Showing posts with label panicum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label panicum. Show all posts

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Checking back in on the meadow

When we started the meadow last summer, we just had a smallish area where we cleared the sod.

I took a trip to Wind Dancer with Scott and bought five Schizachyrium scoparium 'Blue Heaven', three Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah', three Pennisetum macrourum 'White Lancer', and a Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Redhead.' 

I've been slowly chipping away at the area, removing more sod by hand and sneaking things in.

I've snuck a lot of things in, probably too much. Now it looks like this. Behold, my MS Paint skills!


I know, it makes your head hurt. Starting in the front, by the sidewalk, I have two types of sedum. I really needed Sedum 'Matrona' but no one was carrying it this spring. Scott would text me anytime he found some but he'd inevitably say something like, "They have two at Portland Nursery . . . but they're $15.99 apiece."

I randomly discovered that Bluestone Perennials was running a sale on them for $3.75 apiece so I bought 12. I've scattered them throughout the front of the meadow, as well as elsewhere in the front garden to try and unify to the different spaces. The plants from Bluestone were in great shape, beautifully packaged, and they shipped super fast, whew!

Established 'Matrona' that I planted last summer

I added three Sedum 'Sunset Cloud' to my Bluestone order, a low-growing sedum that supposedly looks nice with purple sedums. I'm really liking it so far.

The next height level moving back is made up of the five little bluestems. The coloring, so hard to photograph when they're still so small, is gorgeous.

I wanted a color blocked scheme to this planting, so we have the three Panicum 'Shenandoah' behind them. The idea was to get big swaths of color, sort of like this. Scott designed this scheme, I could never do this on my own.

So here's where things went awry. I thought I planted three Shenandoah behind my little bluestems. But then one of them put on a lot of growth during the cool season and started to bloom. This one just didn't look like it was the same grass.

And then I was going through my stash of nursery tags (I snap photos and keep them in a folder online so I can access it from my phone when I'm shopping) and I discovered that I had purchased Pennisetum 'Foxtrot.' Um, where did I plant that?

Maybe I put the Foxtrot here instead of the third Shenandoah? But here's why this is stupid: the grasses were IN BLOOM when I planted them. How on earth did I confuse this?

Anyway. I moved the blooming grass to the backyard and moved what I think might be a Shenandoah to this spot. Everyone cross your fingers!

I tucked in a lot of Sesleria autumnalis on the north and south sides of the meadow, since this area will be viewed from both sides. I love the bright green color and Carolyn (of Wind Dancer Garden) says it's tough as nails. It can handle shade or sun, drought or soggy conditions. And it's smaller, so you needn't worry about it eating your garden.

On the back side you'll have a nice view of the Blue Hill salvia and Sesleria planted here. You should also get a nice view of the Molinia caerulea 'Stahlenquelle' I recently acquired. On the right side I've got a swath of Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'.

At the suggestion of intrepid gardener/reader Lynn I installed some rue, in the hope that swallowtails will find it and use it as a host plant. Go ahead and eat it to the ground, caterpillars! I don't care. I tried to find parsley (another host plant) that hadn't been treated with the chemical BT and haven't had any luck. Thank you Lynn, for all your advice.

Now I'm on the lookout for a bench to put under the tree. We don't seem to have a problem with theft on the street but I'm reluctant to drop a lot of money on a bench that could be stolen from our front yard. I was at Ikea recently and they had a reasonably nice one for $99. That would buy a lot of plants/rock/pots so I'm still thinking on it.

In the meantime, I'm plotting what kind of plants I might want to put here. It's going to be dry and deeply shaded in the summer. I'd love a shrub or something taller to screen out my neighbor's yard. Because I lack imagination, I'm considering what I did under the cedar: a ninebark. I wish there were big grasses that could do shade. Has anyone had any luck putting a ceanothus in deep shade? I had the dogwood professionally pruned recently, so I don't think we can open up the canopy much more. Any input is welcome.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Blank slates and fun natives I'll never plant again

Did you ever have something really hard or bad happen in your life, and maybe you were super worried or stressed about it, but once you had a plan you felt better? You still have to deal with it and go through all the pain or hassle, but having a plan makes you feel like you're being proactive. Plans in the garden make me feel better too. I'm still going to have to deal with plants dying or growing slowly or not growing the way the tag said they would, but I have a plan.

In the northeast corner of the yard, the corner we stare at all through winter while we drink coffee in bed, I finally gave up on the Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans'. It couldn't stand on its own for whatever reason (I think that corner is just too windy). This corner has been a mishmash of stuff, mostly natives that I got on the cheap because I was so cash poor when I first bought my house. Behind the cryptomeria was an Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor) that looked absolutely terrible all the time and it had no winter interest. It was also going to crowd out that tree eventually. Between the weeping blue spruce and the cryptomeria is a huckleberry that is going to take a million years to get up to a good shrubby size. I'm willing to wait on that one because it's evergreen and very pretty. There used to be a native flowering currant in that spot but the pink blooms clashed with everything else so I dug it up and gave it away. While we're on the subject of natives, I planted a nodding onion here on a whim and I will be forever pulling up seedlings as a result. Except the seedlings have to be dug up, they're so stubborn. Worst native ever.

Our view in winter

The cryptomeria is going to be replaced by a Korean fir but I've yet to find one with a form I like. I ripped out the Ocean Spray this weekend.

To get some height and winter interest in this area I'm finally getting smart and incorporating tall grasses and fast-growing perennials. Behold, my amazing MS Paint skills!

Two Panicum 'Northwind' will lend some height in the back, along with Joe Pye weed. I'm planning to put in some Zauschneria starts to obscure the tulip foliage once they start dying. I'm really excited about the lupine here, Lupinus regalis 'Thomas Church,' which Annie Hayes described in a lecture I attended last spring. Its blooms are two toned purple and yellow and it's fragrant and (supposedly) mildew-free.

Image source: Annie's Annuals
Just to the left lies the apple tree stump that I attempted to turn into a birdbath.

The birdbath couldn't hold water after the second year and the stump keeps suckering along the root line, so I've yanked out all the peonies and penstemon from this area and the stump will be ground out in two weeks. The peonies have been permanently relocated to another area of the yard and soon I'll have a blank slate in front of the bamboo. I don't have a plan for this area yet.

I want to plant a gunnera but I'm worried it will dwarf the ninebark to the right of the bamboo. I'm also worried it won't fit in a yard where there isn't much in the way of tropical plants. I have about 50 square feet of blank slate here. I think I might need another Melianthus major but that's all I've got so far. Anybody have good ideas? Has anyone ever crowd sourced their yard as much as I have? I don't think so.

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.