Every once in a while, I surprise myself. As I was looking back at last year’s garden, I found this shot of my driveway garden and thought, “Hey, that’s pretty good!” I don’t do that as often as I should. The driveway garden is a miserably hot place and since I’m not the most reliable waterer, the plants are forced to fend for themselves. It’s a test of sorts. One that involves extreme neglect worsened by heat radiating off an asphalt driveway and the high expectations of a crazed gardener. Aside from the spring clean-up and the occasional weeding, this garden is on its own. Totally. In addition to the elements, it’s survived the bumps and bruises of all kinds of athletic balls, floor hockey games and the occasional kid. In many ways, it’s a lot like me.
Like most gardens, it’s evolved over the years and I’m sure I’ll tweak it this spring with a new addition or two. Permanent residents include a Capitata yew that’s been there for at least 10 years and an Elizabeth magnolia that’s finally leaped after it’s third year in the garden and will no doubt cast more shade and change the garden in the years to come. But for now, the space is home to pollinator friendly, sun-loving perennials.
Not the least of which is Physostegia virginiana ‘Miss Manners,” aka obedient plant. When my girls were small, they loved how they could move the individual flowers in any direction and they would stay put, hence the name obedient plant. Typically, it wouldn’t fare well in a parched environment. Careful placement was key. Toward the back of the border, there’s a downspout to which we attached an extension piece that draws the water further away from the house. As a result, rain water travels along the edge of this bed and keeps obedient plant hydrated and happy.
I made a chart of the bloom times. It’s something I learned while attending master gardener training, and it’s served me well. This way, I can visualize what will be in bloom and when. It makes garden planning so much easier. I don’t always do it however, and it’s obvious when this crucial step hasn’t happened. Oh well. Sometimes I just want to plant whatever I like wherever I can and wait and see. It doesn’t always work out. But that’s what transplanting is for.
When I’m planning, I’m conscious of flower shape. The liatris and obedient plant provided the upright, spiky look. The coneflower is a perfect landing pad. I have some Black-eyed Susans, from a previous garden design, return from seed every year and develop some ugly fungal/bacterial issues. They’ll be yanked as soon as they appear this year. I’m excited about a new Black-eyed Susan I received, American Gold Rush, from hybridizer Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens last fall. It sounds like a no-nonsense replacement for the disease plagued ‘Goldsturm’ and is available in both plant and seed.
Allium ‘Millenium’ occupies the areas closest to the driveway. Nothing seems to phase these guys and they’re always covered in bees. I love the emerald green ones that look like kinetic little jewels on the amethyst-colored allium flowers. Initially, I had three plants that have been divided time and again and filled other spaces in my garden. My gardening friends have received divisions too.
The back side of the bed is home to Autumn Joy sedum and two types of daylilies, Big Bird and Strawberry Candy. Big Bird was a necessity. I’m a kid raised on Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and the Bozo Show. Are there plants named after them too? Strawberry Candy was a left over from a photo shoot. Since I find it impossible to throw away a perfectly healthy plant, it found a home in the driveway garden and earned its keep.
Speaking to the indestructible nature of the daylily, I dug a few out last fall with the intention of dividing and replanting. I never got around to it. They sat beside the driveway, roots exposed, all winter and when spring rolled in, green shoots appeared on the clumps. Some went back into the garden, others found homes in my neighbor’s yards.
Do you have a challenging garden site? What plants have worked for you?