Saturday, June 12, 2010

A New Perennial Bed

So here it is June 12th and I am just writing my June blog. I am sure that most of you can relate to the fact that watering in June is a time sponge. Between the nursery, growing areas, vegetable garden and landscape I can barely keep up. So that's my excuse for being late with this.

I really want to discuss perennial beds. It can be a very simple, satisfying undertaking that you will enjoy for years if you do some planning before you plant. And don't be surprised when it evolves over the years with new plants added as less appealing ones are removed. A perennial bed is a great way to reduce water vs grass. By preparing the soil properly, mulching well and watering effectively a perennial bed will use 25-50% less water than a lawn, depending on the plants used. First choose a location for your new bed. It can be a small, intimate area where you sit most often, a border along a walkway or a wall or an island in the center. Outline the area using a garden hose. Curving lines are more appealing than straight ones. When you have the shape and size the way you want, and if it is a lawn area, dig out the grass. Rototilling and raking will work for shallow rooted grasses but more tenacious species will require an herbicide. Prepare your new area for planting by working in Back to Earth Compost at a rate of 1 bag per 25 square feet. The addition of a source of phosphorus (Bone Meal or Soft Rock Phosphate) and Potash (Greensand) is also recommended. Till or turn the soil to a depth of at least a foot. This will help in the root development of your new plantings and make them more drought tolerant. Choose a theme for the area. Native, low water, butterfly and hummingbird gardens can have color or interest all year long and use very little water. You will want to pick an anchor shrub or two for your bed. Butterfly bush (Buddleia), Spiraea, Photinia, Bamboo (Phyllostachys), New Mexico Privet (Forestiera) or an Ornamental Grass would all make a good starting point. Plant your anchor towards the back of the bed, anywhere but in the center. Taking into consideration the exposure (full sun, part shade, full shade) choose your perennials and work out from your anchor using plants that descend in height down to ground covers in the front. Groups of plants in odd numbers such as 3, 5 or 7 create the best impact when in bloom. Plant these groups in a natural formation, not straight lines. Be sure to include plants that flower in spring, flower in summer, color in the fall or have some winter interest such as berries, attractive seedheads or evergreen foliage. Late flowers or foliage plants should conceal gaps left by earlier flowering varieties. Be sure to mulch your new area to minimize weeds, conserve moisture and give it a finished look. A new perennial bed will take some work and planning but reward you with less watering and lots of visual interest.

We have lots of great perennials, compost, pecan shell mulch, eucalyptus mulch and as always honest advice!