Large Area to Plant

aloha2009April 12, 2012

I'm lucky enough to have huge planting areas. I got some great ideas for plants from several of you to include but now I'm just not sure how to pull it all together.

One area that I'd like to have planted is an area approximately 4' x 70'. It will get full sun. I'd like to keep things simple with a few kinds of plants that take their turn blooming throughout the growing season. I don't think I want stiff rows of flowers, but then I don't care for a wild flower look. The very nature of a straight line of patio, the 4' of garden, then a retaining wall may dictate the stiff row of flowers. Would a mass planting of one kind of long lasting bloom be better?

Any and all ideas/brainstorming are welcome. TIA

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"Any and all . . " I'm not much of a landscaper. I wasn't much of a florist either, not in the sense that most people have about florists. Still, I was in the floral industry . . . (I think that makes me an industrialist. ;o)

Okay, here is what I would tell my little crew of creative young people who were charged with manufacturing those soopermarket bokays that the chains would buy from us to foist on their unsuspecting customers. "A minimum of 4 species with a combination of 'face' and 'spike' flowers makes a bokay, uh bouquet."

Flower bouquets, the authors of books about such love to tell us, are supposed to represent the flower garden. So, you can turn that around and use the very simplest rules of bokay-making, uh bouquet-making, to create the flower garden. (And, I use the word "create" loosely.)

Careful about the heights - shorter front, taller back (that isn't creativity, that's physics). Choose long blooming species like petunias and zinnias - those are "face" flowers. See their round little faces?

Include some spike flowers like snapdragons and gladiolas. Vary the colors so no one can accuse you of trying to create some kind of "theme," and you're dun, uh done!

You asked for "any and all," Aloha!

Steve's digits (& rules of thumb)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:55AM
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That's a big bed Aloha! If it were mine to do I would make it
a mostly shrub border, with various heights and textures.

You could keep it simple with a selection of 5 different shrub species, choosing ones with different bloom times, winter interest, fall color etc.

Then I would plant pockets of perennials, and fill in with some annuals that would add color all summer.

Like a tapestry, always interesting.

Sounds like a fun project!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:47AM
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gardenbutt(rocky mt 4-5)

Guess instead of just tossing out suggestions I will ask the same type of questions I ask when I design landscape ,,LOL ,,Just trying to get a visual.Formal or relaxed??? House type?
Seeing Patio and retaining wall, so this is visible only from the one side? by the patio? and workable for weeding and chores from the one side? If so this will also be in the criteria since you will be able to use tall background plants and have some various heights in the front area tapering down if you wish.Which works nicely to add depth to an area like this and also break up the straight feeling if that is what you wish to do??
That is a really large straight line do you have or want any hardscape with in it to soften it up ? By that I am simply wondering if you wish to place anything here and there such as yard art, statuary, or even large stone? all of which can bring in a slightly curved feeling if used with the planting to soften that length and make it a bit less formal..But also break up the planting a bit and add to the design..
Next question, how much work are you wanting to invest here? Some of the people I have designed for Love the perennial and shrub mixes heavily mulched , drip system installed that cut back maintenance while others look at something this size as a great place for a mixed bed with a big mix of annual garden they can cut flowers out of..Many of which have to be dug in the fall and replanted in the spring??
Is the Patio area going to be used for entertaining? Pets ? small children? ummm those who wonder off and crash in flower beds LOL??Hey I have them at my house I gotta ask?? I have no lawn just extensive plantings..
If so some more suggestions,, first I always like to place plants catch the eye and have some great scents during the time one will be using the patio.If you have to worry about people ,kids or pets I also suggest doing taller planting in the back and placing pots strategically with annuals this cuts back on damage and saves grace for anyone who may step on a prized plant...This is also a good place for a small water feature such as a bubbling stone or pots so one can enjoy the sound and the birds that come in for it..
There are lots of options even with a strip like this,, for instance you can place a trellis with climbers to frame in statuary or a bench in places to get more height and blend your planting towards it..I have done strips like this with evergreens staggered along with roses and other shrubs and a few perennials and grasses that give it year round visual but also deflects the straight formal lines..On the other hand we have done the opposite on more formal homes as well putting in very precise plantings that were period plantings that compliment the house..
This could become what ever you would like even with straight patio and retaining walls it does not have to be soldier upright pending on the plant choices..
Not exactly plant suggestions but other things to consider..

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

When I saw your post I was gonna ask a bunch of questions--but didn't have time just then! GardenButt did it for me--and thought of some I hadn't even thought of!!!

One thing I was gonna add is--can you possibly post some pics of the area, from different angles, and including from the patio and maybe even a view from the area looking back toward the patio and/or house to get the Big View of the situation? As they say: A pictures is worth..........

I, too, was thinking of suggesting a small water feature, especially if you'll be able to hear it from the house/patio--but even if you can't. And (nobody around here will be surprised by this!) but I WAY recommend including some ornamental grasses, either as structural anchors or as smaller accents.

I definitely agree with GB: "There are lots of options even with a strip like this."


    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 1:53PM
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gardenbutt(rocky mt 4-5)

I second Sky bird on the pictures, it makes it so much easier to get the visual..
Also you want to stand in your house and look out the windows that overlook the area..This can give you some ideas of where to place favorite plants,structural plants, garden art, etc,,, so you can enjoy them from the inside as well,,Always a bonus in our area's when the climate is not exactly the most pleasant to be outside ,,

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 7:30PM
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Everyone is so generous with ideas!

This is our retirement home, so everything is geared toward lower maintenance. I LOVE to garden, but considering this will be just one of several large areas to garden, even if I make it easy, it will be a lot to take care of. We have a small area in the front yard for grass and the remainder of the yard will be trees, shrubs, and flowers.

We are hoping to get most of the hardscape in this May. There will be a concrete patio layed that will extend about 4' from each edge of the house and out 18'. This will leave the 4' area that I was referring to. Wanting to have the patio extend almost the full width of the yard, we will end up with the 70' or so. There will be another broken concrete area on the left (East) for a firepit area. There will be a sidewalk that will then extend along eventually branching to the upper retaining wall. Another patio will be at the right hand corner of the lot. With all this hardsacaping, I think you can understand why, any available area for plants, I want to take full advantage of.

There is a 3' height limitation that we have to abide by. With the patio being approx 18" above the large plant area, I was referring to in this thread, it's hard to say where the 3' height limitation is. Either way for various reason, I wouldn't want any plants above 4' (even with the 18" drop.

I want to be able to see and/or smell these from the patio above. I'd prefer thornless, but being the plants are below, I'm not sure if it's imperative.

I prefer a relaxed look, but not sure if this is attainable with such a long straight stretch.

The area will be viewed from the patio but also by a few neighbors going by (no fences). It will be semi-difficult to maintain because after the 4' (+1" thickness of the stone wall) there is a 27" drop off. We'd need to get a chair to trim, weed and plant.

The backyard is all about entertaining and relaxing.

With the slight slope in this 4' area, I'd prefer to keep things close to the same height. If I were to put something tall in the "back" it would look weird from the other side in this situation. Though there won't be any plantings beyond the retaining wall, we'll be also in this non-planted area a lot during the summer.

I like the idea of combining both Digit's and Thistlebloom's ideas and bring in 5 different shrubs with a combination of spikes and faces. I had previously thought of doing it all with perennials, but I realize, it's just too big an area, not to have some decent size shrubs grounding the area.

Here's a sketch I have of the backyard. The 4' area is below the large patio area, broken concrete area, and walkway. Is that enough to give you a feel of the area?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 12:33AM
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I hope it is okay to drift slightly off topic and express some appreciation for annuals. Many see perennials as cost-effective and appreciate their permanence. I will allow others to make the case for perennials. There are good arguments out there all of which I can agree with but I have found that perennials are a bother and have grown a good deal less of them over the last few years. The reason? Weeds.

Weeds can so easily make their homes in perennials and be so difficult to remove. Fast growing annuals that come in after clean cultivation in fall and again in spring usually out-compete annual weeds. Those weeds also have shallow roots and are easy to remove by hand in 1 or 2 passes.

Expense? The 4' x 70' area is 280sqft and with 1 plant in every square foot (some a little closer, some farther apart), that is 280 plants. You may decide to use only some of the area for annuals but, altho' that can be a high number of plants, they don't have to be expensive. I once figured out that the seed cost for each snapdragon plant in my gardens was about 2 cents. Granted there was more cost than this; I have a greenhouse. Still, I didn't always have a greenhouse.

I once grew plant starts on my utility porch. There was room for 2 flats, so of course, I put 3 there. Then, I set up a stand in my stairwell window. Once again, room for 2, so I had 3. Anyway, those 2 sunny windows did a super job of growing 200 to 400 plants for me thru a couple of spring months. My summer yard and the veggie garden in the lot across the alley were FULL of plants!


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 11:47AM
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Steve my hats off to you for such an extensive undertaking. I know somewhat the point of where I love to garden, and when gardening gets to be just about work, and all that would push it into the realm for work for me.

At my last house, one year I planted about 350 bedding plants (4 packs) and said there has got to be a better way. Yes I had wonderful color throughout the the growing season, but it was too much. I started bringing in hostas, dead nettle, bleeding heart, hydrangea, verbena etc along with a few annuals. I personally love seeing everything that I planted coming up each spring. With several large garden areas and more medium garden planting areas, I don't have the time nor the will for too many annuals. I'm VERY lucky that my DH loves to weed and trim things --- we make great partners for gardening.

I've been thinking of 5 plants to go in this particular area. Some I'm not sure of the variety. Any suggestions?

Spirea - Anthony Waterer

Barberry - Crimson Pgmy

Potentilla - not sure on variety

Salvia or catmint - which one is best when you don't have cats to be concerned about (coyotes keep the cats indoors).

Ornamental grass - I saw this one but not sure what it is.

traditional exterior design

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 12:30PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

The grass, a favorite of mine, is purple fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum', but it's not hardy, so it's not gonna work for you unless you replace it every year--and that will mean it'll be very small to start with and take a while to get big--and may or may not get as big as the ones in the pic by the end of the season. They're also quite expensive to buy in spring. I've been putting one in each of my whiskey barrels and one in the big pot by my front door each year, and have been managing to keep a small piece inside over winter so I wouldn't have to buy more each year, but it hasn't been as easy as I had hoped keeping it going inside and then dividing it to get three of them each year--but it is doable.

Are you sure you don't want more "variety" in your new garden? What you list above will give you color mostly in spring when the bushes bloom, but not much after that. A variety of perennials will give you color most/all of the summer, and since the garden is constantly changing it keeps your interest, and there's the excitement of always seeing what's going to bloom next. And mixing perennials with bushes and grasses will give you the different heights/sizes/textures you need to visually "break up" the long, narrow garden you're dealing with. And planning to add some annuals here and there--especially during the first few years while the other stuff is getting big enough to fill in, gets you some nice color and helps to fill in the bare spots you'll have at first.

Of the catmint/salvia, I'd use the Salvia! 'May Night' is pretty and reblooms at least once if cut back after the first bloom--and can bloom a third time if cut back really promptly after the first blooms. Catmint IS in the mint family and can spread a lot, depending on the species/variety you get.

Spirea can be real pretty, but they can develop chlorosis in alkaline soils. I think some varieties are worse than others, but that's something to consider. Not really into bushes and rarely got involved in selling them so can't give you more specific info about that. Maybe somebody else around here can give you more info from personal experience. There's a white Spirea (was in when I bought it) in my front yard--and it's gone when I get around to it. Every year it has lots of dead branches and parts of it definitely yellow. Last year I got tired of it and cut it ALL the way down (a few inches) and it decided to come back from that and looks like it might bloom some this year, but part of it is still yellow and I'll probably cut it down again after (if) it blooms.

Barberry is real pretty--BUT--and this is strictly a personal preference--I don't like things that bite since I'm constantly working in and around my plants, so that one goes into the same category as roses for me: Pretty but there are other things I think are pretty too, that don't bite! (We had these growing ALL the way around our house when I was LITTLE, called then Poky Bushes, and then, besides getting "poked" by them, we were told not to eat the pretty red berries!)

I think you're not gonna like my answers, Aloha!!! When I was working in the Green Industry back in the 90's Potentilla were THE Thing! They were everywhere, including in the medians of streets and such! They were EVERYWHERE! Not that many of them around anymore, and while I can't be sure this is the reason, when I was around them it seemed to me that there were always parts of them dying out--like a whole section of a bush. To me they mostly tended to look "scrawny." I feel pretty sure there are others around here that love them and have had very good luck with them, and hopefully they'll show up to let you know that, but, again, I would check them out further before you make a final decision. (Truth in lending: I have never grown them myself!)

Ok! What else can I dis for you! ;-)

You're gonna be spending a fair amount of money to put this stuff in, and I just want to be sure you know what you're getting into before you spend the time, money, and energy!

Have you checked out something like red-twig dogwood, which has wonderful winter interest?

I don't think you're off topic, Digit, I think you're just suggesting what you like the best and what works best for you, which is what Aloha was asking for. (And, having recently tried to talk you into doing more perennials, I know I'm not gonna win that one so I'll concede the battle! :-) ) In this case I do very much agree with Aloha (surprise!) about the work involved, in addition to which if she has only annuals there would be nothing at all to look at over winter. I always have "some" annuals in my yard, I have a bunch of seed starting right now and I fill the whisky barrels with them and stick others here and there in among my perennials


Ok, I just went back and reread all the stuff you put in up with the drawing--and I had missed a bunch of stuff! I had a bunch more stuff here--that I just deleted! (Some of the stuff I left might not fit your parameters either, buy I'm not gonna delete it all!)

I'm not really quite getting the drawing. Is the area on the bottom of the drawing where you have the "circles," which tend to imply "trees" in that area, the spot you're talking about planting? So there's nothing there now? And I don't get it about the "drop off" part--so is that "past" the "planting area" on the bottom, and is that still your property (since you say you'll be there "a lot" in the summer, or is that part of a greenbelt or something? The patio is several steps down to the rest of the yard? And is any of that "stuff" that's indicated on the drawing right next to the patio already there or is that the daydreamin'? Or is THAT the part you're talking about planting and the wider part with "the trees" the part where you'll "be a lot" but not be planting? In rereading what you said, I'm kinda lost!

My personal preference is some bulbs for EARLY spring color (when I need it the most!), and then a mix of perennials for continuing color all summer, and some that give me winter interest--including grasses (and with the space you have that would include a few bushes!) That's just MY druthers, like Digit's for annuals!


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 3:09PM
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Aloha, I'm in a slightly different growing climate and our soils don't have the same profile, so I'm just going to suggest the shrubs I like, and you can edit for suitability.

One of my favorite shrubs these days is cotinus coggygria,or Smokebush as it's common name. It's extremely versatile in the landscape. Don't be put off by visions of those huge overgrown specimens that have been let go to grow as they will.
It actually is a fantastic (IMO ) plant. They are very amenable to hard pruning and can be kept to under three feet very easily. In fact they look best when pruned hard because their new growth is beautiful. There are 4 colors to choose from. There's the basic green, a purple variety,Royal Purple
( which would make a nice switch for the red barberry ), a lime green leafed one "Golden Spirit" and my very favorite "Grace" which starts out kind of pinky green, then becomes green with a hint of purple, then has a beautiful fall show of apricots and yellow oranges.

Fothergilla ia also a nice shrub that I think is under used. Not a showstopper in bloom but a beautiful fall display.

The red twig dogwood that Skybird suggested also comes in a shorter variety with a white and green variegated leaf.

Nishiki willow is another shrub that can be cut back to keep at the size you want. It has a pretty green white and pink leaf.

I also love May night sage, but Nepeta has a longer bloom period, and though it's in the mint family I've never noticed it spreading. Maybe you could do both! :)

Caryopteris comes in a variety of blooms and blooms a bit later in the summer. "Sapphire Surf" is a beauty.

I will restrain myself here and let someone else contribute.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 5:38PM
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gardenbutt(rocky mt 4-5)

Got it,,Not being in Colorado I am not sure if I should make distinct plant suggestions.My bloom times and such run behind you guys.LOL, maybe some more suggestions for you to consider,,
the four season impact,,is important,so try not to limit yourself as much,,in that length you can add more variation for this reason alone.Unless your looking for a more continuity through out the property with the shrub plantings.You also may want to look at the heat that comes from the concrete with some of your considerations,,
Personally if I was hitting this type of job I would be suggesting Xeriscape in a cottage based design.with several focals,, such as large stone that match the patio and retaining wall.They could be flat to hold a large pot, statuary or taller to stand on their on.To break up the planting a bit but also to add details for 4 season interest..
With the plants you have listed I am going to assume that is not a go,,
Now we know your garden needs the visual on both sides that also brings in another aspect,,The gardens at the Happy House are designed this way since our decks and roof are our outside living space,,Our drive by "tourists" get a beautiful mixed view this way and the house views are great,,You can intertwine the taller and shorter plants to achieve a great relaxed look,, not to forget bulbs mixed in as well,Lily's are wonderful in these types of gardens..but spring color under the shrubs before leaf out brings spring into the picture,,Same with autumn crocus..In the 4 foot width this can soften that straight look dramatically,,Even if you choose to use just the plants you have listed if you interweave them you can accomplish this easily,,,
Carpet roses are yes prickly but they also stay with in your height limits, some offer scent all offer nice continuous summer color.The light pinks look beautiful with the salvia and more so the cat mints.If those are your preference. Climbing vines like clematis make cool ground covers intermixed with shrubs,,We have honeysuckle splayed out here as well that brings in smell and just intermingles with the other plants,some people do not care for the look others love it,,,,Would that drop off area be a nice area for a vine to cascade down?
Year round visuals are always important in this type of scale,, what about adding in some ground cover based evergreens or miniatures that would bring in color in the winter and spring??? This is where the grasses add so much dimension as well.They look wonderful brought forward as a specimen for fall, winter and spring interest.
Water and mulching have not came up either,, assuming drip system under the mulch to address the individual plant needs..Since I do not live in Colorado, I am not sure about the full water usage during drought..
Not much help am I ,, Just keep tossing out more thoughts,,

Skybird, LOL the Potentilla you see that up here in MT as well,,I have had some clients who pick it out of the commercial plantings where it was highly over used..When it gets that odd die out I have went in a few times and turned them into bonsai..They look nice that way in the right circumstances..Most of the time they get yanked..Spirea gets used a lot up here these days too and people forget to trim it back so it gets a ratty appearance they they want ti fixed ,, and have heart failure when I have went in and cut it down to 6 inches tall..

Steve your not out there with the annuals, I have had some clients whom enjoy the yearly process..Myself when I had my show gardens I put in a 4'x100' row of tall mixed Dahlias, cosmos,tapered down to dusty miller,, around my cul de sac for the summer visual, also made it okay to plow in the winter with out concerns of damaging anything.Annual impact and convenience if your raising your own is great,, My greenhouse is home to thousands of starts from seed and propagation ..I have to admit to raising quite a few for my containers.. But who can live with out annuals in their vege and herb gardens? We may have a few going out,,LOL,,Teaching the alternative gardening it is always a challenge for me to get men, especially ,to realize they need annual flowers in their gardens for many reasons,,They think they are all about fluff and don't look at the beneficial benefits,,So it is nice to see a man who can appreciate them
Aloha, I am sure that which ever way you decide to go your gardens are going to be beautiful,,

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 2:47PM
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The diagram is something I drew up last year. It's pretty wrinkled but has the basic components. The area with the circles in a sandy beach area (umbrellas) on a lake. No landscaping but very used.

I should have said that 4 season interest is not a concern. We have a walk-out basement and will likely only use the basement during the summer months and LARGE gatherings. With the shallowness of the backyard, this 4' area will largely go unnoticed 1/2 of the year. Unless it's reasonably warm out, we'll be in the main floor upstairs.

Skybird, I don't always like hearing what I need to hear, but I VERY much appreciate hearing it all. The purple fountain grass sounds like I should admire from afar. I guess selecting 5 shrubs and perennials instead of just 5 shrubs would definitely give the impression that that was all the variety. I wanted to use 5 main kinds of plantings and then toss in willy nilly whatever I find along the way. The backyard is all a "dream". Right now it can best be described as bomb blew off - not pretty! Besides the stone wall, it's pretty much a blank slate. I was curious about the potenilla's longevity because I didn't see a lot around town I liked but thought that was because so many didn't know how to care for them. Perhaps though they aren't all they are cracked up to be.

Thislebloom. I'm going to check out the smokebushes. The neighbor has one that is out of control, but I can't help but love the leaves and the uniqueness of the "smoke". It's hard to believe I could keep it that small, but I'll believe you. I never knew about Fothergilla but it looked pretty interesting - definitely a contender. Caryopteris looks great too. I'm beginning to see that I have been limiting my choices to around the 3' level, not seeing that I could keep many of these larger bushes shorter - sometime the obvious can escape me.

Gardenbutt, I'm not sure what you were referring to a cottage based design. Do you have a pic of an example? I'm hearing of so many uses for different ways of using plants. I had always thought of clematis in the upright format. A vine draping down the retaining wall would be awesome!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 7:50PM
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Aloha, about the Smokebush, by keeping it coppiced you won't get the bloom. Just thought I would point that out if the "smoke" was a deciding factor for choosing it.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 4:57PM
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gardenbutt(rocky mt 4-5)

Here is a picture of our front yard which is a cottage based garden design..We spend about 6 to 20 hours a year taking care of it...

Here is wikipidia

Clematis is a well known ground cover and creeper amongst rose fans who look for a nice filler plant to intermingle with the roses,,,We have 60 or so of them creeping along in our gardens,,, some climb bushes others creep along on the ground they all look beautiful...

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 11:46PM
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Beautiful garden Gardenbutt :) !

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 12:25AM
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That's a beautiful garden Gardenbutt :)

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 1:01AM
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Wow! Amazing garden, gardenbutt!! I especially love your rooftop garden.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 1:38AM
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gardenbutt(rocky mt 4-5)

Thanks,we enjoy it,,It is a great demo garden for showing large plantings viewable from both sides..In a cottage style garden format,,The roof garden ,,LOL well that is just plain fun in it's own,, gives us a place to play with the sedums.
Mary in MT

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Things have changed slightly and now I have an additional question.

We'll still have the 70' wide area with a staircase down the middle but now we want the planting bed to be 6-7' deep on one side and 5' deep on the other. It will be in a straight line from side to size, making the patio a slight trapezoid instead of a rectangle. I know this may sound strange but with the house being at a slight angle on a rectangular lot, adjustments have to be made.

I know plantings can make a big difference in hiding "defects" but I'm not sure how to do it in this particular situation. By fixing this difference in depths, it will help solidify the patio dimension. We've waited 2 summers already to get it poured and we are ANXIOUS.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 8:43PM
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Wow...great ideas, you have a lot to go with. Not sure where you are...but low maintenance, spring/summer blooming, I would do knock out roses (original red) staggered, catamint between and may night salvia. All are low maintenace...and low dianthus or annuals between.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 12:47AM
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