prinmel
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Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

I am not a gardener by any means, but I really want nice flower beds. I have 2 huge ones in front of my house that I have tried putting things in but everything dies.. ok maybe I forget to water a few days in a row, but I am feeling very dedicated this year and don't know what to put in. The flower bed in the picture is in FULL sun and the soil dries out very quickly in the middle of the summer. I don't know if you can tell from the picture but we just transplanted some rose bushes, which we thought were dead, but are coming back slowly. Off to the left I have 4 lavender plants that are small but doing well and on the side of the porch there, I am probably going to do oriental poppies, shasta daisies and bachelor buttons and use the lavender as the divider between them and the roses. I would love to put some other perennials in around the roses but have no idea what. I have researched endlessly on the internet for types of flowers but still just don't know what to put in there. For this spring I got a box of roll out flowers and hope those will work with the endless weeds and the random phlox, tulips and grape hyacinth.. but this fall, I might just cover the whole thing up with black plastic and just leave space for the roses and group the tulips in between the roses and smother everything out and start fresh! So after much rambling, please help me design something nice that is really low maintenance and will come back every year and be pretty in zone 5b! Thank you soooo much!
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

What are the dimensions of the bed we can see? I'm thinking your four lavender plants are way too crowded together.

It doesn't look like a "huge" flower bed, it looks like a skinny little strip with a straight row of plants.

I would want to make it three times as deep, with a curving front edge and room for a little bit of good sized shrubbery and a small tree and to have plants that aren't all lined up like soldiers.

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LA47
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

If you really want it low maintenance think about planting a taller narrow,perhaps an evergreen, shrub to anchor the corners. Roses, in my opinion, are high care, but if you are willing to care for them, I would widen the bed at least to the outer edge of your steps and plant 2 matching ones on each side of the steps. If the area is long enough, plant 2 more in the middle of each side. Plant tulips in clusters with lavender as a ground cover. They will help to hide the dying tulip foliage and the lavender will help shade the soil so it doesn't dry out as fast. That's the easiest to care for with only 4 varieties of plants. Be sure and plant the roses far enough from the steps so the the rose thorns are not close enough to snag anyone using the steps.
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Grape hyacinth are absolutely easy care. You could edge the entire front of the bed with them if you like. Also drought and sun tolerant among the spring bulbs are tulips as you found out and regular hyacinths.

Other drought tolerant plants are lambs ears (stachys) and also German bearded iris, peony, rudbeckia. Strawberries can be pretty hardy too, but you will have to consider carefully if you want to grow edibles and ornamentals together since you won't want to use poisonous pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides.

There, now you'll HAVE to widen/enlarge the bed to fit them all. :wink:

I think it would look nice to put window boxes of geraniums, petunias, portulaca, etc. on the porch along the bottom of the railing to spill through and maybe trail down. But they will need to be watered a lot. Maybe even twice a day.

For the ground level plants, mulch, mulch mulch and more mulch. :()
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prinmel
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

The bed is 3 feet deep and in line with the steps. There is a flower bed on the other side of the steps that matches the other side, it has 2 small rose bushes as well (see picture). Thanks for all the ideas, I probably won't widen the bed though, I feel that it is wide enough. I wonder if maybe just the rose bushes and some creeping phlox might work?
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FriedGreenTomatoes
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

I would suggest hostas! There are many varieties, and some flower. I've always had luck with mine in really dry soil.

Another plant that would look really nice in front there is a clematis. Again lots of different types to choose from, and a great way to add color. The nice thing about a clematis is that they don't take up to much ground space because they are coming so it would grow up your porch rail and look beautiful imo.
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watermelonpunch
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

I'm wondering what part of the world your flowerbed is?

I've been researching various things about this... and I can say after researching lavender quite a bit, because i think I might have an area that it will grow in well... An area that it seems not a whole lot I tried last year did take to at all. And only certain things grow in that vicinity, and haphazardly.
This is after considering all of the flowers & plants that seem to grow naturally & well in that area, I figured out why lavender might actually have a shot there - despite many gardeners feeling that lavender is very difficult to grow!

If you have lavender growing successfully in your flowerbed... I would suggest you might have a soil in that flowerbed that is well draining, on the sandy side, or perhaps gravely, and quite possibly leaning toward alkaline. Since those are the conditions lavender likes.

This type of soil is NOT desirable for many of the most popular garden bed cultivated perennials & annuals, and stuff like rose bushes. I believe most plants tend to like neutral pH, or in the case of some shrub plants, liking actually acidic soil best.

Just how well do the lavender do in that flowerbed? Did they overwinter there well?

Unless you want to research the plants you want to plant, and find ways to amend the soil to their liking, and cater to their water needs (with watering and mulching)... you might want to instead find other plants that like the soil... by deciding what HAS grown successfully, and looking up what types of soil & conditions they like... and then choosing other plants & shrubs that also like those conditions.

Or go with the stuff that can tolerate well a wide range of conditions.

I did read somewhere that creeping phlox can grow in a wide range of soil types.

Nasturtium is reported to thrive in a wide range of soil, including poor soil. And doesn't mind a bit of shade.
Judging by my experience so far, I too would rate this plant "easy".
Also, the nasturtium plant actually has some of the nicest foliage I've ever seen. I love it! It's really fetching & interesting. I'd grow nasturtium even if it didn't bloom at all!
Drawback: if you have rabbits... it might not last! The blooms at least.
I think rabbits ate my nasturtium blooms last year, because I didn't see very many, and they disappeared pretty quick so I was never able to harvest seeds. But again, I didn't really mind because I really just like it for the leaves anyhow.

Cosmos seemed to grow good for me in some troublesome sunny areas.
And I read that they do better in "poor soil".
They also don't mind well draining sandy or alkaline soil.

But though the flowers are very pretty, the foliage & stems are rather wispy... and so if you were to plant them in the flower bed you have pictured, I would recommend planting them behind something else, so you have some bloomage & foliage lower to the ground as well.
That's what I'm doing this year in the proper flower beds I want them in. Planting something shorter & bushier in front of them.
I also read that they could need staking, but I have no idea what conditions that could be under Mine were 2-1/2 feet tall & stood up to really high sustained winds we get here coming off the adjacent field.


Oh, and the clematis suggestion is an excellent one!
They too like well draining soil, and a bit on the alkaline side. So they would probably do well where lavender does well.
They can also handle some shade. (Mine is in shade after 1pm & for the rest of the day, only gets morning sun.)

This is my clematis last year:
Image
Bearing in mind this is several years establishment... with the previous occupants here not really having pruned it much over 2 years.
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prinmel
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Thank you watermelonpunch for your well thought out answer. I am in Washington state in zone 5b. The lavenders are going on their 3rd or 4th summer in my bed. They winter fine, one is not doing great because I spur of the moment moved it last summer right in the middle of the summer, but its got a little green on it. The rest are not very tall, but really green and full. They haven't bloomed as far as I can remember though so im not sure how "well" they are really doing. I actually got a big bag of gladiolus bulbs and just filled the bed with those. They have not come up yet so im a little worried I broke them somehow. I also decided to put some Roll out Flowers in front of them... not sure how I feel about those yet. I really like the clematis ideas.. I think I will try it!

Thanks to all for the suggestions. If all goes will with the gladiolus I will do it again every year for a while.

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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Very nice pic watermelon! I just planted that same clematis in the front of my house. I built a cool trellis out of old branches that will look awesome.

Must say clematis is one of my absolute favorite flowers.
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watermelonpunch
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Oh yes, the clematis are pretty cool. If you've got anything that could have something grow up it, I recommend them. They're nice when they're blooming... and the foliage itself is nice too!!
The one drawback I could see someone not liking is that the brown branches stay where they are, bare, for the winter. (Depends on the location and personal taste for winter appearance.)
At any rate, the first time (last spring) my husband saw that the brown dead-looking branches just started spontaneously shooting out green sprouts - he was amazed. It was really an "It's alive!" moment. ha ha

I don't prune at all until I see what's getting new growth & what isn't, for sure. That method worked last year, I had lots of blooms (as seen in the photo), so I've repeated that method this year. Because quite frankly, lots of leaves & lots of blooms is what I'm going for with it.

My mother-in-law has some clematis growing on her front porch on a lattice-like trellis sort of thing. And it's very neat & tidy compared to mine. So don't let the somewhat wild appearance of mine scare you off. lol Remember I have a big panel of lattice there... and we actually like that the vine covers a lot of it, for privacy on our porch in summer. Plus, I like things a bit wild. (I think someone said my gardening style is "cottage gardening"... which sounds to me like a euphemism for either untidy, wild, or random. ha ha)
I got the impression that my MIL prunes her clematis like a bonsai. ha ha ha Because compared to mine, hers looks so delicate!!

Here's my other one:
(which my husband really likes)
Image
It grows up our flag pole. Well, there's one of those wire fence kind of things .... like you would put around a young tree - wrapped around the flagpole, and a rose of sharon bush, and the clematis climbs up those, and wraps a bit around the lower part of the flagpole.

As for the lavender not blooming... Apparently there could be a few reasons for that.
But one thing I can say it's probably not, based on what I've read... the "well draining soil" part is probably not missing for you, because they wouldn't be surviving at all over the winter in 5b zone if they were were in soil that was too moist or boggy.

What's the sun like for the lavender? How many hours per day average of direct sun does it get?

I wonder about that when you say you live in the state of Washington 5b. ;) ha ha
My parents used to live in the state of Washington, on the Oakland Peninsula in Mason County.
And I remember when I went to visit them for a week in May. And all week there was FANTASTIC sunny beautiful weather. Just one morning that we were in Seattle there was a bit of overcast & rain. And even that day it cleared up.
And everyone everyone everyone I talked to... said I had the most unbelievable good fortune to happen to have my vacation there in Washington that particular week, because a nice sunny spell like that days in a row was incredibly rare, and everyone was raving that week about how nice the weather was.

So I'm thinking... maybe your lavender just haven't yet had a summer with long enough stretches of sustained sun to produce blooming?

I was recently given a hardy hibiscus by someone who lives in the mountains and said that each year, the bush produces buds, and by the time one opens, the first frost comes. The summer just isn't long & hot enough for it there in zone 5b (or maybe 5a) as it is here in 6a... I'm in a pocket of 6a because I live in the city.

I'll be interested to see what happens with those gladiolas. I have no clue about them. And I'm completely ignorant when it comes to bulbs. I have tons of them around the yard that were here already. And they perplex me greatly. ha ha ha I mostly understand plants that have seeds and grow with your regular kind of roots. Plants that 'operate' in other ways are a mystery to me.
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prinmel
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

After a little research on the clematis, I don't think they will work for my flower bed :0( I read that they need moist soft soil and my flower bed is full of rocks and gets very dry. I am on the border of Idaho, so our weather is totally different from Seattle. The bed gets full sun all day long! I think that is part of the reason I have trouble getting things to grow, because of the sun it just dries out way to fast, even when we mulched. We get stretches of 90's during the summer. The gladiolus are starting to pop up so I am excited to see how they grow. Only problem is, in my zone, I will have to dig them up over the winter.... might just leave them and get new ones next year.

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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Glads are a good plant for sunny and well drained. But everything in a bed like that would benefit from a good layer of mulch added after it is all well sprouted. Wood chips/ grass clippings or whatever organic materials you have on hand. It will suppress weeds, conserve moisture and keep the roots a bit cooler in the heat of summer.
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watermelonpunch
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Now that you say that about clematis... We had a very dry summer last year, and the one next to the house in a proper flowerbed definitely had more blooms than the one at the flagpole where the ground is definitely not kept as moist. I'll have to make a point to water that one more I suppose.
But quite honestly I rarely made a point last year to water either of them.

Funny that you happen to live in the hot dry part of Washington, a state that's known for wet!
I didn't even know there were such sunny parts of Washington, to be honest!

Seems that most flowering plants are going to need some moistness or some watering at some intervals. And/or to be watered when there's stretches of several days without rain. A lot of flowers are like that... they won't die, but they won't bloom so much without enough water.

But of course I'm well aware that watering is time consuming, not to mention expensive if you live in a city & have city water like I do. And we have tons of flowerbeds here.

We're on a tight budget, so with last summer's dryness, I soon realized that it was going to come down to only watering the vegetables & having all the flowers wilt or perish, or have an outrageous water bill, which just couldn't happen.
I quickly looked into the whole rain barrel thing, and made my husband make & set up a rain barrel to collect from the gutters. We have this major bizarre kluged system & keep goldfish in it & whatnot, and I use an old pump. But it certainly doesn't have to be so elaborate. (Especially if you don't have flowerbeds that are far away from each other, or the barrel, like we do.)
My aunt-in-law simply puts an outdoor garbage can under where the rain comes off the gutter from the roof, and dunks in her sprinkler can. Mosquitoes aren't a problem because she has a tight lid she only takes off when it's going to rain.

Mulching shouldn't be too difficult or time consuming for just a few flowerbeds.

I'm using grass clippings in the vegetable garden. But I have too many flowerbeds to do them all. So this year I'm just going to pick the dry spots & mulch those, where I know stuff had trouble last year.

If you're growing drought-resistant plants, mulch around them nicely... You might be able to just do some light watering occasionally when it doesn't rain for several days in a row.

The best thing to do with watering, from what I've read and found to be the case... is that you water at sundown, so it doesn't evaporate from the surface in the sun & heat.
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Watering is controversial, but a lot of people suggest watering first thing in the morning so the plants get the most benefit of it. Also if you get water on the leaves of the plants, it has time to dry off. If the water stays on overnight, it can lead to fungal disease problems.

You probably don't have to worry as much about the fungus stuff in an arid climate. (for watermelon) Eastern Washington is in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and is quite dry, semi-arid to near desert. I once attended a rodeo in eastern washington.
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

I gotta ask first where you are located. Your zone may indicate what plants will do well
What direction does the bed face. Does it get sun all day
If you are not a consistant waterer, consider putting in some kind of irrigation system. For that kind of bed, even soaker hoses on a faucet timer will work.

Make sure that you prepare the soil in the bed before you plant. Add in compost and some fertilizer. Compost will help to loosen the soil and keep it moist longer. After planting mulch the bed to cut down on weeds and hold moisture in.

For plant selection, I suggest a drive around the neighborhood. If you see a plant that you like and a neighbor can grow it you can too.

I would pick long blooming plants that do not require a lot of maintenance.

My picks
for a sunny spot and does not need a lot of water once established: Rosemary (makes a great hedge and edible too) has blue flowers in summer. Needs care the first year but can live on little water after it is established. Lavender augustifolia (zone 5-8) Lavender dentata (3 ft mounding shrub blue flowers) and can handle more heat, Indian Hawthorne, Rhapsiolepsis indica, great hedge but you need to start with large plants as is grows very slowly, prune to shape twice a year. Sundrops, yellow flowers in the morning. Reseeds itself, and plumbago. Any of the sages make a good border plant. Low bordering plants could be gaillarda, blue daze, or daisies.

Other plants: penta, geraniums, desert honeysuckle, butterflyweed, echinacea (coneflower), coreopsis, black eyed susan, and daylily.

I would still throw in some annuals like alyssum, marigolds, cosmos, and dianthus pinks for added color.
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watermelonpunch
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

@ rainbow... yeah I was thinking of prinmel's super dry well draining rocky soil when I said sundown watering.
Doesn't sound like there's much danger of fungus there, quite the opposite.

I hadn't thought of it as "controversial". But then everything is controversial on the internet isn't it. LOL ;)

And also my experience last year was that it was just far too dry in Pennsylvania.
Also, I have rocky sandy soil in much of my yard... only about 6 inches deep under most flowerbeds... and probably it's under everything.
I live in what was once an employee house of an anthracite coal breaker industrial site, that was cleaned up during the housing boom when they thought maybe it could see some development.
It's now a field basically a sparsely growing meadow with drought tolerant wildflowers & some tall grass... they put a thin layer of topsoil over basically coal processing junk. The winds come off that field into our yard are rather unusually strong & sustained for this region. And it's Some of my flowerbeds and along the border of the field, I find pockets of 50 year old coal ash.
In fact, I think the one giant flowerbed is basically set atop an old coal ash heap.

Come to think of it... wouldn't people's yards in eastern Washington have some level of volcano ash in them from the eruption in the 80s?

At any rate, I think the sundown is probably easier to do than the crack of dawn, regarding most people's busy schedules... which I think is probably the #1 reason most people would have a perpetually or habitually dry flowerbed in their yard - no time for watering.
Which would also mean if someone was doing watering... they would probably not be watering enough when they do water.
I know that was something my MIL warned me about. She got me a sprinkler attachment for the hose, because she said, "Most people don't water long enough."

Though I can easily see your point and the great advantages to watering very early in the morning.
I wish I were a morning person. LOL
imafan26 wrote:If you see a plant that you like and a neighbor can grow it you can too.
That's exactly what I've done.
I've looked around the neighborhood, and in the field I live by... and I find out what the things I like are, and I've planted them.

Of course you have to be careful about looking to neighbors who have extremely landscaped yards with gardens. Because then sometimes it could be they go through extra expense & effort to grow certain things.
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prinmel
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Watermelon, its funny, my yard (according to my neighbor who has been living here since the late 60's) is over the top of a dump from the late 1800's so just rocks and fill dirt. My gladiolus are starting to come up and I water quickly twice a day. Once in the morning after taking my daughter to school and once when I pick her up. I'm trying really hard this year to water! :0) There are places that have ash from Mt. Saint Helens, but I can't tell if I have any in my yard or not. People shoveled it away like snow in the days following the eruption. My parents have some in a jar though that they kept all these years.... kinda neat :0)

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watermelonpunch
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Interesting about the dump!
You wonder if 200 years from now someone will be setting up an archeological dig in your back yard! LOL
That's what I always read or see in documentaries... the archeologists are always fascinated with the ancient garbage. :)

I realize now that our yard is a bit different than a lot of yards in the U.S. In that I live in an old city, and the vicinity was once very different during the olden days. In old cities, things have been built, ripped down, rebuilt, changed over so many years. So the soil might not have much in common with someone in the same zone just 5 miles away where it was never developed other than some light residential.
Where I live has been settled & developed & changed for 200 years now.

Anyway, since you mentioned the gladiolus I decided to look them up. And boy oh boy, I'd get ready for some hummingbirds in your yard! They look like they were made for hummingbirds. :)
I may think about doing them in a pot at some point.
I'm doing dahlias in a pot for that reason.
Though with these gladiolus bulbs... it doesn't sound like it would be too big a deal to actually just dig them up for the winter from a narrow flowerbed.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Yeah, the back of my yard was apparently used as a dump for a long time. The surface layer was all the modern stuff - air conditioners, sinks, beer cans, tires, etc. But having cleared all that, everywhere I dig, I find stuff like old glass pharmacy bottles, with company and place names stamped/embossed in the glass, some with dates in the late 1800's. Mostly broken though, so I don't think they have a lot of value. I've saved a few pieces, one that was stamped with Cincinnati, OH (where I am).
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prinmel
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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

Just wanted to update on my flower bed. I have been so good about watering and my lavender is blooming! Turns out all you have to do is water it and it will bloom :0) The gladiolus are coming up nicely... on the one side of the flower bed, not yet on the other side.

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Re: Help! What in the world to I do with these flower beds?

prinmel wrote:Just wanted to update on my flower bed. I have been so good about watering and my lavender is blooming! Turns out all you have to do is water it and it will bloom :0) The gladiolus are coming up nicely... on the one side of the flower bed, not yet on the other side.
Fantastic!!! :)
I'm so jealous.



I've been keeping track of stuff I plant and when it sprouts in different areas...
I can't figure out any rhyme or reason to it.
But things tend to come up within a few days of each other if they were planted the same day. Longest I've had to wait yet is about a week. But I wouldn't worry until 2 weeks difference.

I've also had tulips come up in different areas over a week apart. Yet somehow they wound up all bloomed at roughly the same time.
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