Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Expansions in My Garden

I started work last weekend on another flowerbed expansion. This is the border along the south side fence, known as the Bottomlands because the ground slopes down here on its descent to a small creek at the end of our street. It faces north-northeast, but gets full sun through the summer months, except right at the base of the fence.

When I first began creating my borders in the backyard, I simply made one long rectangular border parallel to the fence. I've never been satisfied with it because it does nothing to offset the harsh rectangular shape of the backyard, and my plants ended up all in a row, like NC State's offensive line (the difference being that my plants have higher IQs.)

I didn't really know what I was doing. I had never created a bed or a border from scratch before, because at our old house, the planting areas were already established. It took me several months of looking at the area to get a sense of how the bed should curve in and out, and realized that it needed to be much wider than the 6 feet I had given it. The backyard is a big rectangle, about 60 X 100 feet, and a little six foot border looks like a tiny ribbon around a packing crate.

My new border has several long, graceful curves and its width ranges from 8 to about 15 feet. I have several Emerald Green Arborvitae at the back near the fence for year-round green and a vertical shape. Those are staying, as is a large viburnum and a native deciduous azalea, but everything else is getting moved around. For two years, the Bottomlands has served as a holding pen for plants I didn't know what to do with--well now I'm going to find them all a home.

In the biggest curve, I'm going make a Winter Garden. That curve is in a direct line from the kitchen window, so it will give us something pretty to look at during our frigid winters (ok Northerners and Midwesterners, we Southerners are wimps--I admit it!) I already have a Quince and a Red-Twig Dogwood, and I want a Witch Hazel. After that, I'm open to suggestions. What are your favorite winter-interest plants that can take full sun and are drought tolerant?

I've also got some Wax Myrtles and Arrowwood Viburnums--I'm trying to use a lot of native plants that produce berries for birds, and I want this border to be thick and shrubby, with heights as high as 15-20 feet in the back, to provide good bird habitat. Finally, my Fothergilla and Snowball Bushes will go here somewhere, toward the back corner.

I find that I really enjoy digging up sod. It's like being a sculptor, chiseling out the curves of the border, totally reshaping the landscape and imagining what it will look like when everything is planted. It does get hard on the legs, though. I am usually down on my right knee, pushing the shovel with my left, then turning up the clump of soil and pounding the dirt out of it. (I don't want to hear one word from the guys at the gym about why I haven't been there this week.)

We are replacing our fence the week after Thanksgiving, so I want to have everything dug up by then so they don't get trampled by the fence builders. After that, I'll be busy planting, so I'm hoping for a warm November and December!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I am worn out just looking at all that ribbon you have moved away from the fence.

One bit of advice that I was given years ago before I had a fence and didn't know how good it was is that to be sure to situate your plants far enough away from the fence for a dog run. Yes I know you don't have a dog but not only is it good to have that space for your dog to run but it makes it so much easier to tend the plants in this area. Besides with the fence there they won't grow so good. If you need to work on the fence any you can get to it without smashing your plants. And last but not least when you want to divide your lush plants you have room to work around them.

It is going to be beautiful!!!

David in Greensboro, NC said...

That is very good advice, Lisa--advice that I didn't always follow in the past, as you might can tell from the photos. I still have to resist the temptation to plant them too close, but I'm going to do it right this time, I promise!

Gina said...

david - you are welcome to come by my house to remove some sod since you love it so much. it is hard work! BUT I agree it's one of the more rewarding gardening activities becuase it makes such an immediate difference. Good Luck with your project! I'm thinking of expanding my beds in the back yard next week while i'm off on vacation.

Connie said...

David, You are digging machine! What fun you will have filling up those nice wide borders with plants. It really helps to think on things awhile before tackling it doesn't it?

Mary said...

You are a real digger, David! I'm enjoying your plans. It's fun to envision the finished product - but what gardener is ever finished? LOL!

It looks like you are on the right track - not starting small. The bigger the better. I've made the mistake of making beds that filled up too quickly.

In my yard, I need room for running dogs, so I'll be planning corners around the fence next spring. I'd love to have a yard full of walkways THROUGH gardens, but - not possible with wild canines.

It will be beautiful. Happy visions of Spring!

David in Greensboro, NC said...

Thanks, Gina. If I'm coming to your house, I'd better come now before it gets colder. I couldn't stand your winters!

You're right, Connie, about having to think for a while. It takes a few years for me to get the sense of how a garden should look. I don't see how pros like Carolyn Gail do it. I'd be like...let me sit on your porch for a few years and I'll come up with a plan.

I started too small too, Mary. Of course, I'm not even finished and I'm wondering if these beds are large enough. (Teresa says they are fine.)

lisa said...

Winter interest: grasses, contorted hazelnut, dwarf conifers (especially odd colors), weeping pea tree, etc....boy, have you got an awesome blank canvas there!