A small sad bed turns happy

I don't know how it is in your garden, but in mine my planting beds get changed a lot. I'll put together what I think is a fantastic bed, and a year or two or three later it's a mess. Plants have died, others have gotten too big, weeds have taken over, plants are struggling due to too much shade -- for whatever the reason, some beds just need to be redone every few years. I've already done a couple of the worst ones this year, so I've almost gotten all of my planting beds looking nice again.

There's one smaller one that was left to do, and on Saturday I tackled it after tying up those floppy bamboos. This bed is right next to the second floppy bamboo, and since I had a good long look at it while moving the ladder around during the tie-up, I decided I couldn't live with it anymore.


Let's take a look at the plants that are here right now. The main plant is a Caryopteris that is now 80% dead:

This is a short-lived shrub for me, although it does reseed. Here's a seedling that looks like it's a year or two old, and would probably fill out nicely this year or next:

There's this bigger-leaved volunteer tree sapling that I cut down each year, and it always comes back:

I've left it each year because its larger leaves were a good contrast to the small leaves of the Caryopteris and bamboo. I won't be needing it anymore though.

There's some Greek oregano which I grew from seed five or more years ago and is almost flavorless:

In my experience this plant is hit or miss from seed -- some plants are flavorful, some are duds. I'm slowly getting rid of the duds.

There is also some creeping phlox here, some veronica, creeping jenny, and lots of violets. None of those will be staying -- it's all going to the compost pile.

So I got to work pulling, digging, and scraping.

In pulling out the young Caryopteris plant I got a fair amount of roots:

So I'll pot that up and see if it survives. I'll be able to find it a new home later this year if it makes it. These apparently root quite easily from cuttings, so I think it will be fine:

Adventitious roots on Caryopteris.

There were a lot of rocks in this area, as I originally added them as a rocky border around the raised planting bed, but when I needed to rhizome prune the rocks all got scattered around.

Many of them are partially buried now, making cleanup a little more challenging. I just piled them up in the raised bed for now to get them out of the way.

With the weeds cleared I outlined the bed as its edges were no longer distinct:

I then decided to turn over the heavy soil to see what it was like:

Not too bad, as I had worked a lot of compost into this bed when I created it a few years ago. It still could use some fresh compost though -- or does that go without saying? I always add more compost whenever I dig in a bed. One of the best pieces of gardening advice I ever heard was to add compost whenever you dig a hole. This is especially important if you have clay-based or sandy soils.

So what am I going to be planting? I've got plenty of potted plants on the driveway still, but I'm going to be using a plant that is outgrowing its larger clay pot:

You can see that this one is eager for more space, and I could tell from the frequency at which I needed to water it. I won't explain the whole digging process, but I will remind you that it's important to place the potted plants on the ground before you start digging. Arrange them the way they look best, and imagine what size they'll be in a few months. Once you have that right you can then start digging.

So here it is:

The main plant is the Black-Stem Taro ("Elephant Ear"), but I've also planted a Mexican petunia, a cardoon, and a Plecranthus 'Cerveza n Lime', which is one of the best-smelling plants I grow. The bamboos are still in their pots.

(I'll mulch this area whenever I get another load of mulch or compost.)

I moved my potted Alocasia 'Frydek' out here too, as that corner needed a little boost. It's been living under the deck and has needed a bit more light, so it's not looking its best right now but will hopefully pick up soon. I'm not too sure about the bamboo on the right (Psuedosasa japonica, or "Arrow Bamboo"), but I'll leave it for a few days and see if I like it.

I have to say I'm pretty happy with the results! None of these are perennials either (except for the cardoon) so I'll have this bed pretty much clear again next year for something different if these plants don't perform well here this year.

I expect to be pleased though, as I'm really satisfied with it right now, and it should just keep get better over the summer.

Note: this little project inspired me and I moved another Elephant Ear and a large potted bamboo to this general area too, to the left and slightly back from that last photo. This area is looking pretty amazing, and quite tropical without that being my intent. No photos yet, but soon.


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Linnie W  – (June 27, 2011 at 9:47 AM)  

My back hurts a tiny bit from reading about your work on that bed. But didn't it turn out well! When I make changes like that I love going out later and gazing in wonder at my accomplishments.

Cat  – (June 27, 2011 at 11:52 AM)  

Looks nice - it always feels so good to accomplish a long awaited project.

Rock rose  – (June 27, 2011 at 9:12 PM)  

A job well done. Like you, I am never short of something to do out there. Now if I could just get off this computer, but I have set myself the task of writing about that vacation, and it's endless!

PJ | Home and Garden Decor  – (June 28, 2011 at 2:19 PM)  

Alan, I like how your latest project turned out. I'm looking forward to see the other pictures after you added more Elephant Ears and the bamboo.

I think, gardening is all about trying out something new and to make lots of changes if plants don't grow well for whatever reason. I too had to change my flower beds and the plants in my garden so many times throughout the years of we have been living here. Just last year I completely redid a long bed along my property fence line in the front of our home again.
Best Wishes and Happy Gardening, Alan.
Paula Jo

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