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Friday, January 13, 2012

Backyard Renovation: Part 2

BackyardRenovation2
Ok, I have a confession to make...I totally intended these Backyard Renovation posts to be completed in 2 posts...but, as usual, it's taking me more time than I anticipated to complete the 2nd part (a hectic week at work didn't help). Therefore, I'm dividing the Backyard Reno into 3 posts! Honestly, cramming everything I wanted to cover into this post would have made it redonkulously long anyway (and I'm already guilty of too many monster-mega-posts)! This post is going to focus on the plants I chose to use in the backyard. The next (and last) post in this series will be about the finished product...woohoo!

Agastache
How could I possibly have a garden without Agastache...well, I can't! I knew before I even started this garden that I wanted Agastaches to figure prominently in the design. Last fall, as I was drafting plan after plan for the plantings, I got the new catalogue from High Country Gardens. I was instantly drawn to one of their new introductions, 'Blue Blazes'. The rich, intense color and large size made it an instant buy. I also decided to try out one of their other Agastaches, 'Ava'. Even though not in my original plan, I also purchase a trio of 'Purple Haze' this spring at a local nursery. I was bewitched by the deep, sultry coloring of its foliage...and just hoped the flowers were even half as good as the leaves!

As it turns out, all of these Agastaches did AMAZING. I was blown away at how vigorous and floriferous they were, even in their first year. A few 'Blue Blazes' even topped 6' this year! 'Ava' grew to an impressive 4-5'. And the blossoms...such wonderful, rich colors...and they didn't fade in the sun like many Agastaches tend to do. I love them both. 'Purple Haze' also proved to be worth its weight in gold. It grows much fuller and more compactly than the other two, and blooms heavily in a wonderful smoky purple.

Geraniums
I'm amazed at how much I've come to rely on Geraniums for long-lasting color in my garden. I love how they form rich, emerald-green carpets of foliage, covering the bare ground...and even more, I love how they mingle with other plants without smothering them. Of course, I gush about 'Rozanne' all the time on this blog...suffice it to say, she's a staple here on Rhone Street. I'd become interested in Geranium macrorrhizum earlier last year, as much for the wonderful, evergreen foliage as for the richly-colored blooms. I happen to love the scent of the leaves (sort of a woodsy, incense-like smell), however, I've been told that quite a few people don't care for it. Geranium wllasovianum's claim to fame (aside from being both un-pronouncable and un-spellable) is it's wonderful rich fall foliage. The blooms are nice too :-)

Grasses
If there's any one group of plants I can't live without, it's the grasses. Now, I have to admit that at least one of these grasses (the Stipa gigantia) is actually not going to stay in this spot! I've been wanting one for a while, but never saw it for sale around Portland. This spring, when I finally found some, I snatched one up and planted it in the backyard until I could find a better place for it the following year.Sadly, it's mature size is much too big for this space, and it would overwhelm the backyard. I'll probably replace it with one of the smaller Pennisetums ('Hameln' or 'Karley Rose').

Since many of the plants I was using throughout the garden have a very "relaxed" attitude, I wanted some really upright, structural grasses to contrast with them…and to make the garden feel a little less chaotic. I settle on Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster', with it's wonderful, tall seed heads. They grew huge and lush…and even though they get far less than full sun, never flop. LOVE THEM! I adore how, even though they are very sturdy and upright, the seed heads have a tendency to splay open at times…which gives a wonderful, naturalistic effect to the garden.

I bought Anemanthele lessoniana in a fit of lust at the spring HPSO plant sale. I'm crazy about it's wonderful amber-colored foliage. Towards the end of the summer, I realized the north section of the garden, which I has thought was very shady, actually gets quite a bit of sun during high summer…and, honestly, the spot needed some verticality to visually "lift" it up. What did I do…planted more grasses is what! I added a trio of Panicum 'Northwind'…so beautiful with their statuesque form and rich golden fall coloring.

Vines
Part of the fun of having a beautiful new fence is completely covering it with vines…right!?! I had actually planted the Clematis the previous summer after spying it at a local nursery and falling in love with a huge, mature specimen at Cistus Nursery. I've always love the rich, autumn coloring of the Parthenocissus…so knew I would get one of those as well. The cute little Dicentra was actually a gift from Ryan Miller…isn't it rad!

Astrantia
Ah yes, another one of my new loves…the Astrantias! I've been very surprised at just how tough and adaptable these puppies are. It was especially welcome once I realized that the spot they were in, which was full shade until about May, was pretty much full sun from June-August…oops. Regardless, with a little extra water, they didn't bat an eyelash…blooming for months on end. The only one that seemed a bit displeased with the sun was Astrantia maxima…although, even though it sulked a bit during the hottest part of the day, still managed to triple in size during summer.

+++MISCELLANY
Lastly, I have a few stragglers that didn't quite fit into any category. The Vernonias are awesomely tall and have gloriously rich violet flowers. 'Purple Majesty' Salvia has amazing rich, velvety purple blooms...they are too good to miss.

I almost always have a few Sedums in the garden, and this year decided to try 'Matrona'. It has wonderful pewter foliage that stands out amidst all the green. Plus, it's a beefier, taller Sedum than most, which I love. 'Lollipop' is a dwarf version of Verbena bonariensis, a it turns out that they are the perfect height for the tight space of the backyard garden.

While I started a few Knautia 'Melton's Pastels' from seed to plant in the backyard, I also purchased a few starter plants early this spring...just in case. Although the 'Meltons' Pastels' seedlings grew and grew, they haven't flowered yet. The Knautia starter plants, however, grew like weeds! I totally love how they throw up long-stemmed wands of ruby-colored flowers. They have a wonderful, carefree look I love. I've always coveted the dark-leaved Cimicifuga (Actaea) in other people's gardens...and now I have one! I can't get over how amazing its foliage is...I want a million of them!

Lastly, I have a plant that was gifted to me by none other than Mr. Impatiens himself. I had mentioned that I couldn't find any Impatiens balfourii for sale last year. Lo and behold, he brought a few seedlings from his very own garden. I know I will probably kick myself next year that I planted them, since they are supposed to reseed like there's no tomorrow. I'll think about that tomorrow...for now...aren't they pretty!

Alright...there are all the plants that I used...in the next post...the finished (sorta) product!!!!!

BTW...for all of you who got a weird message when visiting that requested a password for MuckAbout (or somthing like that), I apologize...one of the blogs in my feed was apparently doing that for anyone who hadn't logged on to WordPress as the feed attempted to load. I've removed that feed, so hopefully that will resolve the issue...hopefully :-)

75 comments:

  1. Some of my favourite plant groups... beautifully presented. I'm hoping that our fledgling agastaches, geraniums, grasses and astrantias will give half the display this year that yours have! You have created a plantsman's paradise.

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    1. I hope so too...if they do, you will be so very pleased...they are all fabulous plants...and far tougher than I would have imagined!

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  2. Scott, your collection of plants is inspiring. I tried Agastaches twice .....really would like to have some in my garden..but so far no luck. I think amending the soil and trying a new spot might help, one more try!
    I will look for your accessement of Stipa gigantea. I have used the 'Ponytails' Stipa tenuissima in VA and liked it. Have Panicum 'Shenandoah' here and really like the form. El Dorado still hasn't done much for me, it is alive, but still only about 12- 15 inches tall. Clay soil, bad drainage, limited sun, voles, and rabbits. Oh the challenges of a garden.

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    1. It seems that Agastaches can be quite tricky at times...honestly, I'm quite surprised that I can grow them at all, with my wet, heavy clay! I agree about Panicum 'Shenandoah', one of my absolute favorite grasses (I'm even adding more this spring to my front garden!). El Dorado definitely snoozed for me this year too...let's hope next year he earns his keep ;-)

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  3. Hey, Scott!
    Looking at your pics I'm thinking... this should be a book! Very nicely laid out - I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I'd buy all those plants, too. Oh, wait. I think I have most of them. Ah, what the heck. I'll buy more. Just kidding around. One can never have too many Agastache and Geraniums. Though, I get kind of nervous about grasses. (Some that I have purchased have become quite invasive so I need to get smarter on these.) Anyhoo. Loved your post. Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Kate!
      OMG...wouldn't that be something...not sure I am up to such a task (at least unless I can quite my job first!) Hahahaha...I totally agree...I will never tire of Agastaches and Geraniums...if I could, I'd sent one of each out to every gardener in the world! Grasses do tend to make people nervous...but there are quite a few that are very well-behaved. The Calamagrostis, in particular, is totally sterile, so no re-seeding at all!

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  4. Agastache 'Ava' was already on my to-buy list but it looks like I need to add a few varieties to my list! Your post has me so! excited! for! spring! And for part three of this series. :)

    And that cimicifuga! Holy smokes!

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    1. Hi Heather...totally, you need them! Although, if you are patient, I can give you some cuttings of mine...I found that almost every stem will root if you put them in soil...super easy! I may even have to thin out the A. 'Blue Blazes' this spring...so many have an extra plant or two if you're interested :-)

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  5. Beautiful! Our plant choices couldn't be more different (except for that Clematis of course). I think you were smart to give the plants their own post so they could be appreciated on their own before revealing how you've combined them. I can't wait to see the finished photos.

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    1. Hahahaha...I know...it's so funny...we should do a Six Degrees of Garden Separation where we are all linked by various plants ;-)

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  6. Just some beautiful picks there Scott. It i so much fun to plant new beds. And yes, that is exactly what a new fence is for. LOL! I fell in love with Astrantias last year too and have to add more this year. And your Hillside Black Beauty is gorgeous. I love the dark foliage. It will be lovely in all the seasons. Love the new plants.

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    1. OMG...you said it...knowing I was going to get to plant the beds up was really what got me through the construction phase of this whole thing! Don't you just love Astrantias...I agree...it's hard to resist buying more once you've seen them in your own garden...and realize just how charming they are!

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  7. You didn't mention how the Orange Cat, Boots, helped you garden by selectively smashing a new plant for his summer sleeping spot.

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    1. hahahahaha...that little jerk...awww, I still love him...I think he was trying to tell me that they were in wrong place, anyway...and he was right!

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  8. Wonderful post, the lay out is far better than those of the gardening magazines'. Love your plant selection. I can't wait for the last/third part.

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    1. Awwww...that's so sweet of you to say :-) You don't have to wait long...I'm posting it today or tomorrow!

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  9. Great selection of plants! Glad you're enjoying the Dicentra! It's actually macrocapnos, but they look almost identical. Macrocapnos is just more vigorous.

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    1. Ack! Shoot...you know what, I'm pretty sure I knew that...I don't know why I keep making that mistake...maybe because I have a harder time spelling macrocapnos ;-)

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  10. I dig the plant palette. It's definitely going to go nice with the straight lines of the hardscape. Clean lined hardscape with these kinds of grasses and soft perennials is just about my favorite look these days.

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    1. It does seem to work well, doesn't it...I like that it allows the plants to be the focus, without a lot of fussy landscaping competing for your attention :-)

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  11. I did enjoy this post! I absolutely love every plant you chose for your back garden, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing your final post with its big reveal. You have such amazing talent, not just in choosing plants, but in combining them. I want some of those grasses, especially the Stipa gigantea. I saw a lot of it during the Garden Bloggers Fling this past summer.

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    1. Yay...glad you like them too! You should get some of the Stipa...I was the same way, kept seeing it in gardens around town and was just totally jealous of them!

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  12. Yes to all of your great choices. I also love agastache but I need to try some different ones in my alley garden. Blue Fortune gets quite big and robust I will need to ring it this spring. I have another one back there that is too delicate and gets overshadowed by all the other grasses and plantings (can't think of the name right now). High County has the best selection of agastaches.

    Eileen

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    1. Love the plant choices! I think we have similar taste in plants, I love Agastache too. I can't wait to see how they all look planted.

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    2. Gatsbys Gardens - I actually had to support Blue Fortune in my garden as well...it was almost 6' tall! It was fine until the rains started, then FLOP, over it went :-( You should give Purple Haze a try...it didn't get leggy at all for me...and bloomed for far longer than Blue Fortune ever has (at least for me)! I agree about High Country Gardens...I've gotten most of my Agastaches from them...and have always been impressed

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    3. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress: Yay! Glad you like them as well...I hope the final reveal doesn't disappoint!

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  13. Nice choices Scott. I sure you will give us a wider shot next round. I've struggled with most Agastache except blue fortune. I think it may be winter drainage. Anyways keep up the good work!

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    1. Oh yeah...the wide shots are in the next post...I hope it doesn't seem to gratuitous...acting like it's a big secret! Agastaches seem to be problematic for a lot of people...drainage and winter wet do seem to be the biggest challenges.

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  14. Hi Scott,

    Lovely to see your blooms; so many of them I have too... Although I have looked into the Agastache; they're apparently not fully hardy here so wouldn't survive more than the one year.

    I need to add plenty more climbers to my fence; after the poor showing from climbers last year I'm ready to give up on them and get something else instead and hope they grow well in one year - I'm tired of feeling people can see me when I wander around in the back garden.

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    1. So sad to hear that about the Agastaches...I used to live in Zone 4...so can feel your pain :-( hahahaha...i know how you feel about feeling exposed in the backyard...that's something we STILL have to solve as well!

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  15. All lovely choices. I had actually ordered some Astrantia a few years ago and they were out and never got back around to it. Always enjoy seeing your blooming.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. OMG...I think you should get some, for sure...you'll love them!

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  17. That's alot of plants! You're helping me hone-in my own interior courtyard renov, once I repair the low voltage lighting from **# rodent damage. It needs to be far denser than outside it.

    BTW, the only one that works great in my area is the Agastache (though some can't take our "flash-frying"). I don't have one here, yet I use them elsewhere...for perspective, they grow fine on N sides here w/ only hand water in drought, once established.

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    1. You actually reminded me, I need to spend some time this winter researching similar lighting...the solar light just doesn't do it...not quite enough sun once all the plants fill out (and forget it in winter)! Oh yeah...some Agastache really don't care for too much heat...the Southwestern-type ones, however, seem much more forgiving...A. rupestris is still a go-to plant for me when I want something that doesn't need much water and thrives in sun.

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  18. Of course these plants are all not thriving here with us, but i always come here trying to patiently download the 'redunkulously long mega-posts', even if all the photos don't download at all, because i really love your photos. They really inspire me! And now, the way you composed those collages are beautiful too. I hope i wont always experience the 'redunkulously' long reloading time, LOL. love that word.

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    1. Hi Andrea...I hope so too! I've actually been playing around with the image sizes prior to uploading, to at least avoid the scaling that has to occur with the photos in-browser. Just curious...do you have broadband or dial-up? I'm still trying to figure out the best way to keep the photos big, but not bog down people's internet connection!

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  19. I've wanted Astrantia for what seems like years, but was nervous about them because there are never seen sold in garden centers here in my area.Not even at Annies. But, Digging Dog to the rescue..I have a spot all picked out !Looking forward to photos from Rhone St in high summer !

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    1. Yay!!! So glad you found some Astrantias...I hope you love them as much as I do...they even cross-breed quite readily, so if you have a few different kinds, in a few years you may have even more...and of different colors!

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  20. Scott, darling, could you please stop showing off those AMAZING agastaches of yours?! It is almost irritating seeing how big and beautiful they are in your garden! :)
    You've chosen such lovely plants for your beds and I'm sure in post 3 we'll see how good you've arranged them together.
    Anemanthele lessoniana is in my 2012 wish list too, I had to look up for it though, because I knew it as Stipa arundinacea. About stipa gigantea, I didn't get if your stipa has overgrown or what, because my stipa gigantea (2yo) has only set one (one!) flower last summer and didn't grow that much...

    Alberto

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    1. Oh Alberto...you do make me blush ;-) I really don't know why the Agastaches love my garden so much...everything I've read about them would seem to indicate they would hate it (wet, heavy soil and cool summers should mean dead Agastaches)! Somehow, they thrive though, and I am very grateful. Oh yeah, my Stipa gigantea is still super-small...not even a single bloom stalk yet...but I know eventually it should get about 8' tall...and I think it is too close to the C. 'Karl Foerster', they would compete too much, visually. I'm going to move it this spring...and will be happy if I even get 1 bloom stalk!

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  21. I love the Agastache as well- we grow one - the 'tutti frutti' that has a beautiful scent. They do so well and are so tough. Love em'. Great post. I like the Astranias as well. Great post- I always learn something new when I read your posts!!! Can't wait to see the finished project!

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    1. Hi kacky...yeah I have 'Tutti Frutti' too! For some reason, mine always flops over...but oh yeah, that smell is AMAZING...and the hummingbirds go crazy for it!

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  22. Heavens to Betsy - every bit as exciting as I expected. Thrilled that you got your Cimifuga, mine is the pride and joy of my foliage plants. As always I love every-single-plant you have chosen and am peeing my pants with anticipation of how they will look in 6 months time. Can't wait to see how they have been placed in post 3.

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    1. hahahaha...oh cally, I'm glad someone else say's "Heavens to Betsy" besides me! Norm thinks I'm crazy for saying it all the time! Just you wait...I'm posting the next one today or tomorrow...I hope it doesn't disappoint!

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  23. Beautiful plants you chose! I can't wait to see the next post! And yes, I was getting that password request box, but now it's gone. Thanks for fixing that!

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    1. Thanks...and so glad the password-shenanigans are over!

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  24. I'm amazed at how resilient my astrantia is - if you only saw the ground sodden shady cold north facing place it is thriving in! I must get down and smell some geranium leaves this season. You chose some lovely plants and I can't wait to see how everything will mature and fill out over 2012.

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    1. Me too...it's so crazy because they look like they should be delicate and demanding! Definitely give those Geraniums a sniff...I wonder if you'll find it pleasant or not :-)

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  25. So excited to see the finished product. The pressure is on now! I'm not sure I would cover up that beautiful fence with vines, but clematis is not too crazy I suppose. Yes, thanks for fixing that odd message pop-up. I was wondering what was going on with that.

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    1. hahahaha...it definitely is on! I know...even though I'm itching to see the vines growing all over it, I'm sure I'll miss it fiercely once it's covered up. Oh yes...so glad it's gone as well!

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  26. I'm familiar with most of your plants and have some here, but I don't recall hearing much about Astrantia (maybe at a botanical class or something). They must not sell it around here much. I will look in the plant catalogs, though, and at the garden center this spring because that is a nifty plant. Great design for your presentation, too. The fonts you chose work so well with the flower photos. These would be great (professional) postcards or framed art!

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    1. I think you're right, Astrantias are somewhat hard to come by in garden centers...I lucked out this spring and found a bunch finally for sale...before that, they were almost non-existant! Glad you liked the design...I decided to go all-out for this series of posts...glad it is paying off :-)

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  27. Dear Plant Postings:-
    I think that Astrantia is one of the best kept secrets we perennial gardeners have. Its performance validates our passion for our hobby.

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    1. You are so right, Allan...it's one of those plants that I think isn't offered for sale much because it's just not very appealing in a 4" pot (especially when not blooming). I think once you've seen on in a garden, however, you will be hooked!

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  28. You can't go wrong with astrantias and grasses, Scott. I think the combinations of plants sound great and look forward to seeing how it all matures.

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    1. I couldn't agree more, Janet...I hope you like the finished product :-)

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  29. Very nice plant choices! You really put a lot of thought into your design and choices. I am looking forward to seeing the finished overall garden.

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    1. Thanks! I do tend to spend my whole winter planning and thinking over what do plant the following year...and occasionally it pays off well :-)

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  30. Great stuff, Scott. Your photos make me itch for summer! I don't think a person can have too many Impatiens balfouri. And they're easy to pull and fun to share.

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    1. Oh Grace...me too...I don't even mind winter so much...but I really want summer to be here now! Love the Impatiens balfourii...I'm hoping I can get enough seedlings to put some all over the shadier parts of the garden next year!

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  31. Scott, Isn't it interest that all of us gardener, once we get into a project are "surprised" just how big the projects get. Starting small or in a small space - always seems to grow - just like the plants. Speaking of plants, like your choices. See you soon. Jack

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    1. hahaha...I know...it's so funny how we often under-estimate just how much work things will be! Even in this small space, it was a lot of work!

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  32. You have some lovely plant choices here, Scott, and as always, I love your creative layout for displaying them to us. You're actually quite the Renaissance man: garden designer, gardener, photographer, writer and graphic designer! I'm really looking forward to seeing the third post in this series...I always love garden makeovers and I'm particularly fascinated by this project with its constraints and considerations.

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    1. Awww...shucks ;-) I do try to keep things fresh...and figured since these posts were going to be pretty time-consuming anyway...I might as well make the most of them! I love garden makeovers too...they are totally addictive!

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  33. Wow, what a marvellous renovation - and wonderful posts! I totally agree with Lily, I also enjoyed these recent posts more than many gardening magazines.

    I love Geraniums too (suprise!), they're are impeccable. I have macrorrhizums in red and in white, and really like the fragrance of the leaves. And your G. wllasovianum looks really beautiful! It reminds me of G. sanguineum 'Vision' which blooms in the same colour and shape.

    Last year I planted some new Geraniums (G. himalayense, G. cantabrigiense 'Biokovo', G. endressii 'Wargrave Pink' and G. x oxonianum 'Claridge Druce') and just can't wait for the summer to see how they're managing in their environment :)

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    1. I love all those Geraniums of yours (although I don't have many of them!) You really can't go wrong with them...there is really a Geranium for every situation! I do hope you post on the new Geraniums this summer for us!

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  34. What an incredible number of comments on this post, Scott, and look at you responding to every one. Rock on! I'm actually almost too envious of your plant palette to leave a comment without sounding bitter, but I'm going to try! I fell in love with astrantia while visiting Joy Creek Nursery with Loree last summer. She didn't know what it was, but now I do thanks to your post. Everything you've chosen is so gorgeous and lush and beautifully photographed to boot. Can't wait to see your new garden take shape.

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    1. Hi Pam...I know...I'm THRILLED with the response I've gotten from these posts...it's pretty exciting :-) I do try to respond to all comments, usually in a single block post, but realized the other da that I could actually respond individually...which is great! Oh yeah, the Astrantia are beauties...they do need consistent moisture...and I don't think they particularly like hot weather...but with enough shade, they are pretty tough! Amazingly, Joy Creek is the fist place I ever saw them as well! I'm sad I didn't get to meet you while you were in town last year :-( Maybe next time :-)

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  35. With plants so cool as these the reno is going to be amazing. Looking forward to Part the Third...

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    1. Awww...thanks, James...I hope you like the finished garden :-)

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  36. I know what you mean about mega-monster posts but sometimes they are worth it! Geraniums were one of my first loves when I initially got into gardening seriously. Now that I am in the process of planning my own new garden this was a fun post to read since just last night I was making lists of things I want and trying to decide which part of the garden they should go in. I need to go back and include a few more Geraniums.

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  37. Hi Scott, I'm finally catching up on some reading after being on a mini-vacation. First, please don't stop writing long posts, they are really delightful to read. Second, I am totally in love with your plant selections. I really admired the contrasts of textures, color and heights as you featured your plants over the past year. I also appreciated your grasses in the fall with wonderful colors and interest. Between you and Catherine, I'm sold on adding Roxanne to my future garden as well as some Astrantia. Ruby Wedding is a stunner. Cheers, Jenni

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