Hints of Autumn are appearing on the Lot.
During a recent extended family fishing trip, Mom and Dad L chatted with me about wanting to revive bits of their backyard landscape. Being globetrotters and full-time grandparents, these two had handed over the management of the area to nature. Now they wanted to introduce a bit more order and color, but still provide pollinators and birds with food.
The little, sunny area they had their eye on sits at the southeast edge of their urban, corner lot. Viewers would see the flower bed from the sidewalk, the backyard, and from within the house at the kitchen window. That section of the backyard had been overrun by bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) for several years, so the plants had built up quite the dense colony. The soil was also heavily compacted, so it was tilled and a lot of compost was worked into the bed to begin restoring structure to the soil. Good soil structure allows water to drain down through the soil and gives plants the ability to stretch out those roots without hinderance.
When making suggestions for the new bed, I wanted to make sure the plants:
- were magnets for birds, bees, and butterflies
- were tough and didn’t require much maintenance beyond their first year
- were colorful through different parts of the season
- were sizes from very tall (seen from the house) to shorter (seen from the edges of the bed)
Final Plant Selection for a Sunny Bed
Here is the final roundup to begin with for this bed, in the order of bloom time. The blooming period of the plants overlap each other so there is always more than one plant in bloom at once. Some of these plants were volunteers from The Lot (it’s a great way to thin out overcrowded beds in your own garden) and some were already in Mom and Dad L.’s backyard.
- Existing Random Tulips
- 3 Bee Balm (Monarda)
- 2 Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- 3 Asiatic Lilies
- 3 Hybrid Tea Roses
- 5 Daylilies
- 2 Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
- 5 Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)
- 3 Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
- 3 Sedum
Stepping stones and plants were placed in the bed. We didn’t plant right away to allow for an adequate amount of shuffling, changing our minds, and reorganizing yet again. The stones allow Mom and Dad L. a way to access the plants without stepping directly onto the bed and compacting the soil again. Here is the preliminary layout for the flower bed as it is view directly from the backyard.
Here is the same bed viewed from the sidewalk at the edge of the property. The roses were placed at the edges of the bed and not next to the path where a gardener would get scratched up. The coneflowers at the back will provide a tall backdrop for the bed.
And here is the bed once again, this time viewed across the backyard from the kitchen window. That same backdrop of purple coneflowers will create a large enough stand to be admired from this angle as well.
Finally we planted and watered the plants into the bed.
To help keep moisture in the soil for the new plants and block sunlight from the thistles more than likely beneath surface, we mulched the bed. Cypress mulch was applied 3 inches thick throughout, even under the stepping stones. Here is the finished bed from the backyard.
And here it is from the sidewalk.
It was really, really, REALLY hard for me not to place the plants closer together. However, I had learned it is better to allow the plants room to grow toward each other over the years rather than on top of each other during the second season.
Hopefully our winter is kind to the garden and all these transplants make it through to spring. In our Zone 6, if we plant by the end of summer, fall allows an adequate amount of time for the plants to settle in before the snow flies. I’m excited to see this bed next spring.
Today is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for August. Bloom Day is a monthly garden meme hosted over at May Dreams Garden, allowing gardeners from around the world to share what is blooming in their gardens. I’ve noticed on the Lot a handful of the plants that began blooming in July are also blooming this month.
- Blanket Flower (Gaillardea)
- Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
- Dwarf Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Buttefly Kisses’)
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
- Multiple Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
- Tall Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
- Dwarf Sea Holly (Eryngium planum ‘Blue Hobbit’)
- Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber)
- Rose Champion (Lychnis coronaria)
- Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Joining the bloomin’ party this month is the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) and the great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). Right now the two are elbowing for space, so I’ll have to space them out more in the Spring.
Also new this month are the pretty, blue blooms of plumbago (Ceratostigma). Last Fall, I thinned clumps of plumbago from the large patch in the backyard bed. Those plants were then transferred to the front, south-facing bed. It seems the plant has successfully established itself. I’m excited to see how the red foliage will look in the south bed this Fall.
Finally, here is the cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) I planted on the Lot last season. It was purchased at a native plant sale. I am quite excited about this plant because it is supposed to be a rockstar in providing for insects and birds. It towers over other plants in the lot, standing at about 8′ tall right now. Check it out, yo.
And here are just a couple of the many winged visitors to the plant today. I counted at least 5 different types of bees.
So, the second insect had me stumped. I searched about on The Interwebs today but had no luck. One last try as I was writing this post turned up the name Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus). They feed primarily on nectar and pollen of plants in late summer. Occasionally they’ll treat themselves to an aphid or two. Here is a close-up.