Suggestions for a Newbie!

nunchucksAugust 25, 2010

Hello everyone, I just moved here about a year ago and completely new to yard gardening, well at least on this side of the planet. Really excited to find an active RMG community and really would love your help in planning our front yard garden. I've basically been reading books and online material for the last 6 months and plotted out what I think are appropriate plants for the various beds. I figured it would be easier for people to comment than asking for what the heck to do!

I am guessing we have clay soil-our house is in Mead ( close to Longmont/Loveland area) although I intend to mix the beds away from the home with manure and some good garden soil to loosen it some. The bed which is surrounding the porch will be filled with good soil since my husband and I are about to built a retaining wall yikes! which I hope we can complete sometime in September. Also we are trying to figure out how to get a drip line going in that bed from the sprinkler system and possibly the outer beds if the selected plants needs them - I hope they won't! and will make do with the occasional watering during the hottest days. Because I am a freak and visual person and had time on my hands today (waiting for a greenlight from client for a project!!), I made a visual plan of the beds.

Well we can't possibly plant everything this year so the idea is to plant the hydrangea, tree peony and bulbs to get the pesky HOA off our backs. BTW I love bulbs but not sure how to incorporate them into the beds or I was thinking to plant them on the other side of the house which I haven't really figured out yet. Also we get gusty winds every so often and we have a nasty weed factory next door to us.

So anyone, everyone, someone comments, suggestions please???!!!

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I think it looks like you've already got a great plan. I live pretty close to your location, and we most certainly have clay soil. It's like concrete sometimes and needs organics mixed into it, so I use compost and grass clippings as mulch and then let the "mulch" mix in with each planting.

We also have yarrow in our front bed, and it's kind of a pain. It's invasive, and last fall I took a straight-edge spade to it to trim it back a few feet. Then I could dig and pull up the whole root system of the portion to be removed.

Other plants that I've noticed you have on your map that we also have and which are doing well are the phlox, dianthus, and balloon flower. I have some columbine cuttings planted that haven't really done anything all summer and a few didn't even come up this year.

Other than that, I don't have much else for you, except good luck with that retaining wall! It'll look great :)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 3:16PM
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Thanks for letting me know about the yarrow, I had no idea and what a great idea to use manure and grass as mulch. I really have little experience in gardening outside let alone in a different climate. I was limited to indoor plants having been living in city apts and found great joy in growing orchids and where I grew up, all you had to do was stick something in the ground and it'll just grow and manure was something we scooped up nice and fresh after the herd of cows passed by the house.

LOL! I suppose I planned it out to the point where it's hard for anyone to comment on. In actuality, I do have loads of questions. One being, how much water will the hydrangea need because we are thinking to not run a drip line all the way to the bottom and also right at that spot are the mains for the waterline - would this be a problem having a large plant there, would the roots seek water from the pipe?? so see I really haven't a clue! The plans are just really based on theory (from reading) and not practice.

My other question is that would a tree peony have sufficient space to grow at the corner of the retaining wall - the beds would be just a little under 3 feet wide and also would it fair well being completely exposed to winds? hence deciding on a tree instead of herbaceous- any thoughts?

Also, anyone has recos of any close by nursery which are good for trees? I nearly had a heart attack when I saw how much trees cost.

Thanks so much, I really feel bad that I have nothing much I can contribute to everyone here.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 1:05AM
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I think my landscaping skills are probably totally absent, Alice. Or, they are rusted completely thru.

I have only planted 2 trees (both peach) over the last 25 years. Perennials in my yard are in beds near the fence, "tall in the back, short in the front." Fill in with annuals every spring and mix colors enuf so there's no apparent "scheme" to things.

I began planting a fruit orchard out of my own yard into the yard at Dad's "new" home about 40 years ago. Mom and I put some evergreens in their front yard 30 to 40 years ago . . . so much for my "practice" . . .

You will have plenty to contribute as you practice filling the yard of your new home! (Personally, they allow me to hang around on RMG but in truth, I'm pretty much just olde and in the way.)


    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 7:18AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Is OLDE Digit bothering you around here, Alice? LOL!

If your hanging out here is bothering people because youre olde, Digit, than I think I had better just quietly go away! I believe we determined at some point that IÂm considerably olde-er than you! Not to mention that if you stopped "getting in the way" around here, half the time there wouldnÂt be anybody around here to "get in the way of!" When things slow down and I donÂt have time to post, itÂs always nice to see you showing up with something!

And, Alice, yours is one of the threads IÂve been wanting to reply toÂbut I do admit that when I first saw your landscape plan I thought: Help? You donÂt need any help! Your sketch is FAR superior to most of the landscape sketches I saw from REAL landscapers when I was working in the Green Industry! You go, girl! [AndÂhowÂd you do that??? Is it a computer program?]

I do have a couple comments, and I donÂt have much time right now, so I may be more brief, and sound more abrupt than usual. If I donÂt make something clear, just ask!

I TOTALLY agree with Pumpkin about the yarrow! Some people love itÂBonnie/HighAlt out in Silt has several different varietiesÂbut I consider it to be totally invasive, and even tho I really like the colors of a few of the varieties, I wouldnÂt put it in. But Achillea millefolium is the one thatÂs so invasive. There are a coupleÂif you like yellowÂthat wouldnÂt take over your yard. Achillea ÂAnthea (pale yellow) is a pretty one, and Achillea ÂMoonshine (bright yellow) is another that wonÂt take over everything. Then thereÂs another one weÂve discussed around here before: Achillea filipendulina ÂParkerÂs Variety (gold) that some people really like, but every time IÂve seen it itÂs been tall and floppyÂand, I thought, ugly! There may be newer varieties now that are more contained, but stay away from the millefoliums if you donÂt want it going all over the placeÂthey spread and can reseed too!

If the shasta daisies youÂre planning to put in are the tall type, I VERY highly recommend you use ÂBeckyÂ. ItÂs far and away the best tall varietyÂstrong, upright stems with large flowers. ÂAlaska is the variety youÂll find being sold most often, but it just doesnÂt come up to the quality of ÂBeckyÂ!
Click to enlarge

Which Tanacetum are you thinking of?

Which type of Dianthus are you thinking of?

The tall balloon flowers may need stakingÂdepends on soil, water and light conditions.

Do you know thereÂs a short balloon flower? Platycodon grandiflorus ÂSentimental BlueÂÂI love it! And a semi-dwarf one, P. g. ÂMariesiiÂÂalso blueÂhavenÂt grown that one!
I think I got better pics (more flowers) of this one this year, but theyÂre not in Web Albums ready to post yet!

If youÂre talking about one of the short Gaillardias, I love the uniqueness of ÂFanfareÂ!

There are LOTS of different alliums. Check them all out and mix and match them. This one is called ÂStar of Persia and I got it from someone at the Fall Swap in Â08.

Grape hyacinths spread! Not necessarily bad! The bulbs multiply, like all bulbs, but they also drop seeds, which seem to spread further from the original plant than you might expect them toÂat least further than I ever expected them to!

If itÂs the tall garden phlox youÂre talking about, they tend to be very susceptible to mildew. There are some mildew "resistant" varieties, which may or may not help. Keeping them well watered so they donÂt get stressed may help the most of all! They really are prettyÂif they still have leaves to go along with the flowers!

I should know about tree peonies, but canÂt seem to remember anything right now! What was that I said about being olde? If you happen to go to PaulinoÂs for something, call to see if CherylÂs there first, and ask her to tell you about tree peoniesÂand the other different typesÂand get her recommendations for wind, light, water conditions. Tell her Dee sent you! "Regular" peonies do wonderfully out here in full sun! They need a peony ring to keep the flowers upright, but they grow well!

About the hydrangea, IÂm not sure what to tell you! I had one that was in here when I bought the house. Full sun on the south side, and I watered it a lot. It grew beautifully every year, got HUGE white flowers, and then the first rain would saturate the flowers making them so heavy they bent over and broke offÂALL of them ( I had them caged/tied). A couple years ago I couldnÂt stand to watch the destruction anymore, and I gave it to Cheryl. I think she has it in more shade, and I donÂt know how sheÂs watering it, but I think sheÂs having better luck. (Will need to remember to ask her when I see her next week!) So if you do go to PaulinoÂs, ask her about her white hydrangea tooÂand how itÂs doing, and if the flowers have ever broken down when they got wet! (The hydrangeas are sold in the nurseryÂsheÂs in charge of perennialsÂso she wonÂt know as much about them, but she can tell you how herÂs has been doing in the last couple years!

Hydrangea  07.02.07

Hydrangea  07.11.07

Hydrangea  07.11.07

Watch for trees on sale RIGHT NOW. If you wait for spring, theyÂll be full price everywhere. There is a tree nursery up north of Denver that people have talked about, but I canÂt remember the name of it (I donÂt "do" trees!). Maybe somebody will be along to help. Or search JUST THIS FORUM for tree nurseries or something like that.


..........please donÂt be afraid to join in with ideas and suggestions when people are asking things. What we ALL post here is just our own opinions on what somebody should do or try. Sometimes so many people post so many different possibilities that whoever originally asked for ideas winds up more confused than they were to start with! ThatÂs not all bad! You just take all the suggestions, eliminate the ones you donÂt like at all, and then narrow the rest down to the ones you want to try firstÂwith a backup list a mile long! At least you never run out of ideas around hereÂas long as everybody keeps chiming inÂand that includes you. No special expertise needed! :-)

Welcome to RMG,

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 4:56PM
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Thanks so so much! I really appreciate all your helpful suggestions. LOL! I guess my attempt at landscape drawing threw everyone off. Digit, you can only gain more knowledge and experience with age so I envy you and I would ask my folks but like I said their idea of gardening is sticking something in the ground, constant weeding and running out with buckets and shovel when the cow herd passes by!

Skybird - thanks for sharing your knowledge and kind compliment and pictures! I did use a software but it really isn't intended for landscaping planning. I had to draw up plans to SCALE for the pesky HOA for approval after my husband told me how much it was to hire a landscape place to do it! so it was an easy and fun enough addition of the "plant" bits. Moreover I am a commercial designer so I have tools and I guess I used my design instinct to sort of figure out placement etc. The issue is that I don't know about plants at all, just how they look in catalogs and I really hate "killing" plants. I used to go around watering plants around the library when I was in college and everyone thought I was strange.

Anyways thanks for the tip on hydrangeas, I'll take my chances since I fell in love with them the first time I saw them at my uncle's house living in NZ. I am a little worried that it is in full hot sun all day. About peonies, I will stop by Paulino's which I saw signs last week going down to Denver and hopefully they'll have some in stock. As mentioned, it gets incredibly windy here and I am worried the herbaceous type would be blown to shreds.

Note taken on the yarrow and grape hyacinth! maybe I'll plant the yarrow in the weed factory next door to us, I rather see yarrow than weeds! About trees, a year ago when I moved here, I couldn't tell the difference between a spruce and a pine! and again pesky HOA rules and restrictions about type of trees, shrub, size, numbers allowed and BS etc.!

So question is that with the plants where they are, are the sun conditions good or bad? The yard is basically facing West with no obstructions. The front of the porch is shaded in the morning and gets blasted with sun from about noon on wards. the side of it well pretty much gets full sun all day long.

More Qs! - I plan on seeding the dianthus (no clue what variety!! so many and so pretty!!) and Shasta, Columbine ( I thought it would grow well here since it's a native plant no??) Tanacetum (I saw these link below and looks amazing!!)

Thanks so much for all your input really really appreciate it. Maybe next year I'll have something to share at your swaps.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 1:46AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Alice,

First offbefore I forgetyou dont need to have any plants to go to the swap! EVERYBODY is invited, with or without plants! Dont have time to repeat it all here, but Ill link the swap thread on the bottom. Im not able to go to this one, but if you decide to go, there are WAY plenty of plants to go around. Check out the details on the Swap thread!

Now, regarding the yarrow, if you plant it in the vacant lot, theres a pretty good chance its gonna wind up in your yard somewhere anyway! Im serious! But, if youre serious about doing it, it should grow there very well, even without any water! The stuff will grow pretty much anywhere. So if you decide to pick some pretty colors and put some in, just keep an eye out for seedlings in your yard so you can pull them when theyre still young.

Re the Tanacetumthe common name for that one is painted daisy. I LOVE it, but the picture is not reality based! Thats how the flowers look, but Ive never seen that many blooming on one plant all at the same time. I have one I got at one of last years swaps thats doing pretty well, and another one I got at this springs swapthat bloomed a little bit and died! I was sad about that! But for youtheyre easy to start from seed, and start more than one seed in a pot to get as "dense" a plant as possible. If you get mixed seed, youll most likely wind up with the lighter pink ones, so if you for sure want the darker ones, see if you can find a pack of seed for that color. Whichever you get, youll be glad you have them! Theyre not xeric and will need regular wateringDEEP watering about every week to week and a half.

Totally different Tanacetum, but cool in a very different way, is Tanacetum densum. It often goes by the common name, Partridge Feather. TOTALLY xeric! I dont think the flowers are that great at all, but the foliage is WAY cool, and it REALLY does look like feathers. I dont have time to live link it, but heres a pic. (I dont have one yet, but its on my "list!")

There are LOTS of wonderful Dianthus! Not xeric. I recommend Sweet Williams, Dianthus barbatus to start with. VERY easy to start from seed and grow. Technically a biennial, so start one year, blooms the next, and then its best to start more to keep them looking good. It is possible to keep the same ones going for more than two years, but its a real pain to try to keep them looking good. They come in tall (18") and short (6-12") varieties. The tall ones are GREAT long lasting cutflowers, if you have enough to cut. And they attract hummingbirds. Easy to save seed to keep starting more for successive years.
Im not gonna have time till after I get back from my vacation in September, but if youre still looking for things, Ill come back and post pics of some of my Sweet Williams.

Grape hyacinths are still nice, but youll probably wind up digging them up here and there after a couple years to replant them or throw them away. There are lots of other great spring bulbs too: crocus, hyacinths, daffodils, which I love! Tulips are pretty too, but I dont do them because of the larger size foliage that you need to leave on till it at least starts to yellow after theyre done blooming. The crocus, dafs and hyacinth foliage just doesnt seem as "visible" to me while its dying down. Lots of other "small" spring bulbs too. Id stick a few of "something" in this fall to give you a start. Just be sure you put a stake or some kind of marker in where you plant them so you dont accidentally dig into them when youre planting other things! And remember that they "go away" over summer, so you can plant them close to other things!

About the peonies, if youre talking about looking for TREE peonies this weekend, I can pretty much 99.9% guarantee you they dont have any left for this year. They dont get that many in in spring, and they usually go pretty fast. Im sure their perennials have been on sale for a while already now, and Id be absolutely amazed if they had any left. And Im not so sure a tree peony is gonna do that well out there in full sun and the wind anyway, so Id do a little more checking on that one before you spend the moneytheyre not cheap! If you go, ask if Cheryls there and have them page her if she is. I dont know about the "grown up" size of the tree peonies.

When I looked at your original post after I posted above, I realized that the corner where youre planning to put the hydrangea, shasta, and columbine is the corner youre hoping to keep dry. None of those things are at all xeric, and you may want to consider rearranging some of your things and using xeric stuff in that corner. Russian sage is a xeric staple, and can be quite showy, and there are a bunch of different Agastaches you could use. Possibly one of those two yellow yarrows. The Gaillardia is considered to be xeric, tho it does tend to look wilted in the heat of the day. English lavender is xeric. Penstemon, Salvia, goldenrod, upright sedums. There are lots of possibilities that would be xeric for that corner if you want to go that way. Some of the ornamentsl grasses are xeric too, and a large grass could make a nice statement in that corner. But just to be sure, do you know that things arent xeric, or drought resistant until after theyre "established?" That generally means about a year, and they need to be watered correctly so they develop a good, deep root system to make them truly xeric.

Except for the hydrangea, which I really dont think liked my full sun, and the tree peony, which I think I maybe remember prefers some shade at our altitude, everything else you have on your plan will love the full sun.

I dont think youll be able to get seed for Becky" shastanot sure (but I may have someplantsat next springs swap!).

Most columbine is easy to start from seed. You might want to watch for Bonnies Winter Sowing thread this winter! Its an easy way to start things over winteroutsidethat you might want to try. If youre curious, search for winter sowing on just this forum for her past threads.

And she also does a seed exchange over the winter that you might want to watch for. Ill be giving away Aquilegia chrysantha seeds again, and lavender if you decide to try that.

You may not believe it yet, but, take my word for it, you DO have something to contribute here! Even just in doing what youre doing right now, youre learning things that will be able to help somebody else sometime! And if youve been researching for six months, I suspect you already know more than you realize!

If you have any questions that I can answer QUICKLY, Ill be back in the next week to help. If its something thats gonna take a while that I can help with, Ill give you a heads up that Ill be back when I get back from vacation if nobody else has answered in the meantime! Youve got all winter to plan most of this stuff, so at least theres time.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 3:49AM
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I may have been on that "trail drive" that went past your parents' home, Alice.

It was a 2 man, 1 dog operation . . . I usually had drag, on foot with the blue healer or border collie. Our plan was to keep the cows moving as fast as possible (without them actually running, it seemed like they were always pregnant), and leaving as little incrementing evidence of their passing as possible.

Evidence like tracks in the lawns, half-eaten bushes, and those other "trail markers." It never occurred to me that an appreciative someone might be out later with a bucket and shovel!

Riding point in the pickup was preferable, oh yeah! Mostly it was getting out of the cab every 50 yards and yelling, "Here, Boss! Heeere! Boss, booss, booss, baaaahhss!"


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 7:18AM
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Would love to come to the SWAP but I suspect I'll be rock building which came to a screeching halt this weekend when the landscape supplier we're ordering stuff from doesn't have the ability to cut one step to size for us! So back to square one with the wall plans.

So we went to visit a few nurseries this weekend mainly to find our pear tree and after going through all their leftover perennials, all planning is out of the door! LOL! again with your recos, I came home with penstemons and an ornamental oregano (Origanum Herrenhaus) and hubby wants a grass there but haven't decided yet on which one. Possibly planning Siberian irises to break up the shrubby forms and I read in a book that the foliage stays green and upright after flowering and I think that will take care of that corner spot. Oh! yes I am deciding to replace the hydrangea with a Buddleia instead (any thoughts - anyone?). I was excited and wanted to get started on the plants which will take several years to establish but I think I can place the hydrangea in the back yard where it receives morning sun and shaded in the afternoon. That will be next year!

Skybird- I will go to Paulino's and ask for Cheryl about tree peonies. Although my instinct tells me that it could be a tad windy where I like to have it. Might have to go in the backyard since there is a somewhat sheltered place on the NE corner. *Sigh* guess that will have to wait for next year. Anyways it is an expensive investment and we wound up getting trees for the backyard as well with a BOGO deal from this place in Longmont on Rt. 52 (The Tree Farm). Even with this deal, we've been classified from poor to poorer!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 4:48PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

If you're considering them, here's a great reference chart for the different grasses!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 8:23PM
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Thanks Skybird. Wow! Super useful information but so much more varieties to choose from. Yikes!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 11:29PM
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