New big planters? Now what? Need your help!

mea5May 10, 2013

We had our patio redone and now I am stumped. I am looking for a low maintenence design for these two large planters. I would consider having one or part of one a herb garden. We live in Michigan and this area get's full sun. The planter in front of the window is 17 ft long, 1 ft deep and 2 ft depth. The one against the brick wall is 10 ft long.
Thank you!

This post was edited by mea5 on Fri, May 10, 13 at 13:00

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uncle_t(Z6 Ontario CAN)

All of these should be perennial in Michigan and are pretty much low maintenance. I grow all of them. All enjoy full sun.

Herbs: Echinacea, Italian and Golden Oregano, Sage, Lemon Balm, Lemon Thyme.

Flowers: Rudbeckia(Black-eyed Susan), Hemerocallis (Daylillies), Lilium lancifolium (Tiger Lilly), Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy), Paeonia (peonies), Purple Clematis.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 10:46AM
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uncle_t(Z6 Ontario CAN)

Also, a large trellis along that brick wall would enable you to get very creative, with either perennial vines or annual veggies like squash or scarlet runner beans. You could even dedicate the entire bed to concord grapes (fairly low maintenance). Very pretty and major yum factor. :)

Don't forget to mulch heavily beds that get full sun.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 10:59AM
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Thank you Uncle T. Good ideas, and I actually have a trellis, in my front yard, that can be moved. For the box in front of the window.. do you think I need to anchor both sides with some type of ornamental shrub? Feels like I need some height.

Also for another area, any favorite ground covers?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 8:09AM
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Crape Myrtles will give you some nice height on either side of those windows in zone 6. Not sure what your zone is because Michigan has a couple possibilities. Bamboo can look exotic and can grow tall.
Peony make some nice fragrance and stay as a nice shrub when finished flowering. korean lilac shrubs are great as well for scent. That big wall could take a beautiful climbing vine(s) or climbing roses. Pick some fun ground covers that will spill over like creeping jenny or creeping phlox. Even a Group 3 clematis as a ground cover or honeysuckle will creep through shrubs and flower in sun. If you want summer long bloom with little maintenance, along with the lilacs, put in some knockout roses. Low maintenance, disease free, hardy, always in bloom until late frost. There are even a couple of varieties that have a nice scent. Don't forget to underplant with plenty of bulbs for spring color!!!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 3:20PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Such shallow beds does place some major limitations on plant selection. Are the beds literally 1ft deep -- as in built on a cement slab or did you mean that the beds rise 1ft above the ground but are built over dirt/have a dirt bottom?

How will they be watered, btw? Hopefully not by hand -- during the heat of summer they will be prone to drying out very fast (particularly with a west or southwest exposure). Under such circumstances, hand watering could be quite a chore.

Definitely agree with the idea of having a trellis or trellises against the brick wall. Clematis was my first thought.

I don't see either crepe myrtle or lilacs being options. With the beds only being 2ft from front to back, you simply don't have enough space, IMO. And if the beds truly only have 1ft of depth (before hitting cement), you definitely do not have the necessary soil depth. Also, I can't say that I've ever found lilacs to be all that low maintenance. Most, IME, are highly susceptible to powdery mildew and branch/trunk die-off is common so dead wood must be removed regularly. As for honey suckle ... a major aphid magnet.

If you like the cactus look, there are winter hardy prickly pear cacti and you might find dwarf yucca plants. (Though be forewarned, if your beds DON'T have a cement bottom yucca is a royal pain in the butt to remove -- they get a major taproot.)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 1:00PM
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Balance the ends with dwarf evergreens. If the planters are bottomless you could use dwarf Alberta Spruce and have some year round interest, and height. Research Calunas, Heath and Heathers. They have year round interest are very hardy, little used and some have spectacular color changes even after the bloom. Low growing Calunas would fill between the dwarf evergreen beautifully.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Stick with evergreens.....and leave the perennial plants out of the picture. This planting area reflects directly on the look of the face of your house....which, right now, is rather blank.

Michigan is, more or less, zone 6....but zone 5 is not out of the possibility of plant hardiness.

You might wish to break the green line---if you plant nothing but evergreens but keep it soft....don't use plants that show their demise early in their lifespan.
Clematis is a very nice vine to grow up a trellis.....but it is a rather short lived perennial of color......keep such vine away from the entrance of the home.

The color of your entrance door, roof, and garage door, can often influence what color of perennials you choose for plantings near the front of the house.

For evergreen hedge material I suggest 'yew'...for its many forms, soft needles, and easy maintenance.
The planter in front of the large picture window could take such yew can be kept low so as to not interfere with the window.
On either end, a pyramid yew could be used as a sentinel plant to raise the look near the corners and the entrance door.

If not yew, then consider 'box' evegreem plants which also can be kept very low and they look great with minimal clipping.

I do agree though, the small space does offer problems of keeping sufficient soil there in a moist condition.
Make the soil there a fairly even mix of compost and good triple mix.
If the area here is kept to a pH level for evergreen plantings, it can keep the maintenance of the plot fairly simple.
Evergreens are not water hungry there would be no need to water often. They should be watered well into the winter months to keep their roots alive through a cold winter. A yearly feeding of a high nitrogen fertilizer is all the food they require.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 7:24PM
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