Building My Garden Part 5 – Flower Gardens

Sorry it has taken me so long to share this part of the garden.  I actually debated waiting even longer because, to be honest, the garden still doesn’t look like much in photographs.  The plants are small (most of the plants were 4″ pots or gallons), I still haven’t mulched, and there isn’t too much in bloom yet. There are also a lot of finishing touches I need to apply to make the garden look like it was done by a professional.  But then I figured it would be more rewarding when the garden is all full and nice to have shared the garden at this infantile stage.

So everyone remembers the before picture from December right?  That was right after I moved in. Yuck. Look at all that stupid lawn.

This is the garden five weeks ago as I was laying out the initial plants.  To be honest I didn’t really have time to do a design for this garden.  Not the best way for a supposed garden designer to create his own garden but I suspect it is common.  I really wanted to get the plants in quickly to take advantage of winter rains (Ha!).  Especially since I planted a lot of native annuals.   So the design was a bit random. The way I normally work is to pick a few specimen plants and build a garden around them but it didn’t really pan out in my own garden.

Above is a shot of the entire garden last week.  The mediterranean garden is on the right and was the first garden I installed (though I keep adding to it and am going to enlarge the two beds next week). Between the two houses in the fenced area in front of the lawn there is a long bed that is going to be a shrub border.  That is currently still in limbo because I decided to remove part of the lawn behind the fence so the shrub border can be expanded.  That is also where I had my gopher problem so one of the reasons I am doing this is to get rid of all the yellow lawn daisies that the gophers seem to love.  When that project is finished the only lawn remaining will be above the septic field in the back. Anyway you can see the shrubs in their big pots waiting patiently to be planted.

The gardens to the left of the mailbox is what we will be talking about today.

Here is the garden today. First up is the “Big Border”.  The long bed between my driveway and the “Path Garden”.  It measures Forty feet long by nineteen feet wide and is made up of two berms with a little valley in the center.

The large plant anchors that I tried to build the  beds around are a Grevillea rhyolitica in the front and a Cantua buxifolia in the back portion. I said tried because I really didn’t shape the design around those plants and instead it is more of a cottage garden look (at least it will be when the plants fill in). The house faces north so the portion closest to the house will be shadier most of the year. That will have a separate drip system so I can include more moisture loving shade plants. Toward the street I think I will eventually shift that part of the garden to include more mediterranean themed, drought tolerant  plants.

The beds on the right are divided by a path that leads to the shrub border and mediterranean garden.  The back bed around the palm is shadier so is made up of several species and cultivars of Fuchsia and Cuphea.  I decided to do a bit of a color themed garden here and so that is the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.  Since that bed is most visible from my large living room window I thought it would be fun to have a garden that attract hummingbirds right in front of it.

The front bed I am currently calling the “Chaos Garden”.  Even more so than the other beds this one has no theme or strong anchors.  It was basically the bed where I threw all the leftover plants. More than half of it is California native annuals so this bed will probably dramatically change later in the season. It will likely just become part of the mediterranean garden.

By the way the “Path Garden” is filling in nicely.  Aside from one Dianthus that suddenly dropped dead the other day the rest of the plants are blooming quite a big and slowly creeping outward. The Chamomile in the front smells divine.

So there you have it.  Now you’ve seen the flower garden in early stages.  There is nowhere to go but up. If all goes well I will put in irrigation, mulch, and add some finishing touches (gravel and mulch for paths, more rocks to cover and pretty up the drainage ditches, shrub border finished) in the next few weeks.

Now a few of the plants that are in bloom and my thoughts on them.

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’

I grew this back east and found it to be short lived and Gabe said it is the same here.  So I probably won’t use it in clients gardens unless they are OK with something that may potentially act as an annual.  They are very impressive though and will hopefully self sow. They are in the front of the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Cuphea ‘Strybing Sunset’

I have five different varieties of Cuphea because I think they are adorable and they bloom pretty much year round.  This one is in the back of the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Cuphea cyanea

This Cuphea is so cute I want to eat its little face. It is in the back of the “Big Border”.

Fuchsia splendens

This is kind of a weird Fuchsia.  The flowers are sort of waxy and lumpy.  Strange thing.  It is sort of salmon which counts as orange or red as far as I am concerned so it is living in the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Uncinea uncinata ‘Rubra’

This was not a plant I had any intention of buying until I saw it in person.  At Annie’s Annuals at about a hundred feet away I saw something glowing, beckoning to me, it was lit up from within and said “Come close so I can jump in your cart”.  Of course you know which bed it is in without me telling you.

Eupatorium sordidum (syn Ageratum corymbosum)

This guy is like a really sturdy Ageratum and is at the back of the Big Border in the shade.  Supposed to get three feet across which is really exciting.

Lupinus hartwegii ssp. cruickshankii – sunrise lupine

I’m having a little love affair with lupines.  They are one of the first plants I grew from seed in my first New Jersey garden and there are so many delightful species that grow well in California.  So I sort of want all of them.  I think I currently have six different types growing in the garden.  I have three of this annual species growing in the “Big Border”.

Lupinus albifrons – silver bush lupine

This one is from Annie’s.  It should become a fairly large woody stemmed shrub with very low water needs. It is so tiny now I wasn’t sure I should even let it flower but I will deadhead it before it sets seed so it can put more energy into growing big and strong.

Lupinus succulentus – arroyo lupine

This is another annual from Annie’s.  The leaves really are quite succulent and juicy. I kind  of wish I had bought a few more of them so I could have planted them in a group because the annuals around it aren’t really filling in as much as I thought they would.  I also wish I had planted it closer to the path so I could easily squish its leaves. Hopefully it will self sow.

Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’

A great South African annual from Annie’s. I bought these because I love them but didn’t really have a place in mind for them and somehow they were left over and forgotten at the end. In retrospect they would have been great for the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” but I sort of randomly stuck them here and there at the front of the “Big Border”.  Perhaps not my best design choice as they are far ahead of the other annuals there but at least they are pretty.

Nemophila menziesii – baby blue eyes

In the future I’ll plant these earlier (beginning of February instead of the end of February) and I’ll plant them closer together.  I tried to be really good about spacing things appropriately but I think in the case of annuals smooshing them together a bit just looks way cooler.  I’m hoping these will keep growing a bit bigger even though they are all in full bloom already because some of them are really doinky. They are currently planted across the front of the “Big Border” and the “Chaos Garden”.

Heliophila longifolia

South Africa has the best annuals.  This has been a favorite since I first saw them in Mendocino and those were stunted plants that were in their nursery pots for way too long.  If you plant them at the appropriate time of year they became large plants covered in wands of these cheerful little tricolor flowers.  These are in the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” just because I reserve the right to plant whatever I want wherever I want even if it doesn’t fit into the prescribed theme.  They look really nice with Geum Maggelanicum and Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.

Anyway that is it for now.  Hopefully in a few months there will be so much blooming you won’t even recognize these beds.  Next installment should be the shrub border but who knows when I will get around to finishing it.

You know as I am tagging this post it occurs to me that “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” is a monumentally stupid name for a garden.  From this point on it will be known as the “Hummingbird Garden”.

3 thoughts on “Building My Garden Part 5 – Flower Gardens

  1. I think it looks great so far…especially for a space that is so newly-planted. It’s good to know I’m not the only one with a little anxiety over new gardens 😉 I actually re-did my backyard last spring…but completely held off the “reveal” until winter…which was a special kind of torture!

    I love that Eupatorium…I remember seeing that on their website…is has the purplish leaves as well, right? I’m envious of all your Lupines…I want to add more of them, buy have been wary due to the whole Mildew issue. Then again, they always (well almost always) seem to come back the next year. I really want ‘Thomas Church’, but missed ordering it…ouch. I’ll be watching to see how the bush Lupine does for your…I was very intrigued by a “bush-forming” Lupine…must be amazing to see a mature specimen.

    Anyway, can’t wait to see it all fill in as the year wears on!

    • My experience with lupines back east was that they are very easy to start but can be short lived and die for no apparent reason. So I used to just start new ones from seed every year to replace ones that died. I only grew them when I lived in the mountains because they don’t like heat and humidity. I’m not sure how all the various ones I have now will do here but some of them are CA natives. In Mendo the Russel Lupine types bloomed for months and months. My Thomas Church is trying to bloom but the flowers are aborting. Probably as a result of being shipped and planted recently. I should probably just snip off the flower buds.
      The dunes near my house are covered with huge silver Lupinus chamissonis shrubs. They should be blooming soon.

      The Eupatorium does have silver leaves. It is really quite cute. I hope it thrives in the spot I put it. Morning sun and then shade most of the day.

      I can’t wait for everything to be all full and big and in bloom but someone I once knew always used to say “you shouldn’t wish your life away”.

  2. Pingback: Annual Garden | Plant Propaganda

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