Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let There be Xeri!

Well, it's done. After two weekends of hard - and I do mean difficult and heavy duty - work, I have my xeri-garden. As you can see, it doesn't look like much ... yet. I have been telling you not to get too excited, because now the plants need to grow. I hope I have given them a good start. So, here's the last step, which I finished this morning.

Fortunately, it was a pretty day with very overcast skies. Altho the temperature was already 70 degrees at 6:15, the cloud cover kept it cool to work. Last night I laid out the bed on paper. This is always a good idea when you are working either with lots of different kinds of plants, or when you are working with a big bed. I had both. I had 22 pots including nine varieties, plus ground cover to fill a space that is 64 square feet. To lay out the space I used graph paper and the tags from the plants. The way I do it is to make a list of the plants including their height, width and color [from the tags]. Obviously, you want the shorter plants in the front - duh - but the width determines how close together or far apart you want to put them. A plant that is 8 inches tall x 10 inches "wide" will fill a circle with a 10-inch diameter. So, if you want your plants to fill in the space fairly tightly when they are mature, you need to figure out how far apart to put them. I like about two inches of "overlap", so for those 8 x 10 plants I would put them 8 inches apart instead of ten (10 - 2 = 8). And, of course, you want to consider color. My bed is primarily blue, violet and pink, but with white and a soft yellow to break up the pastels.

I started by setting the pots out according to the plan. You will always want to move a few around when you see how they look. Then I started at the left end at the back and moved left to right and back to front digging and planting. It is very easy with a new bed like this. All the dirt is soft and easy to dig. I waited until they were all in place before watering the bed. I watered twice and will do it again this evening. In addition to the plants I have bought, I pulled a Sedum telephium 'Autum Joy' out of my existing garden and divided it into four clumps for this garden, as well as six or seven clumps of Sedum spurium 'John Creech'. The latter came from Garland's garden nearly 10 years ago and is all over my garden. It's probably my favorite sedum.

If you look at my plan (at the bottom of the post) you might notice that there is about a third of the bed that is mysteriously "blank". That's because I over-built! Truth be told I really didn't realize how big this bed would be. The part that is now filled is about what I had in mind, but I built it much larger, so what to do? Eventually I know that there will be plenty of volunteers and other plants to add, but for now I have filled it with annual plants for color. I may use it next year for a cutting garden, or let Mitchell use it to augment his vegetables.

So, what did I plant? I keep saying this is a xeri-garden, but it is also a hummingbird and butterfly magnet as well. All of the plants can get by just fine on small amounts of water and none of them like to stand in water - hence all the sand and gravel in the bottom of the box to help the water run thru and off down the slope of the yard. Working from the tallest in the back to the front, here's what you will find:

Agastache x 'Ava' - Ava Hummingbird Mint. This grows up to 4 feet tall (so it's next to the fence for support if it needs it). It's a rose pink and will be covered with blossoms from mid-summer until fall.

Penstemon barbatus 'Elfin Pink'. Two feet tall and a bright pink, this is reportedly one of the easiest beardtongues to grow and a hummingbird favorite, and it's next to:

Penstemon smallii 'Violet Dusk', which is also two feet tall and pale purple. It is already in bloom.

Oenothera fremontii 'Shimmer' and Penstemon 'Blue Lips' are at the front. The former is a pale yellow and the latter is ..... pale blue. They are only 10-12 inches tall, so nice for the front. Blue Lips should bloom in June and Shimmer much of the summer.

Thymus serpyllum 'Coccineum', Red Mother-of-Thyme is the ground cover for the left front corner. It will form a carpet and trail over the edge of the box.

Salvia 'Snowhill' fills in behind the Elfin Pink. It is a little taller and white. This, too, is already in bloom, so I get some more instant color from it. The white looks good against the grey fence.

Sedum 'Autum Joy'. I put two clumps in the back left corner. The greyish color will be nice with all these pastel flowers, and the bloom is a bright, bright pink that fades to a pretty brown in the late fall. These plants look terrible at the moment. They would have done better to have been transplanted in the early spring - like early April - when they were short. I think they will eventually make it, but they will not be much to look at this year. There are two more at the far right end of the planting.

Nepeta Walkers Low - Catmint. There is one plant tucked in between the Violet Dark and the sedum at the far right end. This is a clear violet with a slightly grey foliage, so another nice combination with my pinks and purples. It is already 15 inches tall.

Sedum 'John Creech'. As an after thought I added this groundcover along the front of the bed. It forms a lovely two-inch tall mat and will trail over the front of the box.

The last plant that went in was gift from my next door neighbor - a passalong plant. It's an annual or biennial that grows "wild" in her yard, and before weed killer grew wild in my yard. Remember that many "flowers" are simply domesticated weeds! It's in the lamb's ear family and has a lovely deep cerise flower. It will self seed, so will make a good filler in this bed and help with the wild look that I hope to have in a couple of years. When I remember it's name I will tell you!

So, that's the Big Project - all done, except the growing. I feel happy to be finished, but a little let down not to have something on the horizon. Unfortunately, the next project is more in the keeping-up-the-house variety. I'll take some pictures in a few weeks to see if we are making any progress. Happy Gardening!

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