dtownjbrown6262
Full Member
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:31 am
Location: Cincy, OH

Need Help Designing My First (ever) Flower Garden

Im a new homeowner (and thus new to gardening) that has a narrow strip of lawn at the front entrance of the home that's just screaming for some flowers. The area is just a hair over 4 feet wide but it's very very long (about 12 feet on one side of the walkway & close to 20 feet on the other). Its situated directly in front of several evergreen bushes that are underneath my raised front porch (see below for a pic of the front entrance from the street). I know that 4 feet isnt an optimal width for a GREAT garden, but I really don't want to have to put more work into widening the area. Ive already spent the better part of the growing season just "preparing" the bed & amending the soil and now Im eager to get started.....but Im having problems deciding what to plant. Ideally, I want something that doesnt grow too wide or too tall (seeing as I have the evergreens in the background).

I "experimented" a little bit with the area before I amended the soil, so I have a couple of plants that I took out of the ground and put into pots. I had to give most of them away because their dimensions didnt mesh with the area but Im holding on to the ones I really like.....I have Magnus coneflowers, Becky shasta daisies, Orange pixie lilies (LOVE these) and what I think might be Stargazer lilies that I purchased just a couple weeks ago. Im seriously thing about a lily garden because Ive found that really, really, really like this flower. Ive been doing some internet searches on 'Lilium" but there are so many different varieties with different bloom times and different heights and different colors that my head is spinning from the research. Any suggestions on which varieties I should choose from that are not tall-growers? What about combinations of cultivators for an extended bloom season? What are some good compliment plants for the shorter lily varieties? Whew, I didnt mean to ramble on like this (sorry). Back to the subject......If someone could offer some suggestions that would be GREAT!!! Thanks :-)

p.s. this pic was taken by the local county auditor YEARS ago so the flowers, vines & shrubs that are shown have long since died and are gone now. The only plants that are still standing are the evergreen bushes on each side of the porch steps & the big bush in the corner, which is much talller now (it reaches the gutters)..................)
[img]https://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q179/dtownjbrown/PossibleMailOrderHome.jpg[/img]
Im a newbie - please be kind :-)

bullthistle
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Posts: 1152
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2008 3:26 pm
Location: North Carolina

You may want to go with varieties that bloom for a long period versus varieties that bloom for a short period of time and also some that are evergreen, because the bed will look unkempt, i.e. coreopsis, lupine, dianthus, lavender, verbena, thyme, and I have included a link to a perennials blog where propagating will help expand your horizons and offer lost cost plantings.

https://propagatingperennials.blogspot.com

minnesota_girl
Senior Member
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:29 pm
Location: Minnesota

Another lily lover!! i always love to meet people that share my love of these flowers. I have recently discovered tango lilies which are something to try. If you have no idea what I am talking about google them. and if you follow these links there's some pictures.

https://www.profizahrada.cz/images_data/2323-lillium-honey-bee-tango-lily-honey-bee.jpg

https://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41kPPIJRMAL._SL500_AA280_.jpg

https://www.dutchbulbs.com/images/products/small/852.jpg

As for low growing varieties try lilium 'red carpet' (asiatic). I have also seen them called border lilies. This variety has recently become one of my favorites because it is shorter and it is a burst of color when it blooms. The blooms are red but i have also found orange and pink varieties of the same height.

https://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51GvnHEtu2L._SL160_AA160_.jpg

I also like the color of this one but i haven't actually ordered from here or grown this daylily so what I am saying here is try at your own risk.

[url=https://www.parkseed.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId=10101&catalogId=10101&langId=-1&mainPage=prod2working&ItemId=47321&PrevMainPage=textsearchresults&scChannel=Text%20Search&SearchText=daylily&OfferCode=VH1]ParkSeed.com[/url]

I love stargazers and other oriental lilies as well. Stargazers have huge blooms and are almost all pink except for a bit of white on the edge. These flowers also have a sweet smell. Their leaves are also a bit darker shade of green.

One variety, I don't recommend is stella de oro because this variety is far to common. I like to wow visitors to my garden and i have found these flowers even in walmart parking lots. I prefer more exotic colors. However, it is very easy to care for and could make a nice addition to a lily garden just not on it's own.

Others to try are tiger liles, spider lilies, and trumpet lilies.

There are so many more varieties to try, I hope you find some you like. i believe I could spend a whole day just telling you my favorites. Look at local nurseries too.
Happy Gardening

dtownjbrown6262
Full Member
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:31 am
Location: Cincy, OH

@bullthistle - Im dealing with the "unkept" look right now. Thanks for the advice. I'll do some research on the plants you suggested to see if any of them will provide the look Im hoping for.

@minnesotagirl - thank you so much for the lily suggestions. I will definitely be on the lookout for these bulbs come fall.

I took some pics of my own in hopes that it would give clearer view of the area.

LEFT OF STAIRS: this area faces south. I just finished amending the soil about a week ago
[img]https://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q179/dtownjbrown/gardening/Gardening052.jpg[/img]

RIGHT OF STAIRS: this area faces south as well. I started amending this side first and finished about a month ago. This pic was taken around twelve noon so the "corner" bush is still shading the outermost corner of the area. Its doesnt get full sun until about 3pm. Will that be enough sun?
[img]https://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q179/dtownjbrown/gardening/Gardening053.jpg[/img]

LEFT SIDE OF HOUSE: this area faces west and is right next to my driveway. As you can see, I havent gotten around to amending the soil on this side. The area is shaded by the roof most of the day but it does get sun for about 2-3 hours (as the sun is on its way down). Even still, it gets very HOT over here, probably because of the pavement. Should I take that into consideration for plant selection?
[img]https://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q179/dtownjbrown/gardening/Gardening050.jpg[/img]
Im a newbie - please be kind :-)

MaineDesigner
Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

The side of the house with the air conditioner is going to be difficult, not that many plants are well adapted to dry, hot shade and also Zone 6 winter hardy. If all else fails some of the tougher hostas can survive that kind of abuse.

I'm not a fan of single genus gardening, even if you can stretch out the bloom season the lack of contrast in form and texture tends to be boring. For the long, narrow strip at the front entrance and perhaps the flanking front beds I agree with Bullthistle, I would be looking for plants with a long bloom season e.g. Coreopsis, Nepeta, Salvia, the smaller, reblooming Hemerocallis like 'Pardon Me' or 'Happy Returns', some Geranium cultivars ('Rozanne'?), perhaps Echinacea, Phlox paniculata (look for the mildew resistant cultivars like 'David' or 'Katherine'), etc.

minnesota_girl
Senior Member
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:29 pm
Location: Minnesota

hope this helps. (my recommendations are in red)

Here's some tough shade plants:
Lamium maculatum 'pink pewter' is a moisture loving perennial. Hostas can make great shade choices because they are so tough, but the more variagated the leaves the less shade they can take so if it's a lighter color you may want to go partial shade. Lily of the valley has small flowers but they a very pleasant smell. Azaleas, clethra, Cimifuga, columbine, heuchera, bleeding heart, sweet woodruff, yellow wax-bells, solomon's seal, astilbe, toad lily, bugleweed, and pulmonaria.

Drought and sun toloerant plants:
Globe thistle (Echinops ritro), Yarrow (achillea), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), False Indigo (Baptisia), Yucca (yucca filamentosa), Coreopsis, blanket flower (gaillardia), cosmos (cosmos bipinnatus), fan flower (scaevola elegans) aemula), zinnia (zinnia and moss roses (Portulaca grandiflora).

Vines:
morning glory, passionflower, runner bean, black eyed susan vine, wisteria, climbing rose, grapes, moonflower.

annuals:
petunia, coleus, cleome, lantana, and begonia.

Other, top picks, etc.:
phlox, daylilies, siberian iris, black-eyed susans, japanese anemones, hellebore, sedum, geranium 'rozanne', Cape daisy 'asti white', wax begonia, foxglove, pinks, delphinium, pinks, bellflower, salvia, and hollyhocks.
Happy Gardening

dtownjbrown6262
Full Member
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:31 am
Location: Cincy, OH

Okay, I think I know where I'd like to begin. I did some google image searches on a couple of the plants you all suggested and I think I'm going to "start" with Coreopsis and Dianthus. Thanks again to everyone for the help :-)

Judging from the pics Ive seen and the articles Ive read, they both seem to be a pretty good "fit" for the limited space I have. Im a little concerned about what it might look like next season since some of the articles mentioned that certain varieties spread more than others but Im desperate for some color right now so I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I havent decided yet which of the many yellow Coreopsis varieties Im going to go with but I really fell in love with the pink & white bi-colored ones. Does anyone know what they might be called? Most of the Dianthus I saw were pink which I guess is okay, but do they come in other colors? Any suggestions on which varieties will go well with the Coreopsis?

Eventually, I'd like to add some "tall and slender" flowers either in-between or behind the them. I was thinking my coneflowers would go nicely with the pink dianthus but I wanted a differently shaped flower to blend in with the coreopsis (since the petals look so similar to daisies anyway). Any idea on what I can use that wont grow too tall or spread too wide?
Im a newbie - please be kind :-)

minnesota_girl
Senior Member
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:29 pm
Location: Minnesota

Coreopsis kōrēŏp'sĭs, or tickseed, names for species of Coreopsis, a chiefly North American genus of the family Asteraceae (aster family). They are easily cultivated annuals or perennials with daisylike heads of flowers in various colors—commonly yellow or variegated. Garden kinds are sometimes called calliopsis. Coreopsis is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Asterales, family Asteraceae.

There is variety among Coreopsis species. C. grandiflora has yellow flowers on tall stems that bloom all summer. C. rosea has finely textured leaves with pink daisy-like flowers with yellow centers. The C. verticillata is called the thread leaf coreopsis because of its extremely fine and ferny leaves. The flowers are also delicate and profuse. A red C. verticillata has recently been introduced. A pink and white variety is Coreopsis rosea 'Sweet Dreams'. The bicolored, white-tipped and raspberry-centered blooms are large (1 to 1.5 inches across) and long lasting. Flowers cover the mound of grassy foliage for weeks in summer and early fall. This hybrid does not produce seed.


Dianthus is a genus of about 300 species of flowering plants in the family Caryophyllaceae, native mainly to Europe and Asia, with a few species extending south to north Africa, and one species (D. repens) in arctic North America. Common names include carnation (D. caryophyllus), pink (D. plumarius and related species) and sweet william (D. barbatus). The name Dianthus is from the Greek words dios ("god") and anthos ("flower"), and was cited by the Greek botanist Theophrastus.

The species are mostly perennial herbs, a few are annual or biennial, and some are low subshrubs with woody basal stems. The leaves are opposite, simple, mostly linear and often strongly glaucous grey-green to blue-green. The flowers have five petals, typically with a frilled or pinked margin, and are (in almost all species) pale to dark pink. One species, D. knappii, has yellow flowers with a purple centre.

Dianthus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Cabbage Moth, Double-striped Pug, Large Yellow Underwing and The Lychnis. Also three species of Coleophora case-bearers feed exclusively on Dianthus; C. dianthi, C. dianthivora and C. musculella (which feeds exclusively on D. suberbus).

The colour pink may be named after the flower. The origin of the flower name 'pink' may come from the frilled edge of the flowers: the verb "pink" dates from the 14th century and means "to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern" (maybe from German "pinken" = to peck). Source: Collins Dictionary. The verb sense is also used in the name of pinking shears.


-from www.wikipedia.org

Dianthus to try:

Sweet William Dwarf, Dianthus barbatus
Dianthus alpinus 'alpine pink'
Dianthus 'Becky Robinson'
Dianthus 'Brympton Red'
Happy Gardening

MaineDesigner
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Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

At least in colder climates Coreopsis rosea tends to do one of two things: die or spread like crazy. I consider it a poor garden plant in Zones 4 & 5 but Cincinnati may be more hospitable. Unless you have poor drainage spreads like crazy seems more likely.
I much prefer Coreopsis verticillata or the verticillata based hybrids to C. grandifolia or C. lanceolata as it is longer lived and doesn't have the very high maintenance demands of C. grandifolia.

The only dianthus I can summon much enthusiasm for are D. alpinus, D. gratianopolitanus 'Bath's Pink' and few other cultivars and D. arenarius 'Snow Flurries'. In my experience all Dianthus like sharp drainage.

I certainly haven't grown every cultivar and YMMV.

dtownjbrown6262
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Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:31 am
Location: Cincy, OH

@ mainedesigner - thanks for the specific suggestions. Im still learning about drainage so Im not sure what type I have. I read somewhere that drainage could be "tested" by digging a hole (12inches deep & 12inches wide), filling it with water once to wet all sides, filling it with water a second time then checking back 24hours later to see how much is left.

I did this yesterday and while I was digging, I definitely encountered the sticky, thick, reddish-toned clay that I knew was there but after the 24hours was up, I was shocked to find that all the water was gone (I thought clay held onto to water for a long time). The bottom of the hole was gooey...or should I say sludgy....but there was definitely no "visible" water left. Im going to do it again tomorrow and see exactly how long it takes for the water to "disappear".

Any ideas what type of drainage I might be dealing with?
Im a newbie - please be kind :-)

minnesota_girl
Senior Member
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:29 pm
Location: Minnesota

24 hours is a long time! I have very sandy soil so water is gone in a hurry. Let's look at your options.

What can you do if you have clay soil? The first option is to decide whether to work with it as it is or try to change it. The easiest and best course of action is to select plants that are suited to such a site. There are quite a few attractive landscape plants that do well in clay soil. The following list includes some of the best trees and shrubs for clay soil, but it is important that their other needs be met too (sun/shade, acid/alkaline, well drained/ moist).

What about adding gravel in the bottom of the planting hole? This is an old practice that should go away. The University of Minnesota has done extensive research on this concept and found that adding gravel to the bottom of a planting hole or container actually makes a problem worse. It forms what is called a ‘perched water table’ and makes the soil above the gravel hold even more water. So save that gravel for some other project, don't throw it into the hole! When working with clay soils, avoid automatic watering systems, especially those designed for turf grasses. Landscape plants in clay soils are often drowned by automatic watering systems. Always check to see if the plant needs water before doing so. Check a few inches below the soil surface. The top may be dry, but it could still be wet enough down where the roots are. Keep in mind that the newly disturbed soil around the plant is loose and will hold more water than the surrounding area. Another tip that helps landscape plants in clay soils is to plant early in the season so they will have adequate time to send out new roots before the ground freezes in fall. Also, organic fertilizers are best for clay soil.

Unfortunately, many of the plants that we want to grow will either struggle or fail to survive in clay. So the next option is to make changes to the soil. If you opt to try to change and amend the soil, it is very important to understand that it will take lots and lots of the right type of amendments. Just adding a bag or two of sand or manure will only make the situation worse. The key to amending clay soil is to amend a large area and use enough coarse sand and coarse organic matter. Avoid trying to change a small area. Plants will have a difficult time making the transition to the surrounding clay soil, effectively limiting their growth to the amended area. And remember not to work clay soils while they are wet. Two of the best amendments for clay soil are coarse sand and coarse organic matter such as compost. Coarse sand is also sometimes called builders' sand. The particles are relatively large, especially when compared to the finer sands used for sandboxes. Finer sands may actually make your problem worse. There are lots of types of organic matter available for gardening but not all of them will help improve clay soil. It must be coarse. Avoid fine-textured material such as peat moss or the packaged manures. If possible, find a source for a coarse compost or aged manure. Check with your city to see if they have a compost site for leaves yard waste.

There are several products called soil conditioners or clay conditioners. These products are new to the gardening market. Most of them are only practical for small areas.
Last edited by minnesota_girl on Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MaineDesigner
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Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

I'm going to agree and disagree with minnesota_girl. 24 hours is a huge amount of time, if there was still water in the hole after that interval it wouldn't just be bad drainage it would be horrific drainage.

With serious clay you only have a couple options, you can either build raised beds on top of it (this needs more qualifiers but for the sake of brevity let 's leave it at that for now) or you can try to amend it. Amending it can work but it will require huge amounts of organic material and an ongoing process over many years. I can't see why the texture of compost would matter unless it is complete dust which seems unlikely. If someone wants to make an argument for coarse compost only I hope you'll explain the theory behind it. Excellent free compost used to be available from the U of M Ag barns on the St Paul campus but they figured out that it was a valuable commodity and now sell it to landscapers.
Adding sand or gravel is dodgy path and I would strongly discourage you from going down that road. With serious clay content soils adding sand or gravel will only help if the soil becomes more than 50% sand or gravel, ideally closer to 70%. Smaller amounts can actually make the problem worse in many cases.
Although there are several methods for judging soils by touch and/or eye I would urge you to go ahead and get your soils tested. Ohio probably has a state soils lab that will do it at a nominal cost. In addition to getting an accurate idea of the soil classification you gets lots of other useful info to guide your amending and fertilizing efforts.

minnesota_girl
Senior Member
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:29 pm
Location: Minnesota

I have only ever had sandy soil, so I have been doing almost opposite work you'll need to do with your soil.

If it was me, I would try to look at plants that are native to areas with at least similar soil conditions. I prefer to work with my soil than against it, and you could save money by buying native plants instead of huge amounts of gravel, sand, soil conditioners and what not. I don't think it's worth it.

Try to stay open to suggestions, and I know you have probably done tons of research but knowledge can help.

dtownjbrown6262
Full Member
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:31 am
Location: Cincy, OH

I picked up a used book (Guide To Easy Perennial Gardening) at a yard sale this morning and it had some pretty descriptive methods of testing soil composition. Im "drying" my soil now to give them a try. One of them has you place a cup of dry soil into a quart sized glass jar, adding a tablespoon of powder dish detergent, filling with water then noting the sediment layers. I will also take MaineDesigner's suggestion about a state soil lab.

I went to a gardening center yesterday (before reading your replies) to peruse their available Coreopsis & Dianthus varieties. I didnt buy any just yet because I want to do some more research on which ones would work best with my conditions & exposure, but I asked the owner about loosening clay soil and she suggested adding peat. She said "peat" not peat MOSS......is there a difference? I also told her about my water-hole test and she took a guess that I might have a some sand mixed in somewhere (thus the reason for my upcoming dish detergent /glass jar test), so I may have to consult more with MinnesotaGirl if the results of my test show a high sand percentage. Im really excited to see what the results reveal :wink:

Thanks again to everyone for your input & suggestions. I'll report back when Ive figured out my sediment layer percentages.....isnt gardening fun :clap:
Im a newbie - please be kind :-)

MaineDesigner
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Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:17 pm
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

dtownjbrown6262, "peat" might refer to either peat moss or black peat*. I suspect she meant the former as black peat is much less widely distributed. IMO the suggestion of peat moss is a poor one for a litany of reasons. I would strongly point you toward good quality compost instead of peat moss. Black peat, if you can find it, is a better choice than peat moss but still has some "issues" partially related to the environmental damage and unsustainable nature of peat harvesting. Unfortunately garden centers are very often sources of bad information. Propagating nurseries are a completely different matter and are often very knowledgeable IF you find the right person to talk to.

*black peat is peat moss in a further state of decomposition, it has different structural properties and tends to be more nutrient dense than peat moss.

minnesota_girl
Senior Member
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:29 pm
Location: Minnesota

dtownjbrown6262, I agree with MaineDesigner:
the suggestion of peat moss is a poor one for a litany of reasons. I would strongly point you toward good quality compost instead of peat moss.
I haven't used black peat but it sound a little better than peat moss, if you were to choose I would go with that suggestion.

Happy Gardening

dtownjbrown6262
Full Member
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:31 am
Location: Cincy, OH

So, does compost "break up" clay soils too? I thought compost was used just to improve the drainage & overall health of the soil :?: I think the garden center owner suggested the peat because my question was regarding how to make my hard, unworkable soil texture easier to manage....would that make a difference?
Im a newbie - please be kind :-)

dtownjbrown6262
Full Member
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:31 am
Location: Cincy, OH

Well, it took some time but I finally got started on my front borders. I had to resort to one of those "fool-proof-beginner-gardener" layout design plans but Im excited about my progress nonetheless. I have to wait until next year to buy some of the early season bloomers that were suggested so I just filled in the space with some annuals. So....how am I doing so far? (sorry if it takes a while to load - I added some text boxes to the pic)

[img]https://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q179/dtownjbrown/gardening/Left-1401pm-LABELED.jpg[/img]
Im a newbie - please be kind :-)

minnesota_girl
Senior Member
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:29 pm
Location: Minnesota

You are doing fine, the lavender looks great. I am glad you added some annuals, I like to add pansies to my garden because they tend to bloom all summer. When I plan garden I look at the bloom time, because perennials tend to bloom for short periods annuals make great choices for an everblooming garden. I would add some spring bulbs in the fall, you know crucus, daffodils, tulips, winter aconite, irises, and hyacinths. After you have found some spring bloomers you like I would look at summer bloomers, you have some already (lavender, coreopsis, daylilies). Then there is late summer-fall.

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