Left Bank Garden Makeover!

The Left Bank is my new name for the sunny garden bed that is west of the driveway, between the crabapple and the sidewalk. I like the name, but at the moment the garden looks like a collection of green lumps.

The Left Bank Garden, a collection of green lumps.
The Left Bank Garden, a collection of green lumps.

My intent with this garden was to prove that I was capable of planting a bed where the average plant was under five feet tall. I wanted something lower growing and colorful with year-round interest. The plants would also have to tolerate some fairly dry conditions. 

The good news is that Judy (who usually resists change) has agreed to a do-over of this bed. Hurrah! Wandering in an abundantly blooming garden makes me happy, but I can be made equally happy rearranging an established bed.

At the moment, here’s what I’m thinking of in terms of which plants will be kept, removed, or added.

You’re Out!

Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' and Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ (in) and Lanceleaf Coreopsis (out),
  • Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata). These were brought to our garden by a shipping error. I used them to edge the east side of the bed, but they really haven’t worked out. Despite the full sun they tend to grow too tall. If I cut them back, they bloom very sparsely. They are destined for the compost pile.
Prairie Smoke and Starry Solomon's Plume
Prairie Smoke (in) and infiltrating Starry Solomon’s Plume (out)
  • Starry Solomon’s Plume (Smilacina stellata). This is a good plant, but not right for this spot. Too aggressive. There’s a solid patch of them under the crabapple that I like very much, though. That’s where I’ll move the ones now in the Left Bank.
Aromatic Aster (mostly out)
Aromatic Aster (mostly out)
  • Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium). Originally I chose this aster because it’s supposed to be low-growing. I love the abundant blue flowers. But while it is shorter than many asters it still tends to smother its smaller neighbors. I plan to reduce the number of Aromatic Asters from three to one. The other two I’ll transplant or give away.
  • Various Salvia. This bed is a mess in part because I filled random bare spots with a bunch of Salvia (mostly ‘May Night’ and ‘Blue Hill’) that I bought really cheap at Home Depot. What can I say, I was in my Salvia Period. Anyhow, it wasn’t thought through and looks it. All the Salvia will be transplanted to the Parkway Garden.

You’re In!

Tulip 'Early Harvest' (with white crocus). Photograph from johnscheepers.com
Tulip ‘Early Harvest’ (in) with white crocus. Photograph from johnscheepers.com
  • More Tulips. There are already some Species Tulips here, but digging up the bed is a great opportunity to plant more! In addition to more species tulips, I’m going to try the Kaufmanniana Tulip ‘Early Harvest’. Kaufmannianas are good perennializers and very early bloomers.
Prairie Dropseed
Prairie Dropseed (in)
  • Prairie Dropseed (Sporobulus heterolepsis). Right now clumps of this shorter prairie grass are scattered around the bed in a way that doesn’t really make sense. I want to move some so that they form a solid border along the west side of the bed.
  • Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum). These are currently planted right along the sidewalk. I’ll keep them where they are and add a few more to make a wider drift.
Wild Petunia
Wild Petunia (in) growing with Wild Strawberry.
  • Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis). Petunia-like lavender-blue flowers from June onwards. Low-growing so I’ll plant it behind the Prairie Smoke.
Poppy 'Pulcinella Bright Solar Yellow'. Photograph from Bluestone Perennials.
Poppy ‘Pulcinella Bright Solar Yellow’ (in). Photograph from Bluestone Perennials.
  • Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule ‘Pulicinella Bright Solar Yellow’), To brighten things up I want to interplant the Wild Petunia with this summer-blooming yellow poppy.
Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' (in)
Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ (in)
  • Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’). Very long-blooming, these will replace the coreopsis along the east edge of the bed.
Oriental Lily 'Gold Band'
Oriental Lily ‘Gold Band’. Photograph from Bluestoneperennials.com.
  • Oriental Lily (Lilium auratum ‘Gold Band’). These fragrant yellow and white lilies will bloom in August after the orienpets across the driveway are done. 

So that’s the plan, tentatively at least. I intend to do the planting this fall. Any thoughts or suggestions?

54 Comments on “Left Bank Garden Makeover!”

  1. A makerover! what makes a gardener’s heart beat faster. Have fun, your thoughts all make sense and you know the site and conditions well so I know that your choices will work. It didn’t even sound as if you’re going to spend a lot on new plants – that’s good, plus more of each species rather than just more plants will give lots of impact, I can’t wait to see it.

  2. Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) and Cylindrical Blazing Star (Liatris cylindracea) are perfect companions to the Wild Petunia and Prairie Dropseed. Lead Plant (Amorpha canacens) is another one that blooms at that time. And add Shooting Star ( Dodecatheon media) next to the Prairie Smoke for a spring combination. You can also add Heart-leaf Meadow Parsnip (Zizea aptera) that blooms at the same time. Zizea aptera is not at all aggressive. Silky Aster (Symphyotrichum sericeum) (I HATE the new aster names) has silver leaves and violet flowers and grows only 18″-24″ tall and around. It’s native to dry hill prairies.

  3. Does this space stay in a lot of shade during the day? I love asters and coreopsis (Zegreb keeps a rounded shape and consistent height) but they need a good supply of sun. Scabiosa and poppies need much sun as well. Just a thought if the area is not full sun. As for low growing, I assume that is because of driveway safety. Maybe you just need some bloom times that are different to keep the color going through the season.

    • This space is pretty sunny. And I want to do low-growing because most of my beds and borders tend to have a lot of height, I just want to have some areas that don’t. My thought on bloom times are, in a nutshell: spring: tulips and prairie smoke; summer: wild petunia, poppies, lilies; fall: asters.

  4. Love your idea of making it lower. I need to do the same in my Ranchero garden this fall/winter when the weather returns to something more conducive to human life. (this summer has been incredibly wet and stiflingly OVER HOT!)
    Is that lily a new introduction or have I somehow missed seeing “gold band” all my life?

  5. Looking forward to the after pictures. =) and now I know that I am not the only person to give silly names to pieces of the garden. We have a western march which really ought to be the western wilds and something called the east sector …

  6. Don’t you just love a garden (or border) makeover. I’ve been mentally preparing myself to let go of the apron strings to some of my plants pretty soon.
    You are keeping some lovely plants and what can one say about the tulip/crocus combo – AMAZING!!
    Good luck with it all and will be eagerly awaiting to hear how it all goes.

  7. Too bad WordPress doesn’t have a “Like” button so we can comment on which Ideas are good… (or bad). Yes, don;t we all like a garden makeover!

    I know you are into natives and they don;t lend themselves to giving a bed structure. but I can’t help but think your choice of plants could use a boost of some unifying structure. Also the texture and shape of foliage is really important, and I see on your lists (geum aside) most are tiny pointed leaves. I’d try to add some large broad leaved leaves.

    I know you also like birding, and recently came across ‘Viking’ aronia. A larger leaf, nice structure, and the leaves were quite shiny. You’d probably have to prune to keep it at a good ratio height, but…

  8. The only thing I noticed is that all the foliage is small and fine-textured. That, more than anything else, I think, contributes to the “green lumpiness.” I feel like the design wants a bold-leaved plant to be staggered throughout…but that’s just my two cents. I’m really interested to see how you proceed–I love a good before-and-after!

  9. I’d add loads of orange milkweed as well as some nepeta. I have lots of the wild petunias. Wonderful plant! I never know where they’ll show up but they’re gentle invaders. What about some dwarf shrubs for structure? A dwarf abelia would be easy to work with as would a little spirea. You might also like veronica ‘Sun Queen’ from Lazy S’s. It likes to be well drained, as do all veronicas. Someone recommended dalea. That would do well and look interesting as long as it has really well drained soil. A dark stemmed sedum would be cool, too.

  10. This should be fun. The first eviction to the compost pile is always the hardest, but stay strong. I always flounder and end up trying to find new homes for everything. Better to just get it over with!
    Do you have anything evergreen out front? A little winter green might be nice.

  11. Sounds like you will enjoy yourself, it’s always exciting planning a new border, although I’ve spent most of this summer re-arranging things that I planted in my new back garden. I love all your ins and quite a few of your outs actually, I shall look forward to seeing how it all pans out.xxx

  12. Sometimes it’s hard to find the courage and energy for a make over but when you go for it, it’s always worth it. So many ins and outs that’s it’s difficult to get the picture yet but I definitely look forward to seeing it develop. The aster looks lovely…send some instead of throwing it on the compost heap 😉

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