The Christmas decorations are packed away and I finally have space in my brain to think about something not holiday related. Why Heather, whatever could that be? No surprise here. Gardening is always front and center. In addition to the veg garden that got a glow-up at the end of 2022, I’m also focusing on the garden around our patio. My husband built it for me over a decade ago and I’ve filled it randomly over the years, without ever making a real plan. How hard could it be to plant a narrow border? Well, as you can see from the photo above, I have my work cut out for me.
I’ve been a let’s-throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks sort of gardener. Which isn’t always a good thing. There’s something to be said for a plan, no matter how big or small and I feel like this small space around the patio is in need of a plan. I find small spaces far more difficult to design. They require restraint. I have none. It’s that way with dessert too.
A tangible plan, as opposed to one that just sits in my brain, takes into account the dimensions of the space as well as the existing players that will stay, as well as those that will go (there are several), helps me visualize what I have. A plan will actually save me money. Er, that’s the hope at least. I’ll have exact numbers of perennials so that when the time comes to visit Sunrise Greenhouse with my mom in April, I don’t blow my budget. If you’ve never been to Sunrise and you live around the Chicago area, you gotta go. Just don’t blame me for your lack of restraint! See previous paragraph.
These junipers were what sparked a reimagining of the patio garden. They’re huge! They came with tags identifying them as Skyrocket junipers which they are clearly not. Skyrockets grow 2′-3′ wide, 15′-20′ tall. These monsters were about 6′ wide and looking pretty awful following a wicked case of cedar apple rust a few years ago. If you’ve never witnessed what it looks like, here you go…
You can read more about this gooey grossness here.
Creating A Blank Slate
It wasn’t exactly blank, there were plants that remained, but getting the junipers out opened up a world of plant possibilities. Each juniper occupied about 36 square feet. That’s a lot to play with and I look forward to filling it with plants that meet my design requirements:
- Full sun
- Low maintenance
- Happy in heavy clay
- Multi-season interest
- Pollinator friendly
- And did I mention low maintenance?
This space bakes all day long in the hot southern sun and I have no plans of babying anything beyond that first month after installation. So to make the cut, you gotta have gumption. Drops of Jupiter oregano, Matrona sedum and French vanilla hibiscus, current residents of the space, have all held their own.
The hibiscus could use more water to inspire prolonged flowering so I will likely relocate both of the plants to more hospitable accommodations.
My list is long and all of the following are possibilities, but just a small few will make the cut. Like maybe five or six. Truth is, I love them all and that’s the hard part. My hope is that by putting a plan to paper, I’ll be better able to visualize the outcome. To plant one of each would be chaos, so I’m going for groups of three or five which will eat up a lot of space.
Here’s my list as of today. Keep in mind, it will likely grow before I get it all sorted.
In case you can’t read my messy handwriting…
- Eryngium Big Blue (Sea Holly)
- Seslaria autumnalis (Autumn Moor Grass)
- Rudbeckia ‘American Gold Rush’ Several clumps already exist in the garden and it’s a proven workhorse so she’ll likely make the cut. Shopping your garden is such a great money-saving tip!
- Liatris ‘Kobold’ (Blazing Star)
- Dahlia Cornel Bronze While not exactly water wise, I love dahlias worked into the garden. The ball shaped flowers will carry this garden into fall.
- Achillea ‘Firefly Peach Sky’ or ‘Peter Cottontail’
- Allium ‘Serendipity’ or ‘Bubblebath’
- Amsonia ‘String Theory’
- Perovskia ‘Denim and Lace’ (Russian Sage)
- Salvia ‘Ignition Purple’ This is hardy to zone 7 and therefore would be an annual in my zone 5 garden.
- Ageratum ‘Artist Blue’ Another annual that would make a fine edger plant.
- Helenium ‘Fuego’ (Sneezeweed)
- Stachys ‘Helen von Stein’ (Lamb’s Ear)
Funny thing, I didn’t notice this until I began typing the list of possibilities. With the exception of the rudbeckia, helenium and dahlia, there’s a strong color theme. Purple. No surprise, it’s my favorite color and I’m glad I noticed it.
And that means there will be more plants added to my list of possibilities, making it all the more difficult to wittle down to just a few. Wish me luck!
What are you planning for the garden this year? Tell me in the comments.