I was really pretty disappointed with how this bed looked in early spring. What I realized later, though, was that I was seeing it at possibly its absolute worst time. The early bulbs were past, the heathers had only recently been cut back and it was a year to cut them back hard, the ornamental grasses had recently been cut back, several plants had suffered damage over the winter, and the perennials and deciduous shrubs had yet to fill in for the season. The deer have gradually acquired a taste for grape hyacinths, clipping back the winter foliage. In the beginning I didn't mind, because they didn't seem to care much for the flowers and generally left them alone aside from accidentally nipping a young flower spike with the leaves, but it's progressed to the point where they keep the foliage so well-sheared that most of the emerging flower spikes are clipped off in the process. The grape hyacinths, in turn, had grown so thick that they simply looked like ugly patches of fleshy-leaved grass. I promptly removed as much of the grape hyacinth as I could, though I know it will be an ongoing battle as I certainly didn't get them all. Frankly I'm relieved to have made the determination to eradicate them. I never was that happy with the floppy winter leaves, and after the deer decided it was a buffet the aesthetics were not improved.
|A closer view of the ugly dead thyme and such. Ugh.|
|At least the foliage of Allium siculum was doing a fair job of filling this space, along with the emerging blades of Molinia caerulea 'Variegata'.|
|It wasn't all bad in April. Geranium 'Dark Reiter' was beginning to unfold its gorgeous purple leaves, though I had to quickly apply slug bait before the slugs devoured it.|
|This space is one of three patches of Crocosmia 'Lucifer', which really should have been reduced sooner. Sneaky little devil has a habit of getting away from its gardeners.|
|Another view, again, just not very inspiring this time of year.|
|It helps that I waited until evening to shoot these photos, but it really does look so much better than it did in April. The maple in the center needed some pruning that none of us got to. It's developing that unfortunate red haystack look.|
|Origanum 'Kent's Beauty' has grown up to cover the fading foliage of spring bulbs, Salvia nemorosa 'Ostfriesland' (East Friesland) contrasts beautifully between the bright heather and variegeted Molinia.|
|Another view, towards the house.|
|Here the lime thyme even had the kindness to cascade over the retaining wall. By the end of summer it will probably have reached the bottom of the wall and be attempting to take over the driveway.|
The other sure addition that I've determined in writing this post is that I want to recreate the golden trio I originally had in this bed. The intention was to provide evergreen contrast to the maple and barberries in a taller form than the thyme and heathers. The taller form also serves to create a step, of sorts, between the maple and the lower surrounding plants. Without that step, the maple simply juts up from the surrounding bed, especially in winter when the taller perennials are dormant. In winter the golden evergreen foliage provides additional bright color, something that is always appreciated in Pacific Northwest winters. So with these thoughts in mind, I really want to find a 3-4 foot-tall, deer-resistant evergreen to recreate fill that void. While I already have an embarrassment of heaths and heathers in this bed, I really like the idea of the Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold'. Erica is a well-tested deer-resistant genus in my garden and I don't have any of the taller kinds like Erica arborea. And I've been lusting after it since seeing (and smelling) what I'm quite sure was an 'Estrella Gold' at The Barn (click here). Then there are also many yellow dwarf conifers that may be suitable (and more deer-resistant than the Chamaecyparis). I'm also thinking of going silver/blue instead of gold/yellow. So many choices.
I think half of all the plants in this bed may actually be Calluna vulgaris. At least it seems that way often enough. The reason behind this is (1) it's a tough, deer-resistant plant, and (2) one year after shearing them back I had a carpet of cuttings that rooted by themselves. Among these self-rooted cuttings were a variety of interesting sports (mutations from the original plant), one of the things that got me interested in plant breeding and selection. From only three cultivars that I planted originally, I now have over a dozen different forms, most of which I believe are mutations from only one of those original cultivars. So of course I saved a number of different plants that I liked and planted them around this bed and other places to see how they would develop. I have green plants with bright orange new growth in spring, one with slightly woolly foliage and lime green tips in winter, prostrate forms, and several beautiful smoky blue-grey forms. Unfortunately I really can't keep them all in this bed. Fortunately I have lots of other places to put them.
And those are my wordy, drawn-out thoughts on this bed. If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Happy gardening!