Monday, January 23, 2012

The Arbor Bed Unveiled

Frequent readers of this blog may have noticed that throughout the past season, I continually referred to "the new arbor bed," yet other than showing different plants blooming there, I never really featured  this new garden area.  Now that it's winter and I'm cooped up inside, I finally have time to sort through last year's photo files and show you the finished ( if a garden is ever "finished") project.

It all started with a bench . . . an arbor trellis with an attached bench, to be exact.  Purchased at an end-of-the-season clearance sale in the fall of '09, the long box containing the pieces of the arbor bench was temporarily placed in the garage.  For a year and a half, we walked over that box, tripped on it, and stubbed our toes on it, while I debated where to put the new arbor.  Various sites were dismissed--too shady, poor soil, too many tree roots, or too far from a water source.  Finally, as I was working in the then-new lily bed the following summer and wishing I had made it even bigger, I decided why not take advantage of the space behind the lily bed and create a bigger garden area there?

My back yard is not your typical rectangular yard bordered by a fence or property lines; instead it's a circular area bounded by a gravel drive that goes from the house to the barn and various sheds on the property.  The old house where my husband grew up once stood here, and remnants of that homestead still exist, including part of a sidewalk, a well pit, and an old cistern.  A small vegetable garden was created in the back "corner" (not visible here), and a year or two later, I planted the small butterfly garden between the well pit and the cistern.  When I decided to add the arbor bed on the north side of this area, I began to dream of eventually turning most of this space into one big garden.  It's an ambitious dream--and one that may require more negotiation with Mr. Procrastinator--but perhaps one day I'll see it fulfilled.

While the new garden was still just a dream, I had two special visitors that fall of 2010--Cheryl, who came all the way from England, and Lisa from Greenbow in southern Indiana.   Both of them have a much better eye for design than I do, and as I explained my plans, they offered some valuable advice.  Later, after she had returned home, Cheryl even sent me a drawing of what the new garden could look like.

Any heavy object in sight was grabbed to weight down the paper until the compost was delivered.
Once the decision had been made--and Mr. "You Have Enough Flowers" realized how determined I was--I began the preparations in the fall of  2010.  An oval area about 23 feet by 15 feet was first covered with paper and cardboard, then leaves, and topped with a load of compost.  Winter provided plenty of snow for ample moisture and time for the soil to settle before planting the following spring.  I have learned that when spring comes, I would rather be planting than digging, so it was a thrill to have a brand new flowerbed all ready to plant when the spring of 2011 rolled around.

"Winter Interest"
Before the planting began, however, many, many hours were spent planning the garden.  Armloads of books were carted home from the library nearly every week during the winter, and many a cold night was spent thumbing through the pages and copying ideas and plants I liked into a notebook.  Eventually, the jumbled notes were turned into pages with columns, grouping plants by height, then color, and finally season of bloom.  From these, I drew a rough diagram on graph paper, trying to pay careful attention to spacing--for once!

By the end of the summer, the hyacinth bean vine completely covered one side of the arbor.

Spring finally arrived, and the first order of business was putting together the arbor bench and situating it in just the right spot, the focal point of the garden.  I enlisted the aide of Son #2, who is handy at such things and fortunately did not inherit the procrastination gene in our family.  He and Husband put it together in short order, and after some careful measurements, I placed it in the center of the bare flowerbed.  Spring rains kept me from planting yet, which was probably a good thing, because strong storm winds blew the bench over several times.  I realized it needed a firm anchoring and purchased some rebar, pounded it into the ground, and then slipped the legs of the bench over the rebar.  This held the bench firmly in place all summer, but as you can see in the earlier winter photo, in the past month the bench has now become the "Leaning Bench."  Some adjustments will definitely have to be made this spring.

Ignore the background, please:)
At last I could begin planting!  One of the design tips that Lisa and Cheryl pointed out to me is that an arbor should open to a view.  As you can see in the photo above, the view beyond the arbor is anything but attractive--grain bins, ugly fuel tanks, and electrical wires are hardly what I want visitors to notice from my garden.  I was thinking more of the view from the bench, not through it--a view of the lily bed, the sidewalk garden, and the trees lining the driveway and in the front yard.  However, I realized they were right, and while I couldn't get rid of the objects in the background, I thought I might be able to obstruct the view, or at least offer some distractions.

Centered behind the arbor I planted a smoketree with two 'Morning Light' Miscanthus on either side of it.  I'm hoping that in time they will grow tall enough so that this is what someone will notice when looking through the arbor.  To the right (south) of this planting, is a small Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy.'  I've wanted one of these ever since I saw it in a garden catalog covered in masses of bright red berries, but it didn't do very well during the summer's drought. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it makes it through the winter and puts on a growth spurt this year.

Tarzan approved of the final color scheme.

Deciding on a color scheme also took some thought.  Inspired by a smaller but similar island bed I had seen in a local garden, I thought at first I would plant a white garden. But, as Cheryl said, a white garden needs some contrast to keep it from becoming monotonous, and frankly, I like color too much.  A garden design book about color schemes stated that blues and purples were soothing colors and provided depth to a garden, which was exactly what I wanted, especially when the lily bed in front of this garden is filled with a kaleidoscope of hotter colors. 

'David' phlox
I planted more white-blooming flowers than I ever have in any other garden area.  'David' phlox, 'White Swan' echinacea, a division of my white 'Becky' daisy, along with several varieties of white annuals provided the foundation of the garden.

Shades of blue and purple with accents of pink complemented the white. Blue Delphinium added a true blue in the summer . . .

 . . . and 'October Skies' asters picked up the color in autumn.

Agastache 'Heat Wave' wasn't the soft pink I intended,
but this was such an outstanding plant, I wasn't about to complain.

The blue/white/purple/pink color scheme definitely soothed me during the hot, dry summer.

But things don't always go according to plan in a garden:  this red, white, and almost blue grouping was purely accidental when I planted some free red gomphrena seeds close to the beautyberry bush and some white nicotania.

The color scheme was also ignored when I was choosing vines for the trellis.  I chose this 'Don Juan' climbing red rose for one side, because I had to have red roses.  I'm considering planting a clematis to climb up the other side, but for the first year I opted for an annual vine instead.  The purple hyacinth bean vine did so well that I will probably plant it again this year and wait to decide on a perennial replacement. 

Another element I wanted to add to this garden was fragrance.  Whenever possible, when I had a choice to make between different plants or cultivars, I tried to choose one that was noted for its fragrance.  Oriental lilies like this 'Casablanca' above were planted in the back north side of the bed; although they didn't do very well this past year, I'm hoping for a better show this season.  Small lavender seedlings, the phlox, a 'Ruby Spice' clethra, as well as the annual nicotania also helped to add some fragrance to the garden.

A garden, no matter how small, isn't created in a year.  I knew as I drew up plans last winter, that what I envisioned in my mind might not look as good in reality.  I didn't want to plant the whole area in perennials and shrubs that I might later regret; besides, the budget wouldn't allow that all in one year.  So I intentionally left the front area of the garden for annuals.

There was plenty of room behind the bench for an old favorite--tall pink cosmos 'Rose Bon Bon.'

A new favorite--shorter white cosmos, 'Knee High Sonata' was planted on the side border for all to see.
And when I looked at all the bare soil not covered by the small first-year plants, I decided to fill in some of the areas with more annuals grown from seed.  The result was a mass of blooms, especially in late summer and early autumn.

The garden on an early fall morning. One of my goals this year is to take better photos of it!

Side view of the garden, facing north, in early fall

Was I happy with the results?  Definitely.  Is the garden "finished"? Of course not.  There were disappointments, to be sure, like the Japanese anemones that never bloomed or the small Amsonia hubrichtii that didn't put on the expected fall show or the butterfly bush that mysteriously died.  But they can be replaced this spring, if need be.  And there is still some tweaking to be done as well as projects to finish, like adding some pavers in front of the bench as well as fixing the tilting bench itself.   Many spring bulbs were planted this fall, but whether I planted enough remains to be seen when spring comes.  I'm glad there is still work to be done here--otherwise, whatever would I do all summer??


  1. It's beautiful! So much in just one year. Great job!!

  2. This is my favorite kind of post, a detailed look at a real design challenge --- the thought process and the beginnings. I loved this, and I am as pleased with what you have created as you are!

    One question: did you sit on the bench? Was it relaxing? Hope so.

    Don't ditch the amsonia hubrichtii. They take three years to establish and bulk up and bloom. More posts on your "new" garden this summer please!

  3. Hi Rose,

    I am virtually speachless.....absolutely stunning.
    This really is a work of art and the colour combinations are beautiful. I truly am impressed with your dedication and the thought that you have given this project. Well done Rose....I know the hard work that goes into these schemes.

    Please do not give up on the Japanese anemone. Mine took at least two years to produce lots of flowers. Most articles that I have read say they are easy, I have not found this to be the case.
    No two gardens are alike :)

    Lovely post Rose, I pleasure to view and read.

  4. Your arbor garden turned out fabulous Rose. I am impressed. So much color. It is magical. I can see you and Mr Procrastination sitting there enjoying the evening. My Jap Anemones didn't bloom well this year either. I think it was the drought preceding the bloom time. I think we are lucky they survived. There is always next (this) year.

  5. Your garden has become a paradise. I wish I had more space. Thanks for sharing Rose the vieuws of your garden are great.
    gr. Marijke

  6. That is such a gorgeous garden, and I loved seeing the early photo, and then the photos later, when the plants had filled out. What a real joy it must be to sit on that bench!

  7. Love, love, love this! I am just recovering from a head injury and can't concentrate on the text you have written yet. I have to come back to this. You have given me such inspiration. Thanks!

  8. Tina, Thanks; the annuals really produced the most blooms this year. I can't wait for the shrubs and perennials to creep and then leap!

    Laurrie, I purposely waited until the end of the season so I could show this bed from beginning to end. Yes, I did sit on this bench quite often; a great place to take a break from weeding and enjoy the flowers. Thanks for the tip on the amsonia--I had to wait awhile in the spring to buy it because the nursery said it was slow to root, so I'm not surprised it will take some time.

    Cheryl, I really wanted you to see this after all your helpful suggestions--thank you so much! I'm sure it will look different next year as the perennials fill out. Thanks for the encouragement on the Japanese anemone--I thought they were supposed to be easy to grow, too.

    Lisa, Thank you, too, for all your helpful suggestions. I hope you get to see it in person one day! Although I tried to water this area regularly, especially with all the new plants, I think the drought was really hard on them. I'm anxious to see this spring if they all survived.

    Marijke, Space is one thing I don't have to worry about--it's the work involved in digging or creating each new flowerbed that keeps me from having a bigger garden!

    Cassi Renee, Thank you--I did enjoy sitting on this bench, especially once everything began to bloom.

    Sally, Thanks for visiting! I hope you're recovered soon. Take care.

  9. It is so lovely! I can't wait to see even more additions to what is already a fantastic garden piece.
    Cute cat, btw.

  10. My goodness your garden has grown tremendously in one year! I'm impressed!

    What a lot of planning and work went into it. I like how you posted it step by step. And I like the results.

    Tarzan looks good among the flowers. I always think cats sitting still in a flower bed look as though they are planted too. LOL!

  11. How fun to have friends from near and far to help lend an eye for help with planning.
    Isn't hyacinth bean vine wonderful? I sure think it is a fun vine to fill a spot for a summer. I love your color palette, pinks and lavenders and blues, all of it!!!

  12. What a beautiful accomplishment in only one year! You have started a great garden, and I'm sure it's only going to get better with time. And I just love arbors!

  13. Rose your new bed turned out beautifully! The combination of Liatris and delphinium is wonderful. I enjoyed reading about the making of the garden too.

  14. We're not in Kansas ne more, Toto!
    Wait, maybe we are...
    Very nice bed, and will look even better after the yard gets fenced in... What's the wind like? What about the neighbor's livestock? Seeing those silos in the background makes me expect to look up and see a cow up to her ankles in the posies...

  15. I love seeing your garden throughout the year and it seems really vast to me, compared to my tiny thing!
    Loved the photo of the arbour leaning in the thick snow.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  16. I agree with other commentors counseling patience. (I know it's hard when there are so many great plants out there you want to try.) It's such a beautiful little garden, I can imagine sitting there, enjoying the fragrance. (That's because it's your garden. If it were mine, I can't imagine I'd spend much time sitting.) I'm impressed that you have been able to disregard the color rules you set for yourself to incorporate plants that you had to have, regardless of color. It's those sort of decisions that make private gardens so special.

  17. Hi Rose, it's so nice to be back and thank you so much for the good wishes you left on my post last July.

    Well what a triumph! I was absolutely fascinated to read this account of the planning and bringing to fruition of your beautiful new garden. You put such meticulous thought and so much hard work into it but it has paid you back in spades (excuse the pun!) and will continue to do so I'm sure. Your lovely photos took me through your project perfectly.

    I hope you have a very happy and healthy 2012 Rose and much fun in your garden :-)

  18. Simply gorgeous, Rose! And how fun to see it all come together! I simply must add Hyacinth Bean Vine to my garden this year. Please tell me more about how it has performed in your garden.

  19. What a wonderful project with gorgeous results! I can feel your longing for spring.

  20. what a great series of photos of a beautiful project. A gorgeous bower! Will you ever sit there and admire it all?

  21. Looks beautiful Rose! You have so many wonderful combinations. I love the view of the grain bins - I'm a farm girl at heart.

    It's amazing how quickly things grow in the sun. I'd almost forgotten! Love your new arbor bed.

  22. Hard to believe that's year one - it will only get better, and already it's beautiful! I like that you've described the process, which is what really happens for most of us: some things work, some don't, we start with a plan, but change things up, and most of all, we're never finished. How awful that would be, and what a bore! Your photos are quite nice I think, love those cosmos especially.

  23. You've accomplished a lot in one year, Rose! I think it's just splendid, grain bins and all. Actually, I like that pastoral effect. It makes the arbor bed more authentic as an island of repose and reflection.

  24. Dear Rose,
    Thank you for posting the process. Often I just fall in love with a plant and have to find a spot someplace to grow it!
    Your hard work did pay off. This garden is lovely. I bet the bees and butterflies love it.

  25. what a fantastic job you have done and what an inspiration! That garden looks so full already and nicely camoflauges the buildings behind it. I love that friends came to help out and provide ideas, it's so wonderful to have other gardeners to bounce ideas off.

  26. Rosey, I'm sure there will be changes to this garden this summer; I've already ordered a few new plants for it. Tarzan is just one of my garden helpers:)

    Wendy, I did all the planning for this garden last winter, which helped to pass those cold days. One of my cats or else Sophie always manages to sneak into the photo.

    Janet, I have trouble seeing the big picture, so helpful advice from other gardeners is always welcome! I told my grandson Jack that the hyacinth bean was his beanstalk:)

    Rose, Thank you; the annuals really helped to add some color and depth this past year. I'm hoping to see the perennials and shrubs take off this year.

    Sweetbay, Would you believe this is the first year I've ever planted liatris? I was so pleased how well it did and the combination with other plants.

    Gardens in the Sand, There's no livestock around here, so I don't have to worry about a cow stomping through the garden:)

    Maggie, My garden really isn't that big, but this is probably the biggest flowerbed I have now. It didn't seem so big when I was planting, but when I was weeding, it seemed huge:)

    MMD, I am trying to learn patience--it was hard not to plant more in every bare space, but that's where the annuals helped. I do sit here occasionally, but usually I notice something that has to be done:)

    Songbird, Welcome back! I really enjoyed planning the bed from the beginning to the end. I only wish now I'd made it even bigger! But there's room to push the borders out even more.

  27. Tremendously satisfying to see a garden develop so beautifully. Hope all is well, and wanted to invite you yo, my new gardening community.hooe to see you there, it's free to join but membership is necessary for privacy protection

  28. Beth, This was the first year I tried hyacinth bean, and it was so easy to grow! I think I planted several seeds, not knowing if they would germinate, which is probably why this turned into such a full vine. It grows so quickly!

    Sarah, Yes, I'm eager to make some new plans for spring!

    Pat, I actually did sit on the bench and just enjoy quite often.

    Garden Girl, Glad you don't mind the grain bins in the background:) One of the reasons I put the bench here was to have a sunny garden.

    Cyndy, I'm glad I had a plan first so that there was some semblance of design to this flowerbed. But I found that the actual space had more room than my paper plans. I was glad to have the room for some impulsive planting!

    W2W, Thanks; other than my front yard, it's hard to find a place to put a garden bed without some kind of "farming" background.

    Sherry, That is my problem, too--finding a place for a plant I just have to have! This flowerbed developed from my plant addiction:) Most of my plants are chosen for their attraction to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

    Marguerite, Thank you; my friends' advice was much appreciated, especially when I don't really have an eye for design.

    Jodi,Thanks for visiting, and I will definitely check out your new site!

  29. Lol, my mom has two similar boxes in her garage that she's been tripping over almost 15 years. She swears she's going to have her handyman put them together this spring. If she had a computer, I'd send her over here for inspiration!

    I love how everything looks!! Tarzan looks so nice in the garden!

    I love Viburnums and also purple smoke bush.

    The Agastache 'Heat Wave' is stunning. I always think I don't like pink flowers, but I'm always wrong.

    And I LOVE the nicotiana paired with the gomphrena--the colors and textures complement each other. I grew some of the nicotiana 'Alba' last year and loved them, but as Cheryl said, they need something to "pop" aginst and those gomphrena (which I never would have thought of!) are perfect, esp. in the kind of blah area I have the nicotiana.

    Whew! What a fund tour!

  30. Hi Rose: I’ve awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award: Congrats!

  31. Oh, I love that garden Rose! Love the color combos and choice of plants. Congratulations on a lovely spot.

  32. www.igardendaily.comJanuary 31, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    Hi Rose, I just discovered your blog and I am amazed at this post. I just LOVE the transformation you've shown here. I can relate to so many of the things you noted and I have many of the plants you put in your beautiful garden. I really like the idea of the smokebush and Miscanth. 'Morning Light' together. I would love to see more pics of it this coming year!

  33. Hi Rose, It was interesting to follow the progress of your garden from idea into reality. I also liked to see the eveloution from spring to summer/fall. With my own garden, I always feel a mild panic in early spring when I look around and see nothing but bare earth. Then, it all fills in and I wonder what I possibly could have been worried about. Of course like housework a garden is never done. As you say, thank goodness!

  34. Rose girl !
    This is my most favourite post of yours because it strikes a cord with me for my very similar project (on a smaller scale) this Spring. You have done an amazing job and this is so pretty.. but of course it will never be finished, or perhaps stagnant? is the right word .. gardens constantly changed and we dabble with new plants.
    It has the same concepts I want .. a focal point, new plants I want to try out .. actually climbing roses (which take some time to climb) but I have some clematis that will help fill out the bare spaces. Fragrance is a huge factor for me too .. ergo all the roses !Now if I could find this exact bench trellis that you have .. at a reasonable price ? I would be over the moon.
    I so enjoyed this post girl ! Thanks you : )

  35. Gorgeous, Rose, simply gorgeous ... well, actually, outrageously gorgeous! Love the planting schemes!

  36. Hey girl I have to say YES !!
    Your bench arbour is very much like mine and wow ! You tried for Zephirine D .. I have it by the deck clmbing up (second one because the first did die on me .. what is that all about and does that mean this first one for the arbour will do the same thing ?eekkk) .. we have had such a bad winter with no snow it doesn't seem real .. so I hope my garden can still come alive in the Spring ?


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