Friday, October 3

A year in the life of a flower bed.

About three years ago we planted up a new bed in the front of the house with perennials and spring bulbs. As the bed is the only garden area at the front of the house I wanted it to have all year round interest and so the perennials were chosen for their long flowering period.

I achieved my aim but now it's time to take stock.

The bed starts to spring back into life in February after a brief winter rest. The Katherine Hodgson irises are the first to flower and the spring bulbs start to nose through the soil. 

This is my signal to cut all the perennials down to ground level and give the bulbs breathing space.

The different varieties of miniature daffodils are at their peak in February and March. The species tulips and crocuses produce splashes of colour but haven't bulked up as I expected. When adding new bulbs I first grow them in pots and plant them out once the existing ones come through so that I  know where there are gaps and don't inadvertently dig up established clumps.
At an early stage I planted seed raised aquilegias and antirrhinums to fill gaps and these still freely self seed and pop up throughout the bed as well as in the gaps in the paving blocks. Unwanted seedlings are easily removed.

Last year I added some Dutch irises although I was sure that I had planted more than appeared. I planned to add more this year but haven't seen any bulbs for sale in the garden centres.
The campanula - Pritchards - announces the approach of summer with a dramatic statement. Cutting back spent flower stems encourages a second flush of flowers in August/September. A white campanula persicifolia is less dominant, so much so that I haven't a photo of it.

The crocosmia adds a much needed touch of yellow and the penstemons start their long blooming period. I dead head  these to keep them going.
The hardy geraniums also start to flower. Some have self-seeded throughout the bed and gaps in the paving blocks. Some of the varieties seed a bit too prolifically and will need some control. After the first flush these throw out flowers throughout summer.

The bees love the  tiny heuchera flowers but to stop the plants over dominating these are given a severe chop after flowering.
Verbena bonariensis also self seeds and pops up between the other plants. 

There are to be winners and losers amongst the flower population. The hardy salvias have disappeared under the other foliage. They never grew strongly but until this year held their own.

The rudbeckias also seem to be struggling and produce nothing like the display they produced when first planted. I may try collecting some seed and trying to start off some new plants. I wonder whether, if the seeds actually produce anything, they will be true to the parent plant. 

Another statement plant that takes over once the campanula has become more subdued is Aster frikartii Monch. This variety is very early flowering for a Michaelmas daisy. It is certainly well before Michaelmas.

The penstemons are definitely winners and have bulked up so much that I need to think about dividing them. Having a really long flowering period, they are well worth their space in the bed. The problem is how to divide without damaging neighbouring plants or digging up bulbs.


The other aster - Purple Dome is much more reluctant to flower than Monch, so much so that I have considered removing it. Sometimes it is so late to get started that it fails to open all its buds before winter weather seems to shut it down. This one doesn't make Michaelmas either.

As you can see from the photos below the penstemson and geraniums were still flowering in December last year
This year I planted some phlox and erysimums in what at the time were gaps. Most have disappeared under the foliage of the more established plants. I wonder if they are surviving somewhere?



22 comments:

  1. It's beautiful Sue, you've brilliantly mastered getting flowers successionally for months and months, I'm most impressed. It must catch your eye every time you pass.

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    1. Thanks CJ. I like how it changes but there us always something to look at through the front window/

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  2. I can't believe it's about three years since you planted this bed up, time seems to have flown by. It's certainly filled out, you've done a good job with it.

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    1. Neither can I, Jo. I wish it hadn't filled out quite so quickly

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  3. The bed looks lovely. I've got a small bed that I'll be planting up next spring. Hopefully it will look as pretty throughout the year.

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  4. Interesting exercise Sue, you certainly achieved what you started out to do. I have just taken advantage of the dry weather to rip my borders apart as I have a habit of "burying" stuff and did actually find one plant which I thought had died two years ago.

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    1. I'm hoping the phlox surface, Rick

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  5. This bed looks interesting, month by month. I love your photo of October 2013, lovely heucheras.

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    1. The heucheras are lovely but need a firm hand Nadezda ot they tend to dominate

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  6. It was lovely to look back through your photos. It's looking good throughout the seasons now.

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    1. I think next year I'll try to be a bit more efficient at photographing areas throughout the year, Jo

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  7. I think growing annual flowers on a bed needsmore time for me. On our tropical climate, I grow perennial mostly in my garden. Actually annual flowers much interesting than perennial, but they need more handling. Love to see your flowrt garden, so colorful!

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    1. Nearly all the bed is planted with perennials Endah. only one or two antirrihnums and aquilegias that seed each year.

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  8. Managing a garden through its different stages of maturity is a challenge and the October photo is beautiful. It needs constant editing doesn't it, to keep it looking good. I'll swop you lily of the valley for penstemons, the latter are proving difficult to establish for me!

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    1. Strange isn't it , Jessica how one person's challenging plant is another's triumph

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  9. So pretty Sue... interest all year round.. love it :o)

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  10. It interesting to see how it has looked through the seasons. I must say I'm surprised at how much you have growing in a small space, and how good it looks.xxx

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    1. It means hardly any weeds get in as well, Dina :)

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  11. Its all come together beautifully Sue, Monch is a favourite of mine too, a really good doer. I am new to penstemon, I have Blackbird, and am taking cuttings to get more. Its always interesting to see which plants thrive and which don't. I'm a big fan of sticking to the ones that prove themselves rather than persisting with ones that struggle.

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    1. I do like a little challenge, Janet so will have a go at things which are a bit temperamental/

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