Newly Registered
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 10:16 pm

Shallow Bed in Full Sun

As a novice gardener (unless there anything more remedial than novice) I'm grateful to have stumbled upon this site.

This afternoon a very helpful woman at the garden store sent me home with a lovely assortment of goodies for what we believed to be a garden bed in our backyard. After two hours of digging, I discovered that it was about 10 inches of soil that covered a rock garden. At the very base is. . .blacktop.

Does anyone have good suggestions for perennials that would tolerate a shallow bed in full sun? We're in NE Ohio.

I'll likely post in another section asking for advice on the front yard, which is where I'll likely have to re-designate the plants purchased for the backyard.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Greener Thumb
Posts: 1152
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:26 am
Location: North Carolina

You need good drainage for most perennials so why don't you consider planting goundcover such as ajuga which generally is more shallow rooted and does well in sun. There are other groundcovers that do not need deeping draining soil and use the plants purchased for other areas on your lot. When nature calls we must be adaptable.

Newly Registered
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 10:16 pm

Sound advice, thanks. Maybe we'll eventually get around to building a raised bed.

Senior Member
Posts: 143
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:14 am
Location: Piedmont Area, Northern NJ

freshstart, have I got a book for you! Gardening on pavement, table, and hard surfaces by George Schenk

The possibilities are limitless. 10 inches is a good depth for most plants except for the really deep rooted plants like native tall grasses and false indigo. In my back garden the 2 feet of flower bed next to the driveway is really built up soil with a rock edging just like yours directly on the asphalt. I have also grown a full 30 ft. long by 2 ft wide bed directly on concrete with about 6" of soil using only long strands of ivy holding the soil and plants in. (By the way I would never plant ivy because it is very invasive in most of the US.)

In my experience there is never a drainage problem because excess water seeps out though the rocks. In order not to lose soil with the escaping water I plant the bed heavily and use ground cover type plants at the edges.

My first suggestion is to look into native plants. Where are you located ? If you google your native plant society I'm sure they have suggestions for sunloving natives. At the ends of my beds I have the very lovely native (for me) bird's foot violet (V. pedata) that likes full sun and sandy soil. I also use moss phlox (P. subulata) as an edging plant - low evergreen needle like leaves and lovely spring flowers. Penstemon (P. digitalis) particularly the cultivar Husker Red with black eyed susans. After flowering the maroon jewel like seed heads from the Penstemon add a special touch to the neighboring susans.

Many of the sun loving herbs will do well, lavender and thymes in particular.

Irises like the rhizome exposed and baking in the hot sun, a particularly nice combination is the Iris that has variegated leaves of white and green gray with white flowering thyme.

Daylilies and Siberian Iris also grow well.
One of the small leaved Hardy geranium will also work as an edging plant.

Newly Registered
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 10:16 pm

Thanks so much. I'll definitely check out that book. We're in NE Ohio, so I'll check to see which natives would work best.

Garden Spider
Cool Member
Posts: 88
Joined: Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:07 pm
Location: Western Washington

Or . . . start a rock garden, with sedums, hens & chicks, creeping thyme, dwarf conifers, ornamental grasses. All these plants need very little soil (10" is plenty), and very little water. Throw in some decorative river rock (fist sized to basketball sized and even larger), set the plants in place, and then add a gravel mulch.

Senior Member
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon May 12, 2008 11:13 pm
Location: Denver, CO (zone 5)

The bees love the golden sedum I have growing in my front yard. I have them growing along the sidewalk and the bees are there from sunup to sundown.

Newly Registered
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Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 8:04 pm
Location: Australia

Bulbs are great for that area too. I love Freesia.
You will have to wait until Fall to plant the bulbs and you will love the flowers come next spring.

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