My first commission! Ok, a labor of love – but still a first opportunity to design a garden for someone besides myself! My sister-in-law, Lisa, asked me to plant the large, crescent-shaped bed at the end of her driveway. I was excited by the challenge of designing a bed for full sun (since my own yard is mainly shade), and especially such a large space – about 20 feet long by 10 feet at the widest spot. The bed contained a rag-tag assortment of plants – a half dozen globe-shaped evergreens, a leggy willow, a few Russian sage, a clump of Pampas grass, and a large patch of silvery Lambs’ Ear surrounding a large boulder. Lisa’s requirements were simple: No maintenance. Save the purple sage. Oh, and don’t remove the Lambs’ Ear.
Here’s my starting point:
The evergreens pose a bit of a design challenge in my opinion because they are so dense and heavy. After a bit of planning, though, I came up with a design for year-round interest, based on bold color scheme of red, purple and white. I purchased from the nursery:
- 5 ‘Ivory Halo’ red-twig dogwood
- 5 red Knock-Out roses
- 6 ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum
- 3 purple catmint
Also on the shopping list is a ‘Snow Fountain’ weeping cherry – but I have to borrow a truck in order to pick it up. And from my own yard, I added a Nandina Domestica left over from one of my winter containers. Here are the raw materials for the new bed:
With Saturday’s cool and cloudy weather, conditions were ideal for renovating the bed. First, I removed, split and relocated the Pampas grass (not a favorite of mine anyway, so I was glad to see it go! Upon closer look, I discovered that the evergreens were not boxwood, but in fact Japanese holly (much nicer and easier to keep, in my book). I moved a few of the Lambs’ Ear from their dense patch, to line the outside edge of the hollies. The willow got a bit of a haircut.
Then, finally, to add the new plants. I put the Nandina behind the bolder – it will grow tall and develop a lovely red color and bright berries, and the boulder will hide its legs. I surrounded the Nandina with three of the dogwoods, and then split up the sage and added them in along the edge. On the other side of the boulder, I planted the Knock-Outs in a staggered pattern, and edged them with the sedum. The two remaining dogwoods went in on the other side of the roses, bordered by the catmint. Here is the newly replanted bed:
I am very pleased with the result. The dogwoods and Nandina add grace, movement and openness to the bed, while the red Knock-Out roses will offer vibrant color all summer long. The weeping cherry tree will be planted in the empty space next to the willow. Its cascading branches will counteract the upright forms of the willow, dogwoods and roses. The cherry tree has beautiful white flowers in the spring, which will soften the bare twigs of the willow. In the fall, its leaves will have a beautiful orange-red color, complementing the red dogwood stems and sedum flowers. In short, a once-bare bed will offer no-maintenance beauty in every season. Now that’s a labor of love!