Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Project - Up Close and Personal

Last week I gave you an update on the xeri-garden, but in retrospect the photo did not do it justice. While I wanted you to see the whole thing, it was too small to see the real detail of what's growing. So we're back to take a closer look.

This is the left end of the bed. Before we look at the plants, take a quick look at the far left corner of the box. When I filled it originally, the dirt was up to the bottom of the top rail. In six weeks it has settled a bit more than two inches completely uncovering the second rail. One thing that I will have to do this fall and perhaps again next spring is to top dress the entire bed with more dirt. I will have to do it carefully to not smother the plants, but if I add it slowly I will be able to build up the level of the dirt as the plants grow taller crowns and keep themselves up and out of the dirt.

Now to the plants. You can easily see the salvia 'Snowhill' that dominates this end of the bed. It has grown and bloomed steadily since the second week after planting. There are only two plants here, but they have already reached 75% of their full grown size, and the butterflies love them. The thyme is just starting to bloom and the two remaining plants are spreading nicely, as are the two remaining evening primroses 'Shimmer' that are the gray-green foliage in the front of this photo.

The most interesting thing, tho, is the penstemon 'Elfin Pink' which is also blooming. Look closely at the right side of this grouping and you can find a tall, slender plant with coral pink flowers. It has bloomed for several weeks and altho it is small, seems well established. I have high hopes for next year. At the far right rear you can see the agastache 'Ava'. It is growing well and has some tall spikes of dark pink flowers that you just can see against the fence. It should at least double in size in a year or two.

In the right hand photo you can see the other half of the xeri-garden and some of the annual flowers that I added for color. At the extreme left is the 'Ava' mentioned above and just past the empty space is the second one. If you look carefully you can see some flowers on that one, too. The big open space is there because I wanted to leave plenty of room for them to grow. Eventually they should fill that space and have hundreds of flower spikes. The big surprise is the cat mint - it has gone wild! See all those pale lavendar fluffy-looking blooms behind and mixed into the petunias? That's cat mint. It smells wonderful (same family as "cat nip") and the butterflies spend whole days in it. You cannot see them, but there are also two penstemon "Violet Dusk' blooming in all that cat mint. They are a bit shorter than the 'Elfin Pink' in the first photo, but eventually I hope they will tower over the cat mint. They are lavendar, but otherwise look just like the 'Elfin Pink'.

When I planted all the petunias, I really was just trying to provide a pop of color to keep this new bed from looking too bad this first year. Well, they love it there and have spread like Topsy! I mixed the purple and pink just for fun, but ended up with a great view as you pull into the driveway - an unintended surprise! My long term plan is to use the far end of that bed as a cutting garden. I have already planted hollyhocks for next year, but will add zennias, stock and other annuals that are good for cutting.

Since it is a bed made entirely from composted dirt, I have had to struggle with weeding - not the usual garden weeds, but odd things from the compost like tomatoes! I have probably pulled 50 tomato plants so far, as well as hundreds of little Queen Anne's Lace plants, and the prize this week goes to a cucumber that is growing just behind the right-most 'Ada'. These all came from seeds of plants that were thrown in the compost heap. Unfortunately the heat in the deteriorating compost was not high enough to kill all the seeds. It makes for an interesting bed!

So, that's a better look at the xeri-garden six weeks later. I should note that I only watered the xeri-part for two weeks after first planting and have relied on nature ever since. [I have watered the petunia-filled end, where the plants are not intended to be water-wise, at least weekly depending on the amount of rain.] So far, they are doing fine and the drainage seems to be working as I planned. Altho I have lost two plants, that's not bad for a new bed and I lost things that are easily replaced. So far, so good.....

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