberian iris, tiger lilies and tall phlox. But it's a big bed and visible from our deck, so I want it pretty all summer.

CMK--have you considered a rock garden with xeriscape plants?

I did give up on one area--under a huge old maple with lots of surface roots. Wouldn't even grow grass, so I planted some violets and just let them go. A patch of rudbeckia moved in with them a few years ago, and bidens bloom with them in the fall. It wound up a pretty area after all, and all I have to do to it is pull up the gone-to-seed bidens in the fall and deadhead the rudbeckias. A few money plants and blackberry lilies have sneaked in there also and I just let them. Ajuga has mixed itself in with the violets too. Sometimes you just have to let Mother Nature sort it out, lol!


    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 8:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
christinmk z5b eastern WA

-Sandy, I am also sorry to hear about your tree ;-( Those stupid people don't know how to prune properly. I know what you mean about daylilies looking a bit rugged after bloom. Some folks can get them to stay nice, but mine never do either! I also tend to plant things in front of my daylilies to hide the dying foliage. Oooooo!! 800 hostas and other shady plants?! Now I would love to see that! :-) Ha! I have some of those areas too, where it is up to Mother Nature and 'survival of the fittest' to determine what will grow in an area.

I'm a bit ashamed, but I HAVE been dreaming up possibilities for the front if the tree dies or needs to be taken out. I do want to go low maintenance as possible for the front. I was thinking maybe a large evergreen (Alaskan weeping cedar perhaps?) surrounded with shrubs (Viburnum 'Pink Beauty' a good garden bud of mine sent me, a dwarf Mountain Laurel, etc), and perhaps a few easy-care plants. No diva plants or water hogs here thank you! Lol. I've already been thinking for awhile of putting in a bed on the other side (other side of the sidewalk leading up to the house- opposite side of the tree) for ornamental grasses and some perennials and perhaps a little rock garden area in front for succulents and drought tolerant alpine plants. So who knows, in a few years the garden out front might look better than it ever has! Sometimes unfortunate circumstances/mistakes can lead to creative thinking and better results. That's what I'm going to keep telling myself anyway, lol!

-LL, you are spot on about the soil ;-) I water in the morning and go out in the evening and am blown away by the fact that it is often dry again!! Thanks for the ideas and encouragement. I wouldn't mind having more space for veggies, though I think out in the front it might be rather tempting for walkers-by to snatch something!
Isn't it a bummer when a spot in prime viewing area simply will NOT work out? Would maybe making a raised garden on top of the root-y (is that even a word??! Lol!) work? Might look kind of pretty flaking your new porch/steps ;-)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 10:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

You might find it interesting to read about allelopathy in the linked article - starts about halfway down... You'll see sycamore on the list of allelopathic trees.

Here is a link that might be useful: Allelopathy

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 10:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I learned long ago that if a flower bed takes a great deal of extra work on my part, it just isn't meant to be and, yes, I will give it up. My motto in gardening is "if it isn't fun, don't do it."

I do regret losing one bed though. I had put a lot of work into it and loved the look of the bed, but the weeds still got out of control...I couldn't keep up with them. DH put an end to it, bulldozed it and made it into a sitting area. I know it was the right thing to do in the long run, but I still miss that particular bed. In the springtime, it was a beauty.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 4:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

It is amazing how resilient gardeners are, isn't it? If something doesn't work out, there's always another plan.

Christin, bad girl, wishing your poor tree dead! LOL!!

I was about to give up on the little bed beneath my big magnolia since the surface roots wouldn't lend anything to grow. But since the snow took care of that tree and we need to cut it down, I now have a new little border to think about.

I have one border right at the end of my driveway. Oh, the plans I had for that border. You know, the border right at the driveway that could knock the socks off anyone visiting. Yeah, that one. As it turns out, I should have just let the sweet fern take over. They were doing OK there and I went and ripped them all out and started on my grand plan. The first round of plants croaked. So, I decided to put in more drought-tolerant plants. They croaked. So I decided to put in some shrubs, they croaked. My last attempt was 3 of the same dogwood shrub and they're not looking well (clearly I haven't learned my lesson). I can't even get daffodils to grow over there. So, I've given up and resolved myself to the fact that I should just let the sweet fern take back over and call it a day. Boring, but at least green! Hey, maybe I should get some plastic flowers to stick in there amongst the ferns! Now where the heck am I going to put those dogwoods?!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 5:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
christinmk z5b eastern WA

-Susan, I remember you telling me about starting that driveway bed. It is kind of amazing how many things simply died out there. Wonder what it is about that particular spot that makes things either die out or languor?
Oh well, at least the ferns are pretty and don't require any extra care on your part!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 2:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

Hmmmm......interesting topic. Sometimes I feel like giving up on this entire yard! Then I get browsing through the forum and on garden sites, and I get all excited again! I haven't done any real official gardens in this yard yet as this was only supposed to be temporary. I have dug a couple of new beds out of necessity like dead, old lawn but mostly my plans are still on paper. There is one space, however, that Dad always sort of ignored and let the creepers take over. It is shady and full of roots. I have tried almost everything there including spring bulbs. About the only thing that I have had any luck with whatsoever is hostas. Even they are not crazy about that spot! I think I will just let it go back to Creeping Charlie and add a few garden statues. Maybe put in a couple of ferns and let it naturalize. :)

Christin ~ I find if I stop thinking about something and just let it go, the ideas come effortlessly. Too bad it is so difficult to "let it go" sometimes. :)


    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 10:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
christinmk z5b eastern WA

Another "give up on" bed I have... what I used to call the "Alpine Garden". It is just SO root-y there from the maples and the neighbors evergreens that only Campanula persicifolia and glomerata survive there. I've given up trying to intoduce other things in there.

-Ginny, LOL! Yes, the "letting go" part is pretty difficult ;-) I always have to laugh at myself when coming up with a new bed plan. I make lists and lists of what I want, where I want it (etc) and sometimes even sketch out a plan. Then when planting time comes it always turns out totally different (especially if I go plant shopping and find a whole bunch of stuff I can't find space for elsewhere, LOL!)

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 2:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

between a blue spruce and tamarak: dry, afternoon sun

I didn't give up. It only took 15 years to get it to look decent. I finally stopped fighting and put in plants that did well under those conditions.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 10:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cziga(Zone 5 -Toronto)

I gave up on my first garden bed this year. I have several small beds in my side garden, and I had one long strip that ran from the street fence (and shed) to the side door. It runs along the fence of our property that separates us from the neighbours property. The fence itself isn't a high quality fence (they put it in, and won't change it) - not wood or anything - just wire. I had envisioned a fall garden here, with fall colours and lots of fall blooming plants (and other plants to bloom throughout the year but all fall type colours). And it had been about 3 years ... the shrubs were starting to grow and fill in more, I had 2 brownish roses, perennials, bulbs ...

BUT, the neighbours just won't keep their garden under control. They have a nice walkways and then some shribs behind that ... and then this MESS behind that, which is what borders on my fence. The back of the shrubs grow through the fence and shade my entire garden, I have to trim their shrubs every 3 weeks. There are baby Maple Trees growing back there that they won't pull up or cut down ... they have weeds spilling underneath the fence, a hydrangea that grows wild and spreads through all the time, and most annoyingly of all, they have Bishops Weed which is slowly spreading towards the fence and starting to get underneath and into my garden in some places.

I just can't deal with all the extra work anymore. I am moving the garden. I got the space ready this fall, and started moving some plants. The rest are going in the Spring. The entire Garden concept is moving locations. And I am going to let grass take over the old area, to a certain extent. I still don't want weeds and bishops weed all over my grass, so I will be putting in a plastic barrier along the fence of some kind, and then using some old paving stones to make a bit of a walkway, and Pot area. The paving stones can suppress the bishops weed etc and I'll put some pots to make it look nicer. I wanted a pot area anyways, and I already had the paving stones and didn't know what to do with them ... I think it is a good solution to a very annoying neighbour problem.

Actually I decided to give up and move everything because of the advice on this forum. You are all always saying that gardening should be fun, if you don't love it you can dig it up, etc ... my mother is of the other school (never waste anything, never throw anything away, even divisions of a plant that you already have 10 of) but in this case, it was driving me crazy :) The minute I made the decision to give up, I already felt better! So thank you, as well :)

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 12:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
christinmk z5b eastern WA

-cziga, that is too bad the neighbors weeds and junk are encroaching on your garden. It sounds like a great concept, with all autumnal colors. I like to "design" gardens in my mind (since there is no actual room in my yard to make them, lol) and one of them was like yours, an 'Eternally Autumnal' garden with golds, oranges, buff/tan, browns and russets, etc. Even had some "coffee" colored roses in the plan ;-) Glad you are moving it to another location and not scrapping it entirely. Hope you show pics when it is all done- I would love to see it!

I think a container area on top of the paved spot would be fantastic. Is it going to be like a pot ghetto for holding seedlings and such, or a garden with potted perennials, annuals, shrubs? Either way, it sounds like it will end up being much more manageable and less stressful for you in the long run.

Lol! Well, I tend not to want to throw extras away either ;-) Maybe you could have a little plant sale with all your unwanted extras? Then you could invest the proceeds in some cool pots for you new Container Area!


    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 2:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As a new gardener and before I knew any better, years ago planted mint in a little bed on the east side of the house, then added some oregano, and then asian jasmine. Try to get rid of that mess! So, finally gave up, put stuff I don't want in the other beds there, and actually it looks pretty good in the spring. Also have an old Abraham Darby Rose that grows great there along with some of the old fashioned yarrow among other things. I call it my "wild bed" and it surely is!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 7:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
freezengirl(3aMN and 5AK)

I have had gardens over the years that I have given up on, and gardens that have given up on me. ;-)

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 2:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cziga(Zone 5 -Toronto)

I love the autumn colours - Eternally Autumn is a good name - I was using browns, russets, orange, some deep yellow/golds, and mixing in some green (green flowers and foliage). Echinacea Green Jewel, and some others. I really liked the look of what was starting to develop but ... you can't do anything about neighbours can you? You can ask nicely, but if they won't take care of their space, I think its better to move the garden than to really lose my temper one day and say something I will regret.

I am planning an actual Pot Garden, not just a pot ghetto for extras :) I am trying to save some $$ and buy less, only buying what I already know I want and have a place picked out for, so I can plant quickly. (that's the plan anyways ... you all know how easily I could fall off that plan, lol). But I have some plants that are borderline hardy in the ground, but if they are in pots, I can put in the shed and protect a bit for the winter. Also some small plants that kind of get lost in the garden ...

I'd love to have a small garden sale but never seem to be able to find the time to plan it ... I never manage to get around to it. Otherwise, that really would be a great idea!

ogrose -- there is 1 spot in the garden, along the house, where we planted Bishops Weed. I didn't know at the time what a menace that plant could become, and it was a difficult area - shady, dry - and the variegated one looked quite pretty ... there was also a small patch of mint, and a corner of Lily of the Valley. Much like your Oregano, Mint and Jasmine idea :) It has taken on a life of it's own and I have learned my lesson. I haven't quite given up on my area because it is a difficult spot and something has to go there. One day however, I will have to tackle it and bring it under control. I think the Mint is gone though, suffocated by the Bishops Weed. Mine is not a pretty "wild" ... but yours sounds like it would be ... jasmine, an old rose, sometimes a bit of "wild" can look really spectacular and doesn't require too much work as long as it doesn't spread out of control!!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 3:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, wow, Bishops Weed must REALLY be invasive if it overtakes mint! My flowerbed is contained, but really, someday must do something, but right now have my hands full with the other flowerbeds, etc. Someday...

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 4:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
christinmk z5b eastern WA

-cziga, the Container garden sounds great! Perfect that you will be able to have the more tender plants in them and scoot them into the garage for winter.

How funny! I also have a 'wild' bed, except I call it my 'Alley Garden/'Rampant Bed'. It is a strip of garden out along the alley. Right now there is oregano, lamium, lemon balm, and variegated bishops weed as well as a few phlox and nicer perennials studded here and there. This year I actually decided to get rid of the bishops weed and lemon balm because the former spreads too quickly and was getting into the more desirable perennials out there and the latter reseeded AND was hard to pull (and I hate the smell, lol!). It will likely take a few years to totally eradicate those two thugs, but by golly I'm going to do it!!! ;-)
I am still thinking about getting rid of the oregano, since it is a terrible reseeder. Although if I kept on top of deadheading it after bloom that might not be a big issue...

In its wilder faze it did look rather nice too. Very carefree and lush. But I am excited to be able to have the space out there now to plant some of the extra perennials from my main gardens I don't want anymore or have extras of.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 1:23PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Weekend Trivia - Saturday
Happy Saturday Morning, Cottagers!! Well, it's a grey...
midnightsmum (Z4, ON)
Introduction! (plus a question about gaura)
Hello, all! I'm new to the forum, but have been gardening...
Building my Irish Shed
Hi everyone, I've been admiring all the lovely garden...
Aftermidnight (and others please) question
Hi Annette, I am finding this Houzz hard to navigate...
Weekend Trivia - Saturday
Good Saturday morning, Cottagers!! A few of us having...
midnightsmum (Z4, ON)
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™