Monday, August 22, 2011

Garden Fail/Garden Win

Well, it was bound to happen...our pleasant, mild weather officially ended this weekend...and summer and I are officially broken up again. As I sat in front of my computer with the A/C blasting away I was pondering what to post about this week. I've been wanting to do a new series of posts about my gardening foibles (especially since I have practically never-ending string of them) and this seemed like a good time to start!

The above illustration from last year shows an ongoing issue I have. The front garden is located on the east side of our house, and due to some mature trees across the street, doesn't get light until about noon. The garden gets about 4-5 hours of sun, after which the house (and trees behind it) shade it for the rest of the day. I've struggled to find plants that will thrive in these conditions...shade plants fry in the hot sun and far too many sun plants grow tall and flop over. The black wedge above shows the most extreme situation...the peak of our roof actually creates a weird spot that only gets full sun for 1-2 hours a day...but during the hottest part of the day. Today I'm going to talk about the first plants I tried there...some poor Echinacea (white circle).

This photo shows just how tall and spindly the Echinacea were...they got almost 5' tall, with the thinnest (and weakest) stems...almost no can see right through the plants, they are so sparse! Can you believe there are 3 plants in there somewhere!

Here is the view from up on our least now you can see the plants better. Anyway, the Echinacea were not happy here, they did bloom, but of course they flopped all over and were pretty sad looking. I decided last fall, a few weeks before the first frost, to move them. I knew it wasn't the best time and that they wouldn't have much chance to put down new roots...but figured at least they'd have a better chance...I wasn't sure they'd make it through another winter in their current location.

echinacea new locatin wide  449
So I moved them, to the north side of our house, a spot which gets no sun at all during the winter, but is actually one of the sunniest during summer...crazy, huh! Anyway, I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained...they HAD to be happier here...if they survived. This spring, I was thrilled to see them return and they have been MUCH more successful here. They are fuller and much more floriferous.

echinacea new closeup  450
Truth be told, they are still a bit on the floppy side, because even though for my garden, it's about as full sun as I can get, it's a far cry from truly being "full sun" conditions. I'm hoping they bulk up and are a bit sturdier next year, but either way, they are much improved over last I declare it a win! Next time, I'll look at what I chose to replace the Echinacea in their old spot.


  1. Sometimes we play with numerous things before we hit on the right choice. Guess you'll be back in to investigative mode searching for the right thing.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Interesting post as I have problems with Echinacea, too. I think I need to move the two plants I have in the garden to a container on the deck. That seems to be the only place they enjoy in my yard.

    I will be back to see what you put in their place.

  3. I have a shorter echinacea that I grew this year and I wish I had 100 of them! It is about eighteen inches high and never loses it's deep pink color, grows in partly shaded area - Kim's Knee High.


  4. I'll be interested in seeing what replaced them, as I'm having this problem on the west side border I'm working on. It doesn't get sun until noon---then it stops getting sun around 4 pm. So, whatever I put there has to get by on 4 hours of the hottest sun of the day. No problem, right?? hahahahahahah!

  5. A lot of people have that odd spot where there is a sun/shade challenge. I solved mine by planting a small tree close by. Voila! - full shade! But, that of course wouldn't do in your spot. I, too, am intrigued by what you may have planted there successfully. Your north-side-now-echinaceas are very pretty.

  6. Scott, I think you should get an axe and in the middle of the night creep over the road and chop the trees down. Then you only have the shade from the house to worry about.....
    Seriously I'm sure you'll find the right plant for that spot.

  7. Yes, this sounds familiar for sure. I decided to grow Hebes. They're doing great. I'm curious to see what you are doing.

  8. I am always so reluctant to move things, mainly because if the plant does not work where I want it, then I have to move something else to get it to fit.

  9. Perfection is hard to meet. But I get your drift. The hard part is when you go to nurseries and you know you need that particular plant that you are lusting for and well, you can surely find a home for it. right? Even thought it needs 8 hours of sun a day to succeed.

  10. That constant search for the perfect combination keeps gardening interesting, doesn't it? I find my different echinacea varieties vary quite a bit in their floppiness. Amongst the taller ones, 'Ruby Star' stands up pretty well for me.

  11. i have a bed with similar conditions and so I'll be looking forward to reading about what you chose to replace the echinacea with.

  12. Really good post, it's always encouraging to know that even though most perfect gardens (that's how I see yours) have some trial and error.

    I have some similar issues here with the same irony that some of the best growth is in the North facing border, because it can handle the gentler morning and evening sun.

    Your Echinacea looks like a buxom belle compared to mine which has consistently given 2 or 3 flowers for 3 years. I can't get it out because of tree roots so I just have to enjoy what meagre spindly pleasures it offers and be glad that it didn't succumb to the slugs best efforts to eat the whole thing.

    Not sure what type of flooring you have in your house but I bet it has a little worn patch where you peak out the windows to enjoy the plants. I'd be there 30 times a day.

  13. Funny, I was just looking at my Echinacea . I have to two clumps, The original one gets fried this time of year , It faces south . Now the one I divided and moved , faces East , It looks beautiful and fresh . Think I'll make a third clump , try it somewhere else .

  14. Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' should do fine there. Variegated Five-leaf Aralia would do well also if you wanted to add a shrub. Email me your address if you want to try one of these. I have plenty of Chelone in stock yet, I think I have an extra Aralia around.

    Of course it looks like you have Veronicastrum 'Fascination' in back, which will eat that space in the next couple of years. our 8 year old clump is easily 4' wide at the base and 6' wide at the top and reaches 6' tall.

  15. Sunray: Totally...trial and error is the only way, sometimes!

    Zoey: As easy-going as they are in the right spot, they really do need full sun to be their best!

    Gatsby Gardens: I've heard about that one! I 'll have to find a nursery that carries them so I can check them out!

    Sue: I just posted a follow-up today about what I used in their place...Astrantias! That's exactly the problem I have too...not much sun...but what sun I do get is SCORCHING!

    HolleyGarden: Oh man, I wish I had room for trees/shrubs...but alas, it isn't to be :-)

    Janet: Hahahahahahaha...omg...that would be classic! I do love the neighbors trees...if not for them, our little house would get pretty toasty...that isn't to say I love them completely!

    Grace: Hebes...that's a great idea...what kind???

    Les: That is certainly true...I used to hate moving things, but anymore I just do it...I figure at least I have a chance of eventually finding something that works ;-)

    Greggo: Hahahahahahaha...oh yeah, that sounds VERY familiar! I am so guilty of that...and having to play musical chairs with other plants to find a spot for it...ugh...when will we learn!

    Sheri: Totally...I was sad this spring thinking that I was almost out of room and wondering what I'd do...I realized shortly thereafter than I'll never be done!

    Ginny: I just posted a follow-up this afternoon!!!

    Cally: Oh, totally...they were so spindly and sad last year, this year, MUCH better! Even if you only get a few blooms...they are so pretty it's worth it!!!

    Linda: I think that's the key...just keep trying until you find the right spot ;-)

    Plant Geek: Ahhh...totally! I hadn't thought of those...I would totally take you up on that...but I've filled the spot...check out my new post to see with what...maybe I'll find a spot for Chelone, though! I can't wait for the Veronicastrum to fill in a's a bit floppy (not enough sun)...but has clumped up already faster than I thought it would.