Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fixing up the Perennial Border

Yesterday I had a huge chore. The perennial border that surrounds my vegetable garden hasn't been touched all spring. It had all the leaves that were blown into it and all the winter interest still standing. I clean up a lot of my vegetable garden in the fall, but I leave the perennial border to fend for itself over the winter. I've always thought it better that way. Any seeds that are still on the flower stalks are food for the birds. The leaves are mulch that will protect the plants over the harsh winter. Either that or I'm being lazy in the fall. One of the two.

The work isn't hard, but it takes time. I don't just take a rake and rake it all out. There were bits of green starting to come up so I took all the leaves out by hand and cut each stem off with the pruners. Now it is looking prettier.

I did notice some issues with my plants. I planted two Coreopsis rosa last year. The short one in the front is "American Dream" and it fared quite well. It has been spreading a bit, but not too much. I'll have to keep on top of it. It isn't my favorite. It is a subtle little plant. The coreopsis in the back is not faring well at all. One of the plants rotted out over the winter. The other looks like it barely survived. It hasn't spread at all. I was hoping. I really wanted that coreopsis to take over the bed. That one is called "Sweet Dreams". The flowers are large and the center has a dark pink eye. The outer petals are a light pink. It attracts all sorts of wild bees to the garden. I especially love the green metalic bees (two kinds) that it attracts. They are as pretty as the flowers. Unlike the other coreopsis it also makes a fine cut flower. Its flaw is that it looks better staked up than flopping around, and flop it does. I need to find another plant, or at least propagate the one I have left. I'd love for it to take over this whole section. Not that that is likely with it dying over the winter. Why do I always love the pickier plants?

The other issue is my iris. I have three sections of the same dwarf iris. It has gotten way over grown. I haven't divided it in years and years. Poor things. The flowers are fabulous and prolific in the spring, but it has been developing a really bad case of iris leaf spot. So I dug it all out and saved a few of the rhizomes. The old rhizomes ended up in my black composter. It filled up half of it. That is a lot of rhizomes. I planted the saved rhizomes in places where it hadn't grown before. One spot had my pink mallow. That got torn up too, though I saved seed last year just in case I want it back, but for now I'm tired of it. So in went the iris there. The other spot I put it in was by the fence in partial shade and near the maple tree. Nothing seems to grow there. This iris is able to take anything and grow. So I'll fill the spot with that.

One of the old iris areas will be filled with the monarda that I'm growing from seed right now. I should have started that ages ago so it would be big enough to go in soon, but I didn't. Ah well. Eventually it will get larger. Currently only one has germinated and it is about a millimeter across.

One other iris spot had two echinacea growing right next to it. I've never had echinacea grow in my garden before. They always die. These are struggling, but I figure I'll let them grow. Maybe they will make it. I might take up some of the empty space around them with chili peppers. I'll see. I'm not sure of what to put in the last one. If I were staying in this house I'd put a gooseberry there. Maybe I will anyway.

Most of the rest of the time was spent dividing some daylilies to put along the area that the maple tree is next to. I have tried growing so many things there, but nothing grows except iris and daylily. Nothing else seems to be able to compete. So I've given up. I'll just grow those there.

I also noticed that the front of one part of the border was empty in front of my false indigo, so I took some of my favorite dianthus to fill in the spot. Hopefully it will grow and spread and cover up where the meter guys keep stepping. I really need to put in a little path there so things don't get trampled.


  1. Wow, Daphne, you did a fabulous job! We leave the plants up in our Cultivated Wild Meadow, too, to feed and shelter the birds and provide a winter windbreak for the chickens. This weekend it's all gotta come down! I'm in awe of that iris photo. I've been lucky in that my irises have never gotten borers or disease, but I've never seen one with prolific rhizomes like that!

  2. You are right! That sounds like a lot of work! I'm sure you will be rewarded this summer.

  3. Wow, those before & after photos really show how much you accomplished in that border. You will be definitely be rewarded soon. :)

  4. I'm impressed! And, look how good that soil looks!

  5. Looks good, Daphne! I need to get out and do my beds. I have to admit I am just lazy in the fall. I make compost, and potting soil- if I'm lucky.

  6. Do you guys Free Cycle there? You know what they say: One man's trash is another man's treasure. Plants offered on Free Cycle here get swooped up like crazy.

    Just FYI:

  7. Ooops. I had Free Cycle on the brain.

  8. I love perennial gardening, I grown perennials since I was really young. Its just the veggies that are newish to me. I have had coreopsis die on me as well, it is rather picky. The dwarf irises are one of my favorites, you may have noticed the 4 potted up in my coldframe on my current post. Not so much the tall bearded ones because as soon as they bloom it rains and they flop over. When you divide that clump you are going to have alot of plant stock. Maybe you could find a spot for a hardy cactus, they are always fun and easy to care for. You can't beat the blooms either once they are established.

  9. Our Friend Ben, Thanks. That iris is one of my loves in the garden. It doesn't attract bees (one minus) but it just never fails. When I dug it up I was shocked by how much organic matter and worms were in the soil below. The rhizomes obviously climb over one another and the bottom ones rot. It becomes a worm feeding ground. I was really amazed by its massive root system.

    Sheila, it did take quite a while, but its not hard work and pretty fun to see what was there.

    perennialgardener, Soon they will be coming up. I think I timed the removal one day too early. That night we had a frost. I usually wait until we aren't supposed to have one so the tender new leaves aren't shocked. My weatherman wasn't very accurate that day.

    Barbee, thanks

    Tessa, I think next fall I'm going to have to apply my compost. Mine is still frozen solid and the garden soil is quite warm and starting to produce. I really want to amend the brassica bed before planting, but the silly compost just won't defrost.

    Cheryl, yup. I love freecycle. I did think about freecycling my rhisomes but with the leaf spot, it seemed better not to spread a disease around. Which is too bad since it could have made hundreds of plants.

    Dan, cactus is just too weird to grow here. I do love it. I grew up in Colorado where it grew wild. I loved the prickly pears in bloom. But we get so much rain. I'd think they would rot out before they did anything.