where are you on "continuous bloom" gardens?

Marie Tulin
August 29, 2016
last modified: August 29, 2016

I'm trying to structure my thinking and one garden so I don't expect continual color from it from Spring through Fall. Previously, I strove for that and ended up with a mishmash of plants, which included whatever plant was in bloom at the nursery at the time my garden had nothing blooming.

Note: I have a big yard and have other places to look besides the one described above:

An early spring garden that includes ephemerals and lots of hostas and ferns. The hostas make it look good all season

A woodland garden where I'm satisfied with trees, hydrangea paniculatas and foliage plants (woodland perennials) Looks acceptable all season

But the space that morphed into a burdensome 'all season blooms' bed is right next to house. I see it a half dozen times a day every day and every season. I understand how I got neurotic about it and forgive myself. But I gotta get a grip because I absolutely cannot continue to manage a bed full of perennials that need deadheading, dividing and artful arrangement which continually fails, plus weed control, mulching and watering.

Finally, to get the point, I'm disciplining myself to think of it as the spring/fall bed: bulbs and early perennials in April and May, quiet June-mid August, and color in Fall.

In fact, as I write this, I may not fill the bed with bulbs this fall. The dead foliage is ugly and can't be hurried and one needs a ton of bulbs to be effective. And I am talentless at making effective bulb presentations.

Have you changed your thinking about what a garden bed looks like and what will satisfy you? I think this post is in the vein of "how have you simplified your gardens" but I wonder if there's more to it than just going to more to shrubs and grass. I know there is for me; I need a big attitude adjustment.

And truth be told, I no longer feel like it should win a garden award if it were judged. It never ended up on a tour or got ribbon so I could give up that criteria for success as well.


Comments (73)

  • gardenweed_z6a

    Very thought-provoking/inspiring thread. When first designing/planning my garden beds I was focused primarily on curb appeal as well as bed design. I did a shade study so I'd know where there were periods of shade. I knew what I had soil-wise even though all my mother left were some issues of Organic Gardening magazine. I'm in southern New England in a small town that requires homes be built on no less than an acre. The driveway was sand when I moved in and it slopes down from the road so paving it was a high priority. The paving guy measured the length which let me know the house sits 70 ft. from the road.

    Knowing the challenge I had before me, I focused on what perennials would grow in my soil according to the hours of sun each area of the property got. I started on the summer solstice in 2006 and mapped the information on an MS Word table. I'm retired I.T. so it seemed logical to me. I colored the areas that got sun by daylight hours.

    Next I started researching plants hardy to my USDA Zone that attract pollinators. My neighbor is a beekeeper so I focused on sustaining them. There used to be an above-ground pool when I was a kid. My Dad used to name the honeybees that ended up in the pool.

    The pool is gone; I hired a neighbor with a backhoe to grade the "awkward" parts of the garden (he's also my local VW mechanic + he plows my driveway each year).

    Guess I'm content with what I accomplished during my own tenure of this little green acre. I still smile each time I go walkabout the garden or pull into the driveway after a trip to the library.

    It's late August and I've got a number of tall phlox in bloom as well as quite a few rose of Sharon. I still smile each time I pull the car down the driveway after a trip to the library.

  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    TR - I really dislike ornamental kales. I grow them in the vegetable plot and they are pretty enough for me there. I do grow violas in the window boxes. But snowdrops, crocus and narcissus are so integral a part of an English spring that life would be awful without them. They just ARE spring here. In a climate which, although temperatures are not blisteringly cold, winters are often very dark and depressing with little sunshine daffodils do the job instead. Spring is very long and variable. I will see snowdrops just after Christmas and still be looking as tulips in May. Daffodil season can last 3 months. Horses for courses, as usual.

    March 15th.....

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  • Campanula UK Z8

    Quite a few posts have mentioned this word 'planning'. What's that then?

    Flora, Tex, I don't usually grow brassicas (too many pests and I hate the taste of all of them) but I do make an effort to grow half a dozen red cabbages over winter because they are so absolutely gorgeous. And truly, winters would be intolerable, endless and grey without snowdrops, scillas, crocus...although I am often rescued from gloom by a few early auricula blooms. In dull February, I dash out to sniff at them half a dozen times a day (aromatherapy).

    My garden season runs from February to September - I could keep it going but I am fed up by then. The whole of July (especially since the spray disaster) was rescued by half a dozen pots of lilies. Although I am as critical as everyone, my idea of fail rests less on the quality and more on quantity - I find bare soil miserable but can happily overlook a jungle of unpruned mighty ramblers and collapsing perennials (I have a penchant for LARGE ones) in that case, stuffing and neglect have provided a solution...but probably (certainly) only in my eyes.

    In my neighbourhood, Woody, a manky pot of motheaten geraniums would count as a 'massive effort'...and in truth, any attempt I make (and I do) tends to be obscured by the ancient hill-billy wagon (battered Ford Ranger) which takes up most of the space -and the pile of bikes. 3 rubbish bins and various scummy lounging cats - none of which are mine.

    On the other hand, the neighbours themselves are quite...colourful.

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I am truly enjoying this thread. I've not aimed for continuous bloom in any particular bed, and I've only started putting in beds with some type of a plan in the last 10 years or so. A couple beds bloom in summer, while others look best in spring and fall. I do think about foliage at least as much as blooms in the beds I've planned, but I do have one bed that wasn't planned at all, just favorite plants tucked in when we moved (20 years ago) with various bits added since, and it probably has both the most consistent flowers, but also some of the ickiest foliage at times.

    I like Karin's 'continuous not-looking-horrible' phrase, and I think that's what I am aiming for long-term and mostly have in the planned beds, though unlike some of you I do have a fairly well developed capacity to overlook what is less appealing and focus on what looks good at any given time. I have been ruthless with removing rampant self-seeders and those with truly unpleasant foliage, and there are only a few old favorites that I have to deadhead to keep them looking tidy. I have the advantage that few folks pass by my property at less than 30 mph (the distance bikers) and many at more like 50-60 mph (the commuters), so the only people who see the need for deadheading or removal of old foliage are folks specifically visiting us, and if they are going to be offended it will be by my (poor) housekeeping rather than the gardens.

  • dbarron

    I have to agree with Campanula, the smaller bulbs (avoiding hybrid daffodils and the likes), add cheerful color and the leaves are easily hidden by any other surrounding foliage.

    It would be a shame to not include some of the small early blooming bulbs (like crocus, scilla, or even eranthis) in any possible location that would favor naturalizing. I also include some of the species daffodils with unobnoxious foliage like bulbocodium or cantabricus or a few of the species tulips for more arid areas like in TRs garden.

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex

    I refuse to put on this horse haired shirt. I am just happy things make it through the summer and not rot in the floods or burn to a crisp. But today , I am happy. They will be gone in a week but will be replaced by red ones and then blood lilies and hopefully the salvias will start their fall show by then. Our 100F days are history hopefully.

  • greenhearted

    I have really enjoyed the conversation in this thread and think probably most gardeners grapple with the same issues, in varying degrees.

    This has actually been a great garden year for me, not because my garden looks like it could win awards (except maybe Most Chaotic Garden) but because I have made such an effort to garden only for my own pleasure - and the bees, butterflies and birds. They love the abundance ... and if I can get past seeing my gardens through the lens of what seems to constitute "acceptable landscaping", so do I. I find landscapes with three shrubs evenly spaced in a sea of mulch and a sprinkling of annuals sterile and lacking in spirit. But quite tidy. And against this, I do find myself doubting my own vision of what is beautiful sometimes. Most of my family and friends think I'm nuts and I must admit, when it comes to plants I truly am. But it is a madness I wouldn't trade for anything.

    Back to the original post, I tried something new this year. By my complete lack of planning, the garden beds surrounding my walkway are 75% spring bloomers. I am drawn to blues, soft pinks and purples, so it was a very harmonious blend. In fact, it rather took my breath away! It was something that made me consider the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Though it was only a seasonal show, it had huge impact.

    So I redid a front bed with mostly late summer/fall bloomers, hoping to have a big moment like that in the fall. I just planted it, so its quite sparse and I won't know the results of my experiment yet for another year or two.

    I love foliage and also tend to focus on plants that still look good when not in bloom. Like others, I tuck bulbs around the base of perennials that will cover the dying foliage. There is something about those very first flowers in early spring after a long winter that make my pulse race!

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex

    Green hearted, That point of what our gardening purpose does make this point often take second , third or fourth in priorities. Pollination, larval food, survivability, native or near native provenance take more of a importance. I look for a natural order or almost natural order in a difficult environment so this becomes a pipe dream for much of the time but Fall is good and full of flowers, wild and cultivated.

  • texasranger2

    I get this. It strikes me as sad to see butterflies checking out a lovely landscape that has obviously had some serious time and money put into perfect lawns, landscaping and cultivated flower gardens with extensive sprinkler systems used bi-weekly but there is not a single useful flower anywhere for them so they fly on in their search. The 'weedy' areas along the side of the road are friendlier and more useful.

    Its hard to think of continuous bloom in August. Fall is right around the corner and the flowers will come back on what has survived -- if only we'd get some rain. Currently, my garden is very dull and save for a few drought hardy plants that have a cast iron constitution such as Flame Acanthus, Malvavicious drummondi (Turk's Cap), Russian Sage and Lantana, most of the plants are just holding on in a summer dormant state, that even includes the native grasses grasses. 90% of it looks withered and semi-dormant. Its too hot to be out there anyway. Of course my reliable weeds--the annual bitterweed plants---provide yellow from spring to frost no matter how bad things get and usually in summer its bad.

    The other day I decided to plant more Flame Acanthus along with the bank of Salvia greggii. When the Salvia is done the Acanthus starts its long summer bloom which keeps the hummingbirds happy, they finish about the time the Salvia gets geared up for the big fall show -- both endure drought & heat without supplemental watering. I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner.

    Oh wow! I hear thunder. Sun is out but I hear thunder. Last night it rained to the west. Fingers crossed.

  • texasranger2

    Woops, speaking of continuous bloom, I got distracted by wantanamara's comment and forgot to mention that this year I've been playing with the idea of buying some ornamental kale and cabbage at the Farmer's Market to plant up front with the winter grasses, cactus and blue agaves. I think the subtle colors & textures will (I hope) look quite nice and I haven't seen anyone using it that way. Usually its mass planted behind many pansies in formal beds at the fancier homes & corporate offices etc. We rarely get snow here and when we do, its a short lived event so for some time now I have focused on textures for The Winter Garden.

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex

    Dinosaur kale is very textural too,and eating it is great in my book. Some of the red siberian are larger and would look good in white foliaged plants.

  • Campanula UK Z8

    Mmm, yep, Cavolo Nero kale would look terrific with grasses...and that almost bloomy black colour is lovely. And edible. I vaguely recall having a red chard moment too...but slugs and snails did their usual rapacious munching to tattiness resulted.

    I am enjoying this thread and recalling the recent (media) pressure to do 'winter gardens'...and absolutely loads of pics showing sere seedheads with hoare frost and endless vignettes with red stemmed dogwoods, white birch, rubus and black grass etc....but I will say straight out that this is a ghastly awful idea. I knock myself out for 9 months of the year...and honestly could not give two hoots how the garden looks in January...but I guarantee it NEVER looks like those artfully backlit photos with delicately frosted architecturally perfect seed heads. Au contraire, mine is a sodden, brown, twiggy nightmare of vicious rose canes and wilted slimy stalks while I want to sit in a warm chair and read, knit or daydream during the grim months of December to February.

    And if I had any doubts about the unwise attempts to go down a continuous route, the plants themselves offer forceful reminders that this is unfeasible and a bit mad. My poplars - the slackers of the tree world - leaf out in mid May, yet leaves are already falling now. A mere 4 months of summer leafage sustains them over a long winter dormancy.

  • Marie Tulin

    Yes ..... winter gardens. Looking out my windows in winter I enjoy the conifers a lot. i like bumps and swales created by windblown snow. if it is an old fashionef new england winter the green is a,welcome relief.

    I do not like going out and shaking shakingthe snow off arbovitae and other weak limbed evergreens. Those trees will be splayed like matchsticks when I or the next owner stop that chore .

    I am totally disinterested in wrapping and swaddling plants that are too tender for one's climate. You want to read about that over-zealous activity hang out on the hydrangea forum for a half minute.

    Do conifers and stems make it a winter garden? That's a stretch. Do seedheads make it a garden.? Up for debate . I think it is the gardeners intention that make it a winter garden or just the garden in winter.

    I say Save Me from another season of gardening. Let my brain lie fallow like the earth.

    And I hate kale. We spent 4days of vacation with friends and the kale never stopped arriving at the table. No matter how it was cooked it tasted the same: green and tough. I can't divorce the memory from the vegetable, even the decorative ones.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I can certainly understand the need to take a break from even thinking about the garden when it is buried under feet of snow. But when snow is seldom seen and one is forced to endure endless days of damp grayness, any color or attraction the garden can offer makes for a welcome relief! And by whatever beneficence of nature that allows us to escape (usually) from any winter snow also allows most snow-free climates a much wide range of hardy broadleaved evergreens and even winter flowering perennials than in colder, snowier climates. It's not all that hard to have a year round garden here. And pretty much essential for one's sanity :-)

    Just a caution about planting the kale in mild winter climates - it will bolt, flower and go to seed without much provocation :-) Really needs a consistently chilly temperature to look (and taste) good through the entire winter. And the ornamentals develop a really unpleasant, rotten cabbage odor over time as well. At least that has been my experience here.

    And I don't mean to belittle your dislike Marie, but kale salad with pears, walnuts and goat cheese and a balsamic dressing is delish!!

  • texasranger2

    Marie, I think all those things you mentioned would make for a very nice winter garden full of interesting possibilities and would be even nicer as contrast set off with snow.

  • marquest


    I couldn't do without bulbs. They are so early and so uplifting in
    gloomy weather. I've never understood the foliage 'problem'. All the
    bulbs are intermixed with perennials and shrubs and the leaves are
    invisible by the time they start to die off.".


    Floral I agree. When I see the foliage problem I wondered what people were talking about but I realized I plant them as you described. I have never planted a entire bed of bulbs or plant bulbs without something that comes up that hides the bulb leaves. I plant bulbs near bushes, daylilies, even in the shade garden. Hostas hide the leaves, ferns, and other shade plants. I love the fragrance of lilies, and the beauty of the gorgeous asiatic flowers in the garden and pots.

    My winter garden leans heavy to hardscape and evergreen bushes and trees. I have concrete statues and arbors and gazing balls for winter interest.

  • Campanula UK Z8

    Hmmm, I never plant bulbs in with perennials - only naturalised in grass in large swathes (100s at least)...or grown in rows for picking (tulips)...or in pots. The foliage doesn't bother me and I cut it all down as soon as it starts to turn - the leaves only need 6 weeks to build up fresh reserves and with a generous feed, you can get away with a month.

    As for the winter chaos and damp chill - I have curtains.

    Marie - another kale hater here - it has been the hipster food of the decade as far as I can see - endless. It lasts that long in the mouth too.

  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    I don't have any grass, Campanula, so my bulbs have to be in the two tiny flowerbeds which comprise my entire garden. As for kale we must agree to differ. red Russian in particular tastes so good to me it seems to have butter on it even when it doesn't. And it is extremely tender. Cooks down just like chard or spinach. But we've been eating it for years, not just since it started appearing in Islington shop windows at £8 per kilo (True! Saw it with my own eyes.)

  • Marie Tulin

    Kale is fun to complain about. it is the new spinich

  • Campanula UK Z8

    Same here - no grass at home...but the woods are a different story and I have been indulging myself as unimaginable spaces opened before my eyes (aided by chainsaw). Fritillaria meleagris this year...and those little magenta gladioli (g.communis?) as well as a modest 500 narcissi (Pipit, lobularis). Always sounds a lot but at 75 per m2, I am only filling 6.5m2.

    My children are all keen on kale...and that other nasty thing which also begins with 'K' - kohlrabi. Mystifying.

    Indeedaroo, Marie. Must be enraging to see a beloved vegetable adopted by hipsters. It happened with oxtail and shin and marrowbone, suddenly being taken up by celebrity chefs - cheap cuts tripled in price overnight and the collie had to swap over to pilchards.

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex

    Mitzuna is a textural green, also a nice ornamental.My oxtail in greek spaghetti sauce suffers with this new pricing.

  • LaLennoxa

    @ Marie Tulin - kale was the new spinach a few years ago! I guess nothing has come up to replace it yet...

  • dbarron

    Another thing to consider is some of the autumn flowering bulbs to give a juice up to the fall garden, like colchicums (if you are able to cope with the spring foliage...i don't mind it), autumn crocus, cyclamen...and don't forget one of the relatively unknown bulbs, the fall squill (now known as prospero autumnale) attached from this morning. The foliage is like grape hyacinths, but less of it...and appears both in fall and spring. I always find the blooms a surprise as the precede the fall foliage and thus are naked.

  • texasranger2

    On the subject of simplifying a garden area, Karin and Babs hit the nail on the head, pick plants that don't look awful during parts of the season, are unattractive after blooming, flop, demand too much maintenance or otherwise become eyesores. Choosing plants that are attractive whether blooming or not is sound advice. If they look good all year into winter, even better. This seems like the best approach, because adding plants with good foliage when out of bloom beats relying on flowers.

    We ought to start a thread on perennials that fit in this category.

    Seems to me when a garden is completely dependent on flowers many plants will inevitably have ugly times. The timed planning & deadheading needed would involve too much steady maintenance on my schedule but even worse, in winter you'd most likely have zip to look at especially in places like the midwest where it can be depressingly brown and dull in winters with no snow, I couldn't stand that part. I don't like dead heading although I'm sure some people find it a relaxing and enjoyable way of putzing around in the garden however I do like weeding for that reason but a lot of people hate doing that.

    Late July and August seems to be the time when a lot of gardeners around here are tempted to rip the whole ridiculous mess out realizing their expectations for summer long lushness and flowers was a pipe dream or because its become an overgrown, tangled mess after a whole season. Older and wiser, they often want to start over more realistically.

    August was the perfect time to bring up this subject. You can see and remember all the poor planning, dashed hopes and mistakes etc.

  • Marie Tulin

    I've enjoyed these posts and re-read the entire thread a couple times. Lots of meat here. I didn't realize that the question was an opportunity to do a "life review" of our gardens' lives and our lives in gardening.

    I hope people will continue to write. I feel like I've gotten to know each of you better. Marie

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I just have to add one note in defense of kale . . . which I enjoy eating, but regardless would plant one variety, redbor, for its ornamental value - and I've even put it in ornamental planters. It's the only vegetable that ever brought one of my neighbors to a halt by the side of the road to inquire about it. Bluish purplish tones to the greenish leaves much of the growing season and incredibly curly leaves, but the color once frost arrives is a stunning mahogany



    Mid-November in the veggie garden

  • texasranger2

    I cannot ever remember eating Kale. I've thought and thought and have to say, I have not tasted it. I've always been too much of a piker to buy plants and trying to sow seed in our heat seems like too much trouble if not impossible without some sort of indoor set up, but this year I was going to weaken and buy some, depends on how high Farmers Market has them priced. I don't think kale would grow here in summer.

    That purple is really pretty. I've always loved seeing them in winter around here. When the bolt in spring, I'd take them out.

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex

    Kale will germinate in soil temps in the upper 80's and 90's. I just seeded some Dinosaur Kale and it was bounding out at 3 days. I think I will look for some redbor F1. I can hold some back from my plant swap for you TxR, if you like.

  • katob Z6ish, NE Pa

    What a thread. I was expecting a little oft repeated fluff but then had to turn down the music and really concentrate in order to follow along. I hate having to turn on the brain!

    A few things so far... I will be planting my kale seedlings after all now so thanks for that. I looked at them this afternoon and thought why bother fighting the cabbage worms, but now I have a reason if only for the ornamental qualities. They're just at that stage between sprouted seedling and rootbound stunted so maybe I can still save them.

    I have to admit that for my front border along the street I'm kind of a slave to continuous bloom. From the earliest snowdrops and eranthis to the last chrysanthemums and sedums I try and have something in bloom all year, although I do tend to go for the 'big gestures' such as a swath of iris or sweep of ornamental grass. Strangely enough my biggest down time is when most other gardens are at a peak, around when the peonies and clematis are blooming. My bed is still working into summer since I avoid some of the shortest bloomers.

    Annuals bring the color in the summer and I throw in a few canna and dahlia roots each spring as well. They are fantastic right now in with the grasses and other foliage and flowers and I'm glad we had enough rain for them to recover from a dry June and July. July was brutal with drought and heat so for a while I didn't think they were going to make it since I'm really not much of a waterer.

    Fortunately I have a strong streak of passive aggressiveness and when I suspect the neighbors don't appreciate what I'm doing it only encourages me. It really lets me do just what I want and really not care what they think. I like to think of it as being a leader as I forge the neighborhood's path to enlightenment.... or something like that. In any case my wall of buzzing and humming flowers with all season interest sure does seem more entertaining than their meatballs in a sea of mulch landscaping. I can only think of two neighbor comments this year. One was "you're as crazy about your yardwork as so-and-so" (who has immaculate edging, pristine mulch, spiral shrubs and perhaps a total of 8 sunpatients marking the 8 corners of his mulch beds)... and "that sure must be a lot of work". That's about it. Wait, my one neighbor did stop me as I was moving a plant and did want to make sure I wasn't tossing it. She said she watches it all spring as it sprouts up and is so bright and colorful (it's 'Sweet Kate').

    Well I sure did go on more than I wanted to. I guess to sum it all up in a way I could have in the first sentence, continuous bloom going well, takes some work, I rely on annuals plus long season bloomers and colorful foliage.


  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex

    My cat has been enjoying the Sweet autumn clematis. I can hear people yawning back there. This is the only clematis that seems to thrive in my conditions and never seed out like it does in gentle places. It was getting dark when she discovered her sweet spot. This bed has been blooming for quite a while actually. It is by the grey water outlet so it is close to the wet zone. It is just above the American beaty berry I pictured above. so I guess that there is a bit of everblooming going on,... it was all by accident.

  • Marie Tulin

    I don't know about SAC blooms from fall to.....fall.

  • princeton701

    LOVE this thread...the continuous bloom idea is my holy grail.

    Season after season I think about how to achieve it, but sadly it fights with my inability (physical issues & cannot garden when the heat or the mosquito levels are high) to keep up with the maintenance of a huge garden.

    I'm more into the dreaming part of going through new plant catalogs & planning the spring garden; versus the housekeeping of watering, cleaning up dry bits, & (never) deadheading. So, while it's really survival of the fittest in my garden & my garden is totally neglected in the heat of August, when the first cool morning arrives, I feel charged up to get back in the garden & try again.

    It's rather scary what a garden left to its own devices does to itself in August, but, hey, hope springs eternal - especially for us perennial gardeners! - so I'm back in the brown & green jungle, trying to hack & work in some semblance of not-so-jungle/weedy prettiness. We'll see... :)

  • spedigrees z4VT

    I guess my philosophy is one of laissez faire. I created 3 perennials beds 8 or 10 years ago out in our pasture and spent about 5 years adding plants. I added a couple daylilies and a couple more clumps of Siberian iris this spring and summer, and I think I am definitely done now adding plants to those gardens.

    A number of plants that I tried over the years died out inexplicably, while others thrived, some to the point of invasiveness. So what I did was to buy more of the plants that thrived. It was survival of the fittest! Newly planted things got watered everyday via watering can for about a month until established. I nourish all the plants with water from my goldfish pool every few weeks. I don't have mulch but just use a weed whacker to mow the grass/weeds between the plants. Other than that, they do not get tended, except by Mother Nature. I never deadhead, divide, or otherwise fuss with the perennials. To me, foliage turning brown or flowers going to seed look pleasantly natural, and very few other people ever see my gardens up close, because they are a couple hundred feet from the road. The foliage as it dies becomes mulch for the plants that live there. The plants go thru stages of looking really great when things are blooming to the natural "at rest" look when they are not.

    These three perennial beds have evolved to be all season bloomers. Early in the spring, they are yellow with daffodils. The next phase is a blue phase with Siberian irises. After those early stages they become multi-colored with daylilies, phlox, bee balm, and wild daisies and black eyed susans that I encourage to join the others.

    One other perennial in these gardens, while not a flower, that has done very well is my rhubarb.

    I have a couple other gardens where I grow some annuals, both in pots and in the ground, and a small vegetable plot. I have more of an eye toward landscaping our entire property than concentrating on a single garden(s). A lot of what we have done is reforesting (still in the early stages) to hopefully end up with a meadow dotted with a few flower gardens and surrounded by trees on 3 sides.

    Love your Siamese kitty, wantonamara! He/she looks very comfy on the clematis bed!

    I haven't ever grown kale. (I can take it or leave it.) But I received a gift packet of mizuna seeds this past spring with a seed order, and it was interesting enough that I plan to grow it again. It is a sort of lacey, red cabbagy vegetable which was the one thing that the wild rabbits didn't eat, and tasted pretty good in salads. When it bolted it produced pretty yellow flowers that lasted a long time and added interest to the garden.

    I'm realizing that this post has become very disjointed, so forgive me the poor writing!

  • posierosie_zone7a

    I like the idea of continuous blooms. I have achieved it in a sense, but now the challenge is to have blooms during any given time make"sense" rather than a disjointed collection blooming together.

    This means I will need to rearrange and identify some "foundation" plants for each season (mentally have the year split in bulb time(early/late), iris+peonies, summer bloomers, late summer and fall). I want to have certain plants repeated in my garden to give cohesion during those times. I like what is going on until summer and then I don't like it. Right now my garden looks a hodgepodge, but didn't 2 months ago.

    For me, the challenge is enjoyable. I do try to pay attention to foliage and growth habit so those can be interesting as well.

  • mnwsgal

    When planning my gardens I made charts of the plants I had that included height, color and bloom time as well as foliage characteristics and sun requirements; a separate chart for each aspect. Then I mixed and matched so that there is always something in bloom somewhere in each bed. In general this has been a successful strategy. Rabbits eating the asters left a color hole in my large front bed this year so I bought some cannas and zinnias to brighten that area. Will replace the asters with a hibiscus this fall. Also use a few annuals to cover the open areas left after oriental poppies fade away. I do not mind deadheading and therefore have some plants that are continuous bloomers from spring until frost, clematis integrifolia, a couple of salvias and hardy geraniums, reblooming daylilies, agastache 'Firebird' and other plants that have second or third bloom periods when cut back, nepeta, shasta daisy, some foxglove, delphiniums. While I use bulbs, rhizomes and tubers dahlias get planted in a separate area so I don't have to disturb established perennials when dahlias are dug up for winter storage.

    When working in the front beds I get many compliments from walkers about my front beds. Few are serious gardeners and I think they are impressed with the sheer largeness and bountiful bloom of my cottage gardens. No one has ever suggested that I remove some plants or add others.

    While I appreciate the compliments I don't really care if they like the results or not. I garden for myself and pollinators and birds. While still aware of changes needed such as dividing plants or finding a new plant that could enhance the bed I get great joy from my gardens, both in the "doing" and in their beauty.

  • mnwsgal

    wantonamara, no yawns from me. Your SAC is lovely especially dressed up with you cat accessory. I grow close to a hundred varieties of clematis but SAC is special. Not only for its enveloping fragrance but because I can't keep one alive for more than three years. This go round SAC is just beginning to bloom. Can hardly wait to breath in the fragrance.

    Marie, planting a few bulbs of the giant alliums can make quite a statement. I planted quite a few as got most on sale late one fall. They are in the center of the bed so the dying foliage gets covered by emerging perennials. Some years I leave the stems and seed heads which eventually disappear as well.

  • mnwsgal

    Winter gardens ha,ha, here in MN winter gardens usually mean noticing how the wind sculpts the snowdrifts and how deep the snow piles are along the driveways. Interest is about dark tree branch shilouettes and evergreen trees and tall tutors above the snow. Though lately with climate warming winters ornamental grasses stand and plant seed heads still peak above the snow. And that is enough for me. Truthfully I hardly notice the winter landscape as I hurry back into the house out of the freezing cold while watching my feet for patches of ice or packed snow which can leave me sprawled on my tush.

    Looking out the windows to appreciate the yard doesn't happen that often. When I do look out I am looking at bird feeders to catch a glimpse of red, cardinals or woodpeckers or searching for a rare white squirrel. Or I am surprised by a breath taking sunset as I head to the kitchen to begin dinner preparations.

  • rouge21_gw (CDN Z6)

    wantonamara, no yawns from me

    Similarly for me! I love SAC. On our property the blooming of this clematis signals the start of Fall for me.

    (I love your cat. It looks like it has seal point coloring...some siamese in her/him?...but I see long hair?)

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex

    She was a stray from a rescue so I don't know parentage.She does have long hair and she looks siamese. A huge flag of a tail.. She is pretty but dumb with the sharpest teeth in any cat.

  • rouge21_gw (CDN Z6)

    sharpest teeth in any cat

    So she is helpful in the garden keeping the mice and vole population under control? ;)

  • aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

    Down time, a most appropriate name for my garden. It's in this mode for most of the year. May and June are the months when my garden looks it's best and then it slows down to a tangled mess for the rest of the summer, I'm not even going to mention fall.

    This summer was disastrous, I was laid up for most of the summer so nothing got done except for some watering which dh did for me. Some things got missed so whether they come back or not time will tell. Anyone tell me where I can find a new pair of legs?

    What Camp said sounded so familiar..."I am altogether harsh on myself about my garden. I am my own worst enemy
    though, because just when it starts to look OK, I get bored and need a everything is always in a state of halfway done, chaos or
    wreckage. Like Flora, the dominant colour is always green but this
    garden obsessive (and, I am ashamed to say, greedy and demanding plant
    crazed mentalist)".... these words could have come out of my mouth up until now.

    I've never done much out front other than try to keep it looking tidy, when I did plant interesting things out there they seemed to disappear in the middle of the night or when we were out. We even came home one fall day to find someone had cut most of the hydrangea blooms off the one at the bottom of the steps. Needless to say without the protection of those dried blooms over winter, it didn't flower the next year. My bad, but the air was blue for awhile.

    We had to put a new water line into the house last fall so that hydrangea had to go but I managed to keep a couple of pieces and planted elsewhere. So, what to do with the little border that was dug up for the water line. I planted the Alma Potschke asters Sunny sent me, pinched twice they grew into beautiful plants just starting to bloom now. Even with the pinching they grew quite tall and the bamboo and wire stakes I ended up using were not strong enough so they needed some additional staking to keep them upright. Next year they will definitely be staked with the rebar and wire stakes I usually use. These asters have brought the honey bees that have been absent from my garden all year.

    I'm having to seriously rethink my garden over the winter, I will always have a garden but I'm afraid the time has come where it's going to have to be a garden where it can be left to it's own devices, so more shrubs and mulch in some of the areas where I have had perennials. The top garden I'll keep for perennials like phlox and some of the others I love but the rest has to become low maintenance. It's this or no garden at all :(.


  • rouge21_gw (CDN Z6)

    I will always have a garden

    So glad to hear this Annette. I always enjoy reading and seeing all the interesting plants that are part of your garden.

    (That reminds me. Now that summer is winding down overall how has your hydrangea Saori and Golden Crane done?)

    Please get better soon.

  • karin_mt

    It's so interesting hearing everyone's perspectives on this, and the successes, disappointments, and plans/ideas to make it better. I think we all have this in common, regardless of our region, age, budget, and garden style.

    I know exactly the feeling described by Annette and others about the never-ending pursuit of having the garden in control. I finally got to the point where I took 2 years "off" (not really, off, but not really into it either) while I hoped to regain energy for the huge gardens I so enthusiastically created.

    Now I have fully gone down the path of adding shrubs and mulch in place of wall-to-wall perennials. Quite unexpectedly, I love, love, love the shrubs/mulch areas. It is calming, structural, and textural. My eye pauses and I can appreciate things instead of seeing only what needs to be done. I've been doggedly learning about interesting shrubs while also pruning and limbing up my existing shrubs to show them off best. I'm super excited about this current direction. I still have plenty of perennials and blooming things, but they are within a framework of permanent, no-fuss plants. Because of the changes, this has been my best garden year ever in terms of personal enjoyment and not being a slave to the garden.

  • Campanula UK Z8

    Ah absolutely, I am also embracing shrubs (my latest is a gorgeous Chinese winged spindle...which sounds much fancier than euonymous (phellomanus).

    Way back when I started out, I thought flowering shrubs were a terrific wheeze - only a couple of dozen filled the garden to now only an ancient salvia microphylla and the climbing rose, Madame Gregoire Staechelin survive in any capacity. However, for exactly the reasons you state, Karin, I am exploring their potential now I have acreage to spare. Once unthinkable shrubs such as hydrangea have become interesting and desirable - outrageous snob that I am, these were dismissed as 'old lady shrubs'...but being an old lady (old bag is more truthful), I am now free to indulge.Since neither the woods nor the allotment adhere to any standards of conscious design, planning and execution, I only have to knock myself out for the little garden. A sweet pea year is in the offing (I tend to sow these on a biennial cycle, getting fed up with the deadheading, not bothering for a year but then missing them so much, I forget the grief and order again - some crackers from Keith Hammet's stable this/next year - Blue Vein, Blue Shift, Roosterville, Lunar Sea, Earl Grey and Just Jenny - the blues, purples and creams.

  • karin_mt

    Ohhh, sweet peas. What a delight. And what a huge amount of work as well. Precisely the thing that should be kept in moderation. We have a sweet pea flower show here every year and we compete in earnest, getting seeds from the UK each year and enjoying all the new and trendy types.

    I'm right with you Camp, on the transition to coming around and appreciating the things we once scoffed at. For me it is junipers. I still scoff at the vast majority of them, and they are overused and often scraggly. But, and interesting juniper in the right location that is kept in good health can offer a beautiful tapestry and a nice contrast for its neighbors. I've planted 4 different varieties in the last 2 years and I'm curious to see how they do over time. I have one called 'Daub's Frosted' that is beautiful in both texture and color, but it's not perfectly happy. I keep waiting to see if they will settle in. If they do I could imagine using them in several places.

    But I surely never imagined the day I'd be excited about the prospects of a juniper! That's all part of the fun of it though.

  • aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

    Rouge, so far I'm really liking 'Golden Crane' it likes it where I
    have it planted, although still a small shrub it was full of bloom and
    it's now popping a few more flowers. The two 'Miss Saori' are doing
    well, each gave a few mops which were really pretty and will look more
    impressive when the get a bit bigger. The white pink edged flowers
    really stand out but they do fade to overall pink as they age, still I
    really like them and the burgundy foliage I absolutely love.These
    three are in a narrow bed below our front porch, they will really fill
    this bed in as they grow. I did some experimenting to what to use as a
    ground cover under them. I planted a couple of 'Rise and Shine'
    Geraniums in between the shrubs and some Lamium 'Aureum' on the the
    ends, the Lamium won out, I think it will look quite nice as a
    groundcover under these three hydrangeas, the clumps grew quite big this
    year so I'll divide and plant throughout and move the geraniums to
    backside of 'Alma Potschke'. I do have a few weeping brown New Zealand
    Sedges in front of these asters, so maybe these will all fill in, look
    decent and less weeding if no bare soil shows for weed seed to take

    Being a small garden and me having a plant addiction it has changed many times over the years, my garden is rambunctious to say the least, absolute no rhyme or reason, it just is. It suits my personality to a tee :)

    Some years ago DH put some of my garden pictures in an album, here's a link to it, some of these plants i still have some have gone, some just got too big for the space or they got too hard to control so they have been removed. As you can see my garden is very undisciplined, just like me LOL. The pictures aren't the best. The camera I have now takes much better pictures.


  • Marie Tulin

    After so much time on line together some of us seem to be channeling each other's thoughts.

    there's a rational explanation, I am sure, such as our generational demographics that place quite a few of us in similar stages of interests , changing garden styles and physical health and ill health.(decrepitude)

    i am trying to skirt giving a message of clubbiness or excluding relative newcomers who may not have figured out "less weeding, more mulch, more shrubs" is code for I am getting older (but not old) and a number of us who make references to lost seasons (code for knee and hip replacements that require on average 10-12 weeks recovery per joint (unless you get both joints done at once which is nutty)

    Which is not to say physical impairment whether congenital or acquired by age or accident is any joking matter. I was stunned when I once counted up the number of three month recoveries I had spent doing physical therapy and not gardening. Or paying people to garden for me for the same reason. Or iduring a non gardening periods of treatment and recovery, how much television I watched. But wouldn't it be poor Cyber manners to discuss on a non orthopedic surgery forum how disabled from pain one has to be to qualify for knee replacement, or the soul deadening exhaustion from taking care of a critically ill spouse or aging parent. I would write "the garden gives me peace from my troubles" or the "renews my energy" . And leave it at that. Wonderfully , we often transcend the anominity of Internet forums to reveal ourselves - directly or indirectly- and we also extend our concern and affection people we probably have never met in person . I think this forum is extraordinary

    my original comment was going to be an wry observation about how many shrubs seem to be in our collective futures. But as in my original post I'm seeing a complex back story.

    We are on an New England island during a hurricane. Rumination happens in these conditions.

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Stay safe, Marie!

  • karin_mt

    Well put Marie, there are a lot of kindred spirits here. Hang in there! Here's hoping that you are done with big recoveries!

  • texasranger2

    Being on an island during a hurricane sounds terribly exposed from all sides, like there's no where to run for higher ground. Stay safe!

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