Monday, April 6, 2015

The Always Unfinished Flower Garden

Some of you may remember that I promised myself I was going to finish my flower garden last year. After working away for the past 4 years I swore up and down that 2014 was the year I would finally complete it.

Siberian Iris 'Caesar's Brother' and perennial Bachelor's Button in June
I'm here to report.  That didn't happen.

This garden is taking off at the speed of a turtle stuck in a pool of honey.  It started out 5 years ago as a small circle around a forlorn apple tree and I thought, well that's just too small.  It looks out of scale against this large house.  So I enlarged it.  A lot.  It's now 50 feet long and 25 feet wide.

It's not that the size was a bad idea.  I love how big it is.  Passerbys can see it from the street.  I can see it from inside the house through my bay windows.  But I didn't take into account how much work it would be to plant all that space.

Oh I tried.  I dug and dug, put in yards of compost and plants.  I have had some good results.  One end of the bed is fully planted and even starting to mature a bit.

The original starting point around the apple tree is now filled in with flowers
I'm quite pleased with some of the plant pairings.  Siberian Iris 'Caesar's Brother' and 'Snow Queen' look wonderful together.


 Late in the season Autumn Joy sedum and blue fescue combine for a cool autumn look.


 This unplanned collaboration of Jupiter's Beard and Evening Primrose was a lovely surprise.


The problem was I didn't plant enough plants, nor did I mulch.  And so the weeds took over. For the last couple seasons I have been battling weeds in an attempt to gain my garden back.

those aren't flowers, those are WEEDS
I came close.  There is just a small corner of the garden left to dig over.  I'm ready for that corner this year.  I have bags of mulch on hand ready to fight the good fight, and I have pre-purchased plants so once the ground is dug the space will be promptly filled.


 the left side looks good but the right needs some work
Part of what is slowing me down is that in addition to digging out the weed filled areas I'm constantly assessing and reviewing what I've already done.  It's hard to finish the whole garden when I keep going back and changing things.

That's a garden though isn't it?  As it matures we realize what works and what doesn't.  There's one thing I found that I really don't like.  What do you think of these?

Rudbeckia hirta
It's not that I don't like Rudbeckia.  In fact they're great flowers.  The bees love them and they grow easily from seed.  But they are SOOO ORANGE.  At least they look really orange when they're planted next to a bright pink flower.

Filipendula and Rudbeckia clashing in the August garden
These seeds were originally tossed in as filler and I think it's high time I removed them.  Jody likes them but every time I look at those flowers I cringe.  I have yellow in the garden but the Rudbeckia is not the right shade of yellow in my eyes.  What's your opinion, would you pull them or keep them?

Another issue that was giving me trouble was the spring flowers.  Originally I planted spring blooms all over the bed thinking I should spread them out.  It didn't work.  Cushion spurge sat alone in an island of not quite living perennials.  Tulips sprang out of a sea of dead foliage and looked quite lonely.  So I moved them all.  Grouping them together in one section I planted anemone and columbine, spurge, February daphne, tulips and daffodils.

Anemone are early bloomers in my garden
I'm hoping for a spring explosion this year.  I don't want to hunt and peck all over my garden looking for flowers.  With any luck this will give more impact in one area and later in the season the other areas will take over.

Columbine are the first blooms to follow the bulbs
And so you see why this is taking so long.  I make a choice and then I take it back.  And then I change my mind again.  By the time I get settled the weeds are back and we start all over again.  Wish me luck trying to 'finish' my flower garden this year. 

44 comments:

  1. I absolutely love the rudbeckia!!! I think the unexpected POP of colour is stunning, they make me happy :)

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    1. I see what you mean, they do catch the eye from a distance. I'm still sitting on the fence though. One minute I think they're fine and the next I feel the need to rip them out.

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  2. Hah! A garden is never finished. Unless, perhaps, you are a garden designer with many years if experience, a large budget, and its not your garden... I'm almost completely reworking one border this year, as I think I can do a lot better, and it is supposed to be my main focus this year. So why do I keep eyeing up the large border I planted up last year, thinking about moving and swapping out plants? And why am I more interested in tweaking another corner of the most established bed?!

    Incidentally, I think you are right to concentrate most of your spring plants in one main area and then allow focus to move on, though I'd always suggest filling gaps around later growing perennials with spring bulbs. After all, otherwise it is bare soil and an invitation to the weeds. Good luck with those weeds. I'd keep nthe rudbekia and move the paler pink flowering plant to a cooler area, and replace it with something in shocking pink, monarda, perhaps. But then I love bright orange and shocking pink together...

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    1. Janet, your gardens are beautiful, you have a great eye for colours. So I'm glad to hear you still have the urge to change things up in your own beds even after you think you're done. Good tip about the bulbs, I need to mark out some of the areas this spring for fall planting. I forgot to do that last year and when I went to plant bulbs I had no idea where to put them. Thanks for the thoughts on the rudbeckia as well, I'm listening to all suggestions and hoping I come to some sort of conclusion when it's time to get out and garden.

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  3. I remember when you started planting flowers - and frankly - it looks delightful. While you are still at the weed mulch fill stage, I'd welcome anything like the Rudbeckia which is happy and flowers. Going forward as you add happy plants that make you happy, thin out the Rudbeckia to its own small patch for Jody to enjoy. I have torn out Buddleja monsters, but left one, where Chocolat likes to tuck himself away in a deep green corner. And I have the unwanted Bougainvillea and Buddleja in an exuberant vase in our all white bathroom.

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    1. aww thanks Diana, you've literally watched this garden grow over the last 5 years. internet is amazing! maybe that's the key, thin the plants out a bit at a time and replace. Maybe in the end I won't get rid of them all but there'll be some balance.

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  4. you can delete this - but to answer your comment on mine -

    for what are readers looking for, I read between the lines - which post are they coming to. Do they dip in, and out? Do they linger to read that post? The rare reader putters around from post to post and reads, and reads ... Google analytics does give some feedback - 10 people searched for Hibiscus tiliaceus, and 2 clicked on my post. If they searched for ... and did NOT click, perhaps I can rework that post.

    The old posts I deleted are - fluff, link dropping. I've also gathered up a few small posts - from when I was dutifully trying to Post Every Day - and reworked them into one proper post. Everything I've written about blogging is now this single post. My blog is virtual, live, not an archive. If Google Reader is sunsetted, that post is no longer of any use or interest.

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    1. Thanks so much for the info Diana! I hadn't considered it but you're right, the posts with the most views will tell me indirectly what people are searching for. and I see how combining some posts would make sense, as you add information keep it together rather than having to search for 3 different posts.

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  5. The pictures of your garden are lovely, but I have to say that gardening is a never ending process. There is always something you want to change and weeds are returning year after year.
    Your Rudbeckias are doing great, but if you don´t like them, torn out a lot of them but leave some for Jody. Do you have Michaelmas daisies? They all have nice colours from white, pink to lilica and purple. Many varieties with different heights and flowering from August to November. Especially the dark coloured ones combine beautifully with the Rudbeckias.
    Wish you a lot of success with digging, weeding, planting, sowing and enjoying your garden!

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    1. Thank you Janneke, I don't know why I think I need to 'finish' this garden. Gardens really are about the ongoing process aren't they? I had to think what Michaelmas daisies were... of course Asters! I don't have any yet but ordered some just recently! Smaller ones though for edging. But that was something I considered, a similar plant to the rudbeckia but a different colour.

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  6. You have some lovely planting marguerite and some lovely plants.
    Doing battle with the weeds is constant and exhausting, isn't it! Sometimes we win and sometimes they win ! I guess a garden is never really 'finished' and that is one of the reasons why we love them, I'm forever changing and tweaking and ripping out and replanting.

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    1. part of the addiction I think too! The constant changes keep us on our toes and keep us coming back for more. The weeds really are a battle aren't they? Just when I think I've gotten it under control....

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  7. I didn't know one could finish a garden. ha... I like the rudebekia.Pink and orange are two of my favorite colors. I think they go together fine. I hope your snow has melted. I bet your are chomping at the bit to get after those weeds.

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    1. so I'm learning Lisa!! I guess I would like to see this bed fully planted maybe as opposed to finished. Mostly so I can move on to other beds. I'm not opposed to pink and orange either but in this case there's something about the combination that's not quite sitting right with me. Definitely chomping at the bit but we've a long way to go. The snowbanks are still taller than me in many places.

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  8. A garden can never be finished. I have a lot more time now that my kids are still grown but even so it will never be complete. As for changing your mind, that is the gardener's prerogative. Have you read the book 'Plantiful', which talks about using spreading plants to fill beds?

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    1. I haven't read that book Jason but thanks for the tip. I probably could have used more spreading plants when I first started out. Living mulch is much cheaper than the hundreds of bags of wood mulch I've had to purchase.

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  9. I think you are too critical. It looks very good already. All the work you put in it shows.

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    1. That's sweet Alain, thank you. maybe I should stop comparing my garden to the ones in the magazines? It's a bit like comparing myself to a 20 year old model, that's just not who I am.

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  10. I don't think a garden is ever "done." Besides, what would you do with yourself if it was done lol! (I know...move onto the next project :)

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    1. read my mind Jane! I have an idea for a companion garden to this one.

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  11. I agree with Alain. I love rudbeckia but if it makes you cringe then move it somewhere else. But I wouldn't get rid of it since it's such a great pollinator plant. Definitely mulch!! It will slow down the weeds and make the garden more manageable. You might like rudbeckia 'Irish Eyes' better. It's very yellow and has huge flowers.

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    1. Tammy, I had a similar idea. I like the rudbeckia but if I could find a softer yellow one it might solve the issue. I really do like these plants but some days I find the combination jarring. and I love a plant that brings bees to my garden.

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  12. Hi,
    I like the rudbeckia. And I think your garden is beautiful!
    Keep up the good work. And I do agree with others that said, I do not know if a garden is ever done.
    I know I always think I am done with a garden, but something happens. ;-) I want to change a color or add more plants.
    xx oo
    Carla

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    1. Thanks Carla, I don't expect the garden to be done really. I guess what I'm aiming for is to get the basic layout complete. But I can't even seem to get that far since I get distracted so easily! Already I'm planning to renovate sections that are more or less finished.

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  13. Where would be the fun in owning a so-called finished garden? It's all very well for non-gardeners, but those of us who garden would get very bored and we would probably be ripping up lawn for new borders within days of supposed completion.

    I think that you are right to fill your border with plants as soon as possible. Gappy borders which are still filling out are jolly hard work. I can't see if you have Cosmos in the border - if not (and you are able to grow it), it is a cheap and effective way of covering lots of soil while the other plants fill their space.

    Strangely enough, I suspect that your problem with the orange is that the pink next to it isn't quite strong enough to create a jaw-dropping clash, so in my humble opinion it is probably worth moving one of them.

    Have fun!

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    1. ahh Sarah, that's just it. I want to rip out more lawn and this garden is holding me up! Love the idea of cosmos as filler, the pink and white ones would fit well with my colour scheme. I see what you're saying about the pink and orange. Maybe it isn't that the orange is overall so bad, it's current next door neighbour doesn't mix well though.

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  14. I think you should ease up on yourself. Your garden is really coming together.
    Gardening is like housework- it's never finished! I am forever moving things around and tweaking combinations. But that being said, I understand the need to feel the garden is "finished". What I think you want is to be happy with it.
    I think mulch will be a life saver in terms of the weeds. Put on a good thick layer. I find it is easiest to spread when it is dry. I also tramp it down with my foot to make it more of a solid barrier.
    I'd move the Rudbeckia somewhere else or get rid of it. It's a nice flower, but one will clash with pink neighbours. I think it looks good with ornamental grasses and sedum. Perhaps there is another area in which you could use them?
    I have to say that your pictures of the garden look great. I always love that little fish swimming around in the flowers.

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    1. Thanks Jennifer, I love that fish too. You're right, I will probably be tweaking this garden forever but I would love to be able to move on to other projects and put this aside. I think you're right about the pink neighbours, I've planted a lot of pink in this garden and the rudbeckia doesn't complement them.

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  15. More Orange in the garden I say!! here here!! More glare and uplifting color. As you say, your eye keeps going to the rudbeckia. I'm with Jody on this one, and we know he has an artist's eye. What about partnering it with Heleniums and perhaps a Miscanthus like Flame Grass. Also, I agree with Sarah, and it would be the pink I would move. Also, billowing cosmos would be lovely and structural in the center and near the Rudbeckia. Have fun with this!!xo

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    1. Another vote for the Rudbeckia, I'm not surprised Brenda, you do love your orange. I think the rudbeckia is great, but in another area perhaps. I have a purple ninebark that would look good with it and I could add some grasses...

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  16. I suffer the same malady with my west-facing bed! Last year I ended up with alliums buried under hostas because the hostas came up before the alliums had a chance. This year I'm going to get it right...... ;-)

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    1. It doesn't always work out the way we have it in our heads does it? So many different factors to consider when gardening. I'm sure you'll figure it out. We'll both just have to readjust a little bit.

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  17. Marguerite, Several people have already imparted the wisdom that a garden is never finished -- but it's worse than that: If, somehow and against all odds, you actually finish your garden, then you have to sell your house and start over somewhere else! :-) -Jean

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    1. LOL, too true Jean! I said something similar recently about house renovations. If we ever get all the renos done that will surely be the time when we have to move.

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  18. Marguerite girl .. you are too hard on yourself ! Look at what amazing work you have accomplished with such a large area ... you did GOOD!!
    And .. never mind what others think of a particular plant .. well maybe a bit for Jody ... but your garden has to make YOU happy, so choose what makes you HAPPY !! .. and you know a garden is always in flux .. constantly changing because of our choices and because of so many other elements that make that change for us .. weather, insects, plant failure with no explanation .. so many things we can't control.
    So try to relax more about this bed and go with an easier flow to it.
    Thank you for the compliments on my tiny dry stream bed .. it is tiny but I get a kick out of it .. and that is what we need in our gardens .. an area to make us smile .. right ? LOL
    Joy : )

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    1. I guess it's a matter of perspective isn't it? I see weeds. Lots of weeds LOL. This has been good though, I'm really enjoying reading people's comments on this post. So many good suggestions here and I'm surprised how many like the orange. It's made me rethink things and try and see it from another perspective and that's always a good thing. You're right though, ultimately I need to be happy and I'm thinking red instead of orange. Red bee balm specifically ......

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  19. It's gorgeous...and the Rudies....I love them. See here, we get blisteringly hot summers and anything delicate is fading like a Southern Belle at a plant sale in August. So any plant that can survive that is my friend. What about some blue? Perfect contrast to the "they are so orange."

    It's a stunning garden....and I hear you about the weeds, and the weeds...and the weeds.

    Jen

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    1. Thanks Jen, weeds just never go away do they. Unfortunately mine really got away from me and it's a thick weed carpet now. Much work to be done but the sun has arrived now!

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  20. I vote for keeping some rudies, either thinning them out or giving them a place of their own. The magic word was, the BEES like them and we need to honor our bees..I brought several nesting spruces with me from Ontario, ever thought of them..great fillers..Think if any of my flower-beds were ever done, I'd panic and dig up more! Before I mulch, I put old shingles down..it does help..My flower bed around my apple tree is large too but filling up fast..We will never run out of new plants that we just have to have so you will get it filled in time..be kinder to yourself and happy gardening if this snow ever leaves! Lannie

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    1. hmmm, another votes for those rudbeckia. Seems everyone prefers them except me!! Thinking I'll keep them but move them elsewhere. I'm still not convinced they're right in this bed.

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  21. I'm a bit late to this stream but I, too, remind that a garden is never done, and think keeping the rudbeckia is the way to go. Just offset the orange elsewhere and add some dark blue/purple blooms to complement the orange you don't like. I'm not an orange fan either but, when matched with deep blue or purple orange is stunning. Oh yeah ... we always notice the weeds in our own gardens and the flowers in other's gardens. It must be the nature of an avid gardener.

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    1. I'm beginning to suspect there's a conspiracy afoot to keep those rudbeckia. Did they come knocking at your door begging for your help?? I'm still not sold on keeping them in this bed but somewhere else mixed with purple I can do. Thanks for the tip!

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  22. One of the things I learned after a few years of gardening is that a garden is never finished. I am ready to revamp the first flowerbed I planted when we moved here ten years ago. In fact, I vowed to do it last year, but didn't get it done--2015 will be the year!:) I have trouble removing plants even if I'm not sure I like them. I understand your feelings about the rudbeckia; maybe you could move it to another place?

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    1. That's exactly my conflict Rose. I love all plants and have a hard time removing things. I think the rudbeckia are going to move elsewhere. I like them but I have too much pink in this border that conflict with them.

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