'Island' gardens?

cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)May 9, 2007

Hi all!

I am doing my best to eliminate as much lawn as I possibly can. Sure, it means a lot of mulching, but mulching once vs. mowing weekly? With all the PI on my butt again, that is a no-brainer.

I have just mulched two "islands." One is an irregular shape around the 3 birches I moved out of the woods, then the other is around the 5 beeches.

I'm debating what, if anything, I should plant in their beds. They're not shade providers, which is neither here nor there. I don't want two (more) stupid little gardens, trees with stuff stuck underneath them. But OTOH, I keep reading about people's beautiful Island gardens in their pursuit to eliminate lawn.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Anywhere they've seen pictures?

I'm used to edge gardening, but out in the middle of the yard? Don't know.

Thanks for your ideas,


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thistle5(z7 VA)

Well, I guess you've decided not to put JMaples in these beds, right? I'd love to eliminate more lawn myself, but I'm constantly negotiating w/ my DH, who loves grass.

You say they're not shade providers, but my beech tree has the deepest, densest shade imaginable-nothing grows there, except violets.

I have 1 bed, under the dense shade of my neighbor's maple-I've planted epimedium, hostas, tricytris, hellebores, ferns, camellias, heuchera, heucherella, columbine, asarum, pachysandra, sambucus, actea pacypoda, & thrown in some coleus for summer color...

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 10:07PM
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Christine, the beeches are going to be big trees and do provide dense shade. They are also shallow rooted, and between the two, it might be a challenge to garden underneath.

As for island gardening, it really isn't that complicated. Just pretend that you've got two edge gardens butted up against each other. So, you'll have your taller stuff in the middle and work your way down to shorter stuff towards the edges.

Not that I have an eye for design or anything (I'm more plantaholic than a gardener with good aesthetics), but I think the mistake a lot of people (myself included) make with gardens in general is in not incorporating enough shrubs and evergreens into the planting. Good garden design is just that, and I'm sure you'll do just as well with your island bed as you do with your edge plantings.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 10:14PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

I have really gotten into shrubs this last year. I have some really unusual shapes, excellent colors, and my eye on more. They're providing structure I have yet to work into my gardens, but in my mind, they're great.

Linda, my beeches right now aren't tall or wide enough to provide shade. Were they? Under them would go some potted JMs! Right now, they're still sun gardens. I can't think of anything you have in your shade that I don't, other than Jack-in-the-Pulpits, trillium, mayflowers, and the really tall (6') meadow rue. Kim's Monkshood, which is GORGEOUS.

I guess you're right, Suja. I'm probably over thinking these areas as gardens. I think what I'll do is just wait until something speaks to me. Right now, I'm still arranging the huge chartruese and burgundy garden to my satisfaction. I do happen to have some rust-colored (yes, living) shrubs that I didn't have a place for. Hmmmm....
Ever heard of a Black Dragon shrub?



    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 10:30PM
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Larry K(7a)

What about an island of nothing but ornamental grasses? There are a ton of varying heights and textures to pick from, and they would do great in your full sun yard. This would have to be a new island, though, and not one under the trees.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 11:02PM
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Christine, I have two (well, several) 'island gardens', and so far they're working for me. I actually prefer them to edge of the house/fence gardens because if I have something tall in front of something short, I can still see the short plant from another angle. The smaller one is mostly done, but I'm still planting in the bigger one, just working my way around with some low stuff toward the outside, with a couple of shrub-ish things tossed in for color later on. Not a huge amount of deeply thought out DESIGN - I'm a big fan of get it in the ground where I think it will work and move it later if need be. The only design-ish thing I've tried to do is to get a little height in the middle of each island. One has the JM tree that I got at the plant sale here in town, and will have Susan's cupflower and a couple of other tallish things (like corn...), and the other has a small fence/trellis and a lilac that is about 3 feet high now but is doing well and looks like it will be quite bushy. Oh, and Suja's David Austin rose...

Of course, now that I typed all that, I realized that you can look for yourself next week! Oh, well...

And I'd attach a pic but now I have a wailing 4yr old...so, g'night!!


    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 12:06AM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

I already have so many ornamental grasses I'm kind of tired of them. They sure server their purpose and look great, but the fascination has worn off.

However, given the fact I do have so many, I'll probably put some out there for continuity. Kind of like my Nandina fascination. Got 'em everywhere.

I will look, Lynn. :) I am a big one for moving things later, too. Sometimes right on out of my yard.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 4:54PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I move my plants around so much I should give each of them roller skates! Well, not quite, but close.

The problem is - I can plan out a design, but I can't find the plants I want (or the right size, or the right price). Then I end up finding some way cool plant that I've always wanted, so I just stick it wherever there is an empty spot with the appropriate conditions. If I figure out a better spot for it, or if it's unhappy, it gets moved later on (usually a year or two or more).

I'm so glad I discovered the swap - I moved some plants right out of my yard too!

I'm creating my first "island" bed this year. It used to be a veggie garden, but I got tired of that. Then it was supposed to be a display bed for my tropical hibiscus, but one end was too waterlogged. So this year it's becoming a tropical bed, with bog-loving type plants on the wet end. I'll mostly be seeing it from one side (the other faces the neighbor's yard), but I will put some shorter, early blooming plants there so I can have flowers in the spring before the tropicals go in, then the tropicals will grow tall to hide them after the blooming is over.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 9:41PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Sounds like a heaven made for cannas!

I entertained vegetables once. Vlad convinced me I needed a raspberry bush, at least. I'll be darned if that thing isn't spreading all over the place.

I remembered I have a bunch of copper to burnt orange colored shrubs, along with some toffee grass, a gorgeous, full-sun heuchera 'Bronze Beauty' and a couple of other things along this color family. I'm a'thinking they might look good around the birch gardens....


    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 11:44PM
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I'm terrible and never really plan perennial beds. I plant whatever catches my eye. If it doesn't work in one garden I move it around until I find a place. It goes on like that for about 3 years until the plants have really matured. What looks good the first year or two all of a sudden looks terrible because it's gotten too big or the other plants have overgrown it. I have lots of shrubs but very few trees and nothing really big except for a magnolia and a catalpa, both of which were volunteers.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 12:12AM
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Christine, if you need someone to come help you pick raspberries, keep me in mind!! =) Oh, btw, what time is good for you on Monday? My day is pretty much wide open, so whatever works for you should be fine for me.

Karyn, how tall is your catalpa tree?? My great aunt had one that was enormous, and skidding on dropped flowers in the driveway and using the pods for swords are solid childhood memories for me.

I decided I couldn't do an official veggie garden, so I'm mixing them into the different area gardens, partly so I'll still have flowers to enjoy in case none of the veggies grow, and partly to hopefully foil some of the little bunnies that are hopping around here...so far they haven't discovered the carrot fronds but I'm not holding out hope for long... hmmm, maybe I'll try scattering some of Arabella the giant bunny's fur around, maybe that will help.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 1:12AM
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I have 2 island gardens. One is supposed to be japanese themed with a japanese tree, a small mugo pine, and another small yellow leaved bush, and then the kind of spruce that looks like it could have come out of harry potter. Finally there is a bunch of very taupe/light light purple irises. It's very simple and the only thing I keep meaning to do is to move a small boulder in it.

My second one is a butterfly oriented one with a black Knight butterfly bush in the middle (please don't post any follow-ups on the issues surrounding this bush i am well aware of them :) and things like joe pye weed behind and helianthus of 2 sizes. It's colors are purple, orange, red and yellow which i've really been liking as a combination. By the time things like the clematis and purple columbines and purple irises are done blooming other things are starting and the season ends with tritonia and the annual butterfly weed that self seeds. I have also put cardoon seeds in this year but I will have to see how it works out.
I like them because I can have different color schemes but my yard is much smaller than yours. The ultimate goal like others is the minimization of grass.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 2:30AM
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Lynne my catalpa is pretty big, at least 30' with a huge spreading canopy and it reached that size really fast. Unfortunately I think I'm going to be forced to remove it because of the annual Catalpa Worm infeststion : ( The past few years I've had two infesatations per season. The caterpillar itself doesn't bother me, it's the loads of frass that rains down on my deck and the kids playground equipment, GROSS! I could hose it off every hour and it wouldn't be enough.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 6:47AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Yes, lots of cannas will be going into the tropical bed. Nice, soggy clay and full sun. They should adore it!

My raspberries are totally out of control! They used to be in the former veggie garden, but they spread too much, so I moved a few to the back fence where they could pretty much do their own thing. They got neglected for a while, so now I have a scrub patch of raspberries, honeysuckle, and whatever weeds blew over from the horse farm. It's going to be a mess to clear out, but I will do it this summer, honest!

kaffeina, I love my Black Knight butterfly bush and have yet to find a seedling anywhere. Grow it in good health!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:00AM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

Kaffeina, Black Knight isn't fertile. It's evidently not the hybrids that make such a mess.

I have a ton of space and in my gold/burgundy garden I have 2 HUGE Black Knights, 2 Royal Reds, and a bunch of other things that are strangely escaping me for the moment.

I'm thinking of blue and yellow under the white bark of the birches.

Under the beeches, perhaps the copper colored stuff.

I can't decide. I do know, though, I need some of the cardoon seeds when anyone has some extra. That a fabulous plant.

In the meanwhile, I'm just going to finish mulching.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 10:37AM
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