Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Flower Bed

Although the mornings are frosty the afternoons are still bright and warm.  So the gardening season is still ongoing.  I looked at my compost bins last weekend and realized they were full.  Both of them.  So much for building two extra large bins.

The bin on the left is very near capacity but the bin on the right has gradually sunk down over the last couple months.  The compost is still quite 'chunky' and I had intended to leave it over the winter but as I've run out of space a new plan had to be formulated.

Over the summer I've accumulated a few plants.  Well, to be perfectly honest, I may have made a newbie beginner's mistake.  Or maybe it was just the mistake of an overly anxious, terribly excited gardener.  The fact is I bought way too many plants.  Many of you are probably saying to yourselves - Ridiculous!  How can you have too many plants?!  When you haven't got a place to put them, you have too many plants.  The fact is I should have spent all my efforts creating beds this year but I couldn't resist and I purchased plants and had no place to put them.  The result is I've dumped hoards of plants in one, much too small, bed.  These plants will start to expand next spring and my problem will be compounded.

What to do?  Build a new bed now so I can start moving plants in the spring.  And stop buying plants.  (well, okay, maybe that's pushing it, but I definitely need a new flower bed).

After seeing how well the grass decomposed underneath my raised vegetable beds I wondered if I couldn't just pile that half finished compost on some grass and create a new bed.  Lay down some newspaper and pile the compost on top.  If I do it now, by June it will have sat for 7 months, that should be enough time for the grass to die and then I can just dig in some plants.  But where to put it?

I had previously contemplated putting a bed for cutting flowers along the side of the garage.  But I worried that the garage might get moved and then I realized that this spot only receives morning sun.  It is completely shaded in the afternoons which isn't good for a lot of flowers.
Morning sun, but in shade during the afternoons
However, on the far side of the garage the sun beats against the building all afternoon.  Unfortunately I can't see this spot from the house but the entrance to the garage is on this side and flowers would certainly liven it up and make it more welcoming.

But what about moving the garage?  Well, what we've decided is that we'd really like to move the garage.  But the cost is somewhat prohibitive and we have A LOT of other things to spend money on that are higher priority.  Things like a new roof, replacing the porch, renovating the kitchen, etc.  So the garage will stay put for now, or possibly permanently.  Either way, I'm going to make it more cozy so I can enjoy it now and if it moves a few years down the road so be it.

Work has now begun with sheets of newspaper being laid down, followed by 5 or 6 inches of half finished compost.  I believe the combination of newspaper topped with compost will keep the light out thereby killing the grass.  My hope is to come back in June and turn the soil over and then start planting.

The first buckets of compost have been laid out.
I have a couple high priority plants intended for this spot.  First is the plume poppy.  I bought this tiny plant at a local perennial plant sale in the spring thinking it was a regular poppy.  It's not.  It's a slightly invasive oversized perennial that reaches up to 8 feet tall.  Over the course of the summer it grew from 6 inches to 3 or 4 feet high and wide.  It's overtaken the bed I popped it into and desperately needs its own space.  Sticking it behind the garage seems like a suitable spot.  I can't see it from the house and if it turns into a monster, well, out of sight out of mind.

What could I possibly put with such a large formidable plant?  Hollyhocks.  My mother has red hollyhocks that she has taken with her from house to house over the years and this past summer she took seed from her plants and posted them to me.  Hollyhocks will start to bloom their second year in the ground so I would like to start these seeds as soon as possible.  They can also grow up to 6 feet high and have large leaves so they shouldn't look out of place next to the plume poppy.  The red flowers may even complement the poppy's purple tinted foliage.  There are other plants that might make an appearance in this bed but for now I'd be pleased just to get the poppy moved.


  1. Thanks to your post yesterday I spent several very enjoyable hours on the MacPhail website last night researching native trees and shrubs in advance of creating my own "productive acre". Can't wait to start buying trees and shrubs. We have a small forest but want to increase its size and grow "fuelwood" as well.

  2. Marguerite, I always find fall a great time to put new flower beds in; it's a gorgeous time of year to be outside, and without the insect hordes of early summer. The plume poppy and hollyhocks sound perfect for this garage location. I can't wait to see what it looks like next year. -Jean

  3. For my garden, morning sun and shade in the afternoon is PERFECT! That is the part of the garden where all my plants would like to be ;>)

  4. I've done exactly what you're doing to create new beds and it works perfectly. In the spring you'll be so pleased that you took the time now to lay out the newspaper & compost.

    Like you, I bought way more plants this year than I should have. I spent time today planting some new shrubs - OK, first I scouted out where to plant them...

  5. You have a wonderful structure, and I wouldn't move it. It's not a garage, it wants to be a garden shed, that's why it wandered so far away from the house and has no driveway. With gardens around it like you are building it will look lovely. And a curving walk through the field from house to shed with a stop at the vegetable garden. And a few trees along the path. And a shrub layer. You clearly do not have enough plants (!) for such a plan, so you'll need MORE! That structure will make such a nice focal point with a little more planting around it and leading to it.

  6. I love the idea of having a tucked away garden space where you can experiment with bold plants and not worry about things. Have fun with it! :)

  7. I build my new beds the same way although I dig up the turf and flip it over then lay down the newspaper and soil. Can't wait to see pictures next year.

  8. Jane - Isn't their website wonderful!! There's so much great information there about reforestation, renovating hedgerows and native plants. And the nursery contains trees, shrubs and wildflowers. It's an amazing resource for us islanders.

    Jean - You're very right! It's so much easier to work in the cool air with no bugs. I find I can be outside for much longer periods and I'm able to get more done. I'm just worried about getting everything in order before the snow flies.

    Diana - It's funny how different our worlds are. Here morning sun is barely warm enough and I can only grow shade lovers in that spot.

    Debbie - I'm so glad to hear this technique has worked for you. It's got me thinking why I didn't start doing it this way from the beginning! It's a lot less back breaking than removing the sod.

    Laurrie - You read my mind! I have some visions of adding a few trees in the background of the garage and was thinking of a shrub border lining the way to it. Possibly berry bushes like black currant. As well as expanding the vegetable garden.

    Ms.S - Thank you. I thought it might be kind of fun in a way, as you round the corner to be confronted by these massive colourful plants. They would be so large and imposing otherwise and to 'hide' them amuses me. It makes it kind of a secret garden.

  9. Melanie - I thought about digging up the grass but I hurt my back last weekend and didn't have the capacity to do it. I'm crossing my fingers this will be okay although it may require some digging in the spring.

  10. Hurray for new garden beds...always a good thing. To go along with the plume poppy, you need other strong stemmed, robust perennials--globe thistle (Echinops), some of the taller miscanthus, hollyhocks, monkshood, and a couple of the big hostas which will laugh at that shady time of day. Also a couple of the tall daylilies...Nancy Oakes can help with those!

  11. Jodi - Thanks for the suggestions! I was thinking the bed would need to be rounded out a bit but wasn't sure what else would make sense. We will likely be ripping out our front porch next summer and there's a massive hosta that will need to be relocated during the project, this would be a great spot! I also like the thought of globe thistle. I've always admired these plants but have never grown them. and this might also be a good opportunity to visit Red Lane nursery for the first time.

  12. Thanks for sharing dear you are really doing a wonderful job.

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