Saturday, September 10, 2011

Beds in the Sun

A week or two back into the past, GaiaGardener asked if I would take the time to post some overall pictures of my garden beds to help readers place some of the plants that I write about into their respective 3-D spaces. 

I have agonized for a time over the thought.  Reasonable though the request seemed, it involves an act that many, if not most, gardeners find to be unnatural;  that of the complete exposure of our gardens, with all their un-deadheaded plants, dehydrated hydrangeas, and misplaced statues.  No sanitized focus on the occasional perfect flowers or the dynamic foliage as we see in most blog posts, showing the overall beds will expose the drought-stricken, insect-eaten, fungus-stained reality show that is my garden on most days. I was too young for the free-love movement of the late sixties and have no naturist bent, but I'd bet most of us would sooner post au-natural pictures of ourselves than our naked entire gardens.  The latter seems just a little too exhibitionist-like, a little too revealing for a conscientious gardener.  

But, given the choice between displaying an old man's wrinkles and moles or exhibiting the deficiencies of my garden design, I suppose it is more humane to readers if I choose the latter.  So here we go.  I'll apologize preemptively for the drought-stricken appearance of my sun-blessed garden and for it's lack of overall acceptable design and any number of other faults you may find with it. 

The photo above is a broad, unedited view of what we'll call the Main Garden, taken from my bedroom window. This view is behind the house, faces due south, and shows a corner of my back patio and the surrounding bed, and a broad view of the beds in the "back yard" that slope away  from the small pergola down to an unseen farm pond and then back up towards the Colbert Hills Golf Course and Manhattan proper.  Outside of the photo, to the left,  are two Purple Martin houses and farther on, nothing but prairie, and to the right lies four unpictured trees (Sycamore, Buckeye, Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' and a 'PrairieFire' crab), and then a electric-fenced vegetable garden, a few lines of grapes and blackberries, and a small, slowly-growing orchard wraps to the west.  As you can see, there is no shade in this garden whatsoever, from the unmowed areas of prairie grass in the foreground, to the rose beds at the back.

For the bed descriptions themselves, we'll use the second picture, below, of the left half of the garden.  I labeled the beds with letters, so we can talk about them, and it'll likely take us a couple of posts to get through them.

Bed "A" is what I refer to as my "peony bed," so-named because the main grouping is a collection of about 20 peony varieties in the center and right hand side, backed on the left (east) by some ornamental grasses, forsythia, and Rose of Sharon. If I blog about a peony, it likely exists in this bed since there are only a couple of others scattered about my landscape.  At the far end of this bed is another pergola, covered by a pair of wisteria, that provides an east "exit" to my garden.  

Bed "B" is the second-oldest of my shrub rose beds and it contains about 20 old garden, Canadian, and rugosa roses. I call it my "East Rose Bed." There are no perennials except roses in this bed and the only ornament is my Aga Marsala statute, a chaste young woman reading a book.  In this bed are, among others, 'Pink Grootendorst', 'William Baffin', 'Harison's Yellow', 'Alchymist', 'Robusta', 'Maiden's Blush', and 'Reine Des Violettes'.

Bed "C" is a long narrow bed stretching across half the garden that I know as my "Hydrangea Bed."  It contains, as it's name suggests, 6 Hydrangea paniculata cultivars, from 'Limelight' on the east end to 'Pink Diamond' on the west.  But this is a very mixed perennial bed, with 8 roses, 7 ornamental grasses, a peck of daylilies, a forsythia, and other assorted shrubs.  The centerpiece of the bed is a 7 foot tall wire-supported Clematis paniculata tower.  This is also the bed where I've moved the Zen Frog into a permanent home.

I think we'll stop there and pick this back up in a couple of days.  Stay tuned next week, dear Readers!


  1. I love all the curvy large beds! My only thought is why are they so far from the house? Seems like a hike to enjoy the blooms. What a beautiful view in the distance even beyond your gardens, too!! Looks like you can see for miles and miles!

  2. It's a steeper slope between the house and the beds and then it levels out for a hundred feet or so, giving me a nice terrace of clay that collects rain.

  3. Thank you!!! Your gardens and their siting are breath-taking - a classic case of the gardener focusing too much on potential flaws while the rest of us are bowled over by the beauty you've created.

    This helps me so much in anchoring your posts in their true setting. (Yeah, somewhat punny, but I actually mean it seriously.) Now when you talk about carrying things up and down your hill, I can almost experience along with you. When you talk of your east rose bed or your hydrangea bed, I can visualize it. When you talk of seeing your garden from the house, I realize both the distance involved and the overall vista that you enjoy, along with your gardens. Again, thank you!


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