Monday, October 29, 2012

The saddest new planting bed ever

I whined and complained that I wanted rain so the ground would soften. After about five days of heavy rain we got a sun break and I headed out to plant the future meadowscape:

Despite the rain, the ground was still hard as a rock in places. Despite my sincerest desire to not hurt the dogwood, I ran into a lot of roots and might have just said, "Eff it, let's hope it lives." I really hope it lives.

Keeping with the tradition of doing everything wrong, I also planted everything too closely together. I followed Carolyn Kolb's recommendations for planting grasses . . . sort of. She recommends cutting off the bottom 1/2" from nursery starts (my bread knife worked perfectly), roughing up the roots a bit, then giving the grasses a smidge of granular fertilizer and some compost to get them going.

Despite the fact that I've been sitting on these grasses for over a month, I had neither compost nor fertilizer on hand. Fish emulsion a few weeks after planting will have to do.

Everything looks so lame right now but I'm hopeful it will look great come spring. And next fall should be spectacular. I have a mix of switch grass (Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'), Pennisetum 'White Lancer' (Pennisetum macrourum), and little bluestem grasses (Schizachyrium scoparium 'Blue Heaven'), plus a fountain grass for good measure (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Redhead'). This is part of the master plan that Scott drew up. Hopefully I won't screw it up too much. I need to smother more lawn so I can fit in the rest of the grasses and plants I have planned.

The inspiration for this planting scheme was a photo by Pam Penick, located here. Large swaths of different colored grasses will be intermixed with some bright drought-tolerant perennials. My goal is to water this once a week or less, once established.

I'm trying to tell myself that this will grow and look okay but I always doubt my spacing. But hey, this looked lame once, too.


  1. So I clicked to enlarge the photo (figuring I must be missing the lame part) but it still looks great! You did good. This is autumn, after all: everything looks a little peaked. They'll pick right up in spring.

  2. I agree with Jane...I think it looks great! Fall planting always feels a little anti-climactic...especially since everything seems to muddy and gross while you're planting ;-) It will look amazing next year...sunset in your garden will never be the same :-D
    BTW...if you think THAT is planting too are still better than me!

  3. Oh, whew. I really want to do right by your design. Let's hope everything survives the winter!

  4. Oh, spacing shmacing, I support the general consensus - it looks great. You can't go wrong with switchgrass. By the way, a horticulturist here at the Chicago Botanic Garden takes off the bottom cap of the roots like you did, then "squares the circle" with a knife or saw. Not sure if that works better, but I've tried it and I haven't killed anything.

  5. I take the pick axe anywhere near trees to dig my holes , all those fat roots ! works a treat ! I think it will look great and I love my' Shenandoah' such an great grass

  6. I just saw this post, and I was excited to read that my photo from Denver Botanic Garden inspired your planting. I think your new bed looks great -- far from lame! I hope by now you're getting some nice spring growth. Enjoy your grasses this summer and fall!