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New cottager in the south...

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Hey all-
Recently moved to Tennessee from the Phoenix area - whew! Made it!

Have a newbie question - what kind of perennials do you depend on as a backbone? Do you use all perennials or 50/50 ? or do you plant anew each year as you figure out what goes and what stays? What do you think your ratio is?

TIA....

Sheryl

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

I'm shooting for 80% perennial, but I'm laughing at myself even as I mention it. Backbone for me is roses of all kinds, and flowering and fruiting trees. My suggestion would be what Mark (the mad Englishman) suggested to me -- put in a border first. It will all follow from there! My border is daylilies.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Sheryl,

Welcome to the CG forum. I don't have a normal Cottage Garden because I grow daffodils competitively and I can't have perennial root masses over my bulbs (I also get in there and dig and divide them to keep the bulbs bigger and I'd wreck any perennials with the shovel)

That being said, I have or will have 100% annuals in the daffodil section.

The rest will be perennials planted at the proper distance with annuals filling in until the perennials get big enough to be the garden. Might be a while, last year I bought a number of perennials I hate. I wanted to see what they were. LOL!

Suzy

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

>smile<

"I bought a number of perennials I hate..."

That's something I can see myself doing... short of buying one of those Landscaping programs and planning it all out, I guess it will be a trial and error thing. 'Cause I ain't paying to have it done, even if I want it NOW, lol.

Thanks, too, brigidlily - it seems most borders around here are Liriope - at least the ones planted by the previous owner were. Thought about branching out with similar looking plants... hmmm...

My gosh, how does one afford this habit????? Worse than my horses - at least I can keep them alive!

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

PC - Ya gotta start stuff from seed or have a large disposable income! I bought some little perennilas from Bluestone. I chose things I had never seen nor heard of. Um, let's just say they didn't float my boat!

Some of us do a lot of plant trading, but postage can really add up, so make sure what you're trading for is worth the postage!

I don't think Brigidlily meant borders as in lirope borders around the perimeter of a flower bed -- I think she meant flower borders, as in a flower garden or the whole flower bed. You plan out a full garden and then stick the annuals in between where there are spaces (called holes) due to die out, or uneven or unexpected plant growth or lack thereof. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Brigidlily has a LOT of daylilies and that is the bulk of the plants in the whole garden.

Suzy

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

oh... interesting... kind of like using daylilies as a perennial back-bone or structure element, as opposed to edging?

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

My daylilies WILL be (I bought the place late in May and am still very much in the R&D stage) both edging and backbone. I don't care a whole lot for lirope, though a bunch here and there is fine. I'd much rather see daylilies used as people use lirope, and that's partly what I'm doing.

On the trading forum, I got several dozen lilies and have planted them in a curving row at the side of the house. I've just put two forsythias inside the area they mark off. As things grow (please, God) what I picture is two beautiful, wild forsythias in a sea of daylilies (yellow, apricot, and pink). I'm not sure what else I'll put in there (suggestions VERY welcome) but that's the start of that area. What I like about the DLs is they last so long! The forsythias won't, though I like what they do both spring and summer. But of course just a sea of DLs would be all the same level, so I need to work some taller plants in.

I'm realizing this is going to take a lot of time, and of course it will never be "finished"!

cat, do take advantage of the trading forum -- it can be a real wallet saver. Gardeners love to share.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Wah! I just have nothing to share at this point - I left all my agaves, aloes, passionflowers, etc. back in Phoenix... It's okay, I'll figure it out, eventually! As long as it is going to be an evolutionary sorta thing, I don't mind doing seeds. There's nothing else to do over the winter anyway, so...

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

Welcome Sheryl!

For me the backbone of the cottage garden is roses and other blooming shrubs and trees. As far as herbacious perennials, for our zone it sort of depends on the season. In May bearded and Siberian iris, peonies, columbine, and baptisia are biggies. In summer lilies, daylilies, astilbe, phlox, rudbeckias, beebalm and shasta daisies are all reliable. Besides the foliar color of fall, mums, asters, and Japanese anemones give some bright spots. I also like to have spring bulbs scattered everywhere for color when I'm so desperately craving it, lol.

Enjoy your new gardening adventures!
Neal

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Thank you Neal, and Suzy and Bridgid. My head is buzzing with ideas and the mail keeps bringing all of the catalogs to move me to the next idea... First things first, though - I will either have to do raised beds or get a backhoe. I'm finding nothing but incredibly sticky, gold colored clay with the occasional gold colored rock in it throughout my property. So much for my free-form gardens.

How much can a backhoe cost, anyway? *lol*

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

A backhoe operater can be pretty pricy, but if you have a lot that needs to be done it may be worth it. You may want to consider some form of lasanga garden to start your new beds. Here's a link to a thread discussing this method:
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/649906/

I've become a big fan of no till gardens. Add lots of organic matter and the worms do the work for you.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

pagancat, we had some pretty nasty clay that the builder left us, but we've done serious amendment in the garden areas, and it's working out well. We found a guy ("Digger Dick") with a tractor tiller that could get through the clay, and we tilled in 4 to 6 inches of compost a couple of years running. I think we've put 40 cubic yards of compost into the back yard areas that aren't lawn... maybe 1/8 acre, at most. It was a couple hundred each time for the tilling, and for an extra $50-70 bucks the company that delivered the compost ($18 per yard) also brought us the kid with the bobcat to sling the stuff around where it needed to go.

It's something to check into... given the cost of topsoil, it might be cheaper to have amendments tilled in. It took a couple of years for the compost to break down a little, but the soil is pretty nice out there now.

Oh, and just for reference, a cubic yard is 27 cubic feet.... so a cubic yard will cover 54 square feet, 6 inches deep... or 81 square feet, 4 inches deep...

I also second Neal's advice. We put a new bed in along the neighbor's fence this spring... Digger Dick had back problems, so his son did the tilling and only made a couple of passes before Dick got too nervous about the fence and suggested that it would be better to stop. LOL As a result, the compost ended up being mostly a top layer, but the worms are gradually working it down in...

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

Yeah, that's the conflict, critter -- I want to plant it all NOW but I should just spend the next 2 - 3 years amending soil first. WAHHHH.

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

You can still plant now, just ammend each hole as you plant, then add the layers of compost each year and everything will improve as the garden establishes. Ideally it would be great to really get the soil in great shape for a year or so and then start with a blank slate, but I can't imagine that at all myself, lol. Got to have my cake and eat it too!

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Brigid -- do you have a big place or a small one? Yeah, we know EVERYTHING'S bigger in Texas LOL!

I was wondering how much space you're talking about. Have you considered sowing carrots and horserdishes now? You can just leave them in the ground to rot instead of harvesting them. They'd get down pretty deep, especially the horseradish. My worms love Starbucks coffee grounds and cantelope rinds, but they don't like onions or garlic. I don't think they'd particularly like horseradish, but I bet they'd love carrots.

Carrots are a cool season crop. You'd sow in Feb, I think. One of the Texas forums or the Master Gardeners in your area might be able to help. Carrots are pretty, too. They have nice ferny foliage. Maybe you could make a border out of them or intersperse them with other things? Just a thought.

PC, you could sow carrots, too, but not until March (once again ask somebody more familiar with your area/zone.)
Suzy

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

I have to work with hard pan clay. It is a pain too. I buy leaf mulch by the truck load from the Western KY University to till it into my beds. It is like black gold! I love perennials. Iris, hosta and daylilies are my top choices. I do have lilies and coneflowers, ect. mixed in. Plus annuals for that punch of color. Cannot beat then for color late in the Summer.
Teresa

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

Small, Illoquin -- the back yard is about 40 x 75 feet. I think sowing carrots and letting them stay in the ground is a superb idea. I do have a nice compost area going as well, and am hoping to get three chickens to come do their part (fertilize my ground, get rid of my grass and bugs, and give me eggs). (In return I'll give them food, water, a safe and comfy home, and love love love -- no butchering.)

gemini, that's pretty much what I've been doing, except for the herb garden. I'm just keeping things in pots and composting, tilling, until spring. Of course plant roots do their own amending, as well. It will take time, but it will happen. So this year, it's just cake... in a few years it will be cake with frosting and candles!

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Wow, yeah - great idea on the carrots....I didn't think of that. Just don't tell my horse they're carrots, 'kay? Is there anything else that is deep rooted like that?

I've seen the idea of using cover crops -like white clover; it puts nitrogen in the soil via the roots and then you till it in for green mulch - but I think they're talking about lager farm spaces for that sort of thing.

Bluegrassmom, you're about the same zone as I am - how early can we sow carrots?

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

I just found some seeds for carrots in the T&M catalog that grow 12". That should work!

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

I'm so pleased you all didn't think my carrot idea was lame!

Yes, and no on the 12 inchers. T&M is really expensive and I think you'll need a lot of seeds. Have you ever seen carrot seeds? They make poppy seeds look huge. (Going by memory as a kid) You sow them in drills -- shallow spots you draw in with a stick. Then you have to thin them to 2 or 3 or 4 inches -- I forget, but when you thin them, you are killing about 3/4 of the seed you just sowed! -- That's from childhood memories, but I also saw it on the Victory Garden on TV, so I know it's how you're supposed to do it (as opposed to how my dad did it.)

Ask somebody who knows about carrots, I am certainaly no expert, but I think I remember that something bad happens if those really long ones don't have really nice friable (read: sandy) soil. I htink they just stop when they hit an obstacle and you never get the depth. That's why somebody like me doesn't grow them instead of buying at the store. I would go with the cheapest carrots you can find in bulk, not something expensive like T&M.

There is one called 1/2 Nantes. It's realy common and the worst that will happen if it hits bad soil is it splits in 2 and both halves continue to grow down. Imagine a carrot that speaks with a forked tongue and you have it pictured. The other thing that can happen is the carrot stays whole, but takes a 25 degree angle when it hits a bad spot. We had a lot of both kinds when we grew carrots our first and only year LOL! BUT they keep growing, and that's all you care about.. Some horseradish plants have decorative leaves that are very pretty - I think in red. Other root vegetables and turnips and radishes and .......potatoes? Don't ask me, but I dont think any of those get very deep.

Is there a vegetable forum on DG? Maybe youcould ask there.

All this talk about carrots makes me want to run to my seed stash and see if I have any to sow! I ran into some surprisingly bad soil today getting the last of some bulbs in the ground. I had a bright idea that my husband and I would go to his parents' graves and plant some crocuses near the headstone. This is against the rules of the cemetery, but I was thinking little species crocuses would hardly cause a problem. Anyway, I had to buy a lot more bulbs than the number we are planning on planting, so I thought I'd put them in here and, my gosh! The soil was sticky and heavy! I was totally unimpressed! Perhaps a few hundred carrots would help. LOL!

Suzy

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

I have bought the 10 cent carrot seed at the Dollar General Store. They germinater pretty well as long as you are not looking for a certain variety.

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

Illoquin, they'll probably just mow them with the grass -- that's why the cemetery where my father is buried won't let people plant. I mean, they won't fine you or anything, just disregard what you've done. So some crocuses might have a chance for this spring, anyway. I'd love to put a raised bed over his grave and just have it full of flowers. But I think he'd just as soon I dedicate a jessamine to him or something in my own yard.

You know the "baby carrots" you buy in bags at the grocery? They're not really babies, but deformed carrots that have been cut up and ground down to baby size. Some farmer came up with it -- couldn't sell the forked or bent ones, so made lemonade out of that particular lemon.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

You're right about the prices on T&M - I almost never worry about seeds prices, just knowing what I pay for the same thing in the grocery store (assuming that I don't sweat over them too much). This particular one is like 250-300 seeds for 2.95 - so the challenge isn't price as much as it is the likelihood of me actually getting 300 seeds into this so-called dirt!

But the idea of it splitting - hey, that's twice the soil displacement! Niiice.....

Edited to add: Man, that batch of lemonade sure was worth the squeezing, huh?

This message was edited Dec 15, 2006 10:13 AM

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I can barely grow shorter carrots here after much amending of my clay soil... I don't know if they'd be useful as clay-busters, although it's an attractive idea! However, I was just looking through my new catalog from Pinetree Seeds, and they sell several cover crops for soil improvement, including a couple of clovers that they say are good for breaking up heavy soils. I've used white clover in smaller areas, and it was well behaved.

When we moved in, I battled a local invasive plant that was maybe some sort of mustard... the roots were as long as my arm (and as big around) on any that managed to get established, so I learned to spot the seedlings pretty quickly. Those roots did do a good job of getting down into the soil, and I always found a worm or two when pulling up a big one, but it's definitely not anything you'd want to plant on purpose, as you'd never get rid of it!

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

I wonder... I have a ton of red clover, which evidently will have the effect of making my horses froth at the mouth (oh goody..) but perhaps the white will be totally different. Think I'll wander over to Pinetree seeds, take a gander.. thanks, critter!

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

There is a really good post by Garden Mermaid on getting hardpan nasty soil up and running in the shortest amount of time. She gives a step by step process. If you see the picture in the thread, the person lives in what appears to be a brand new house in a brand new neighborhood.

Post #3140812

Hmm, I thought it would paste to be a clickable link. Now what?

Here's the link to the thread -- the post is 3/4 of the way down or lower. It's post

http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/688535/

Oh, and Bridgidlily, we were talking about carrots for soil structure and I talked recently to a friend who left her carrots down instead of harvesting. She had the same thought of them being good for the soil. She told me the reality is the carrots form a perennial plant that is "just like Queen Anne's Lace" tap rooted and weedy looking. Sorry, I guess I gave you some bad, but well-meaning advice.

Suzy

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Darn.... well, it sounded good, Suzy!

Thanks for the link, I'll take a look a little while later.... now, it's drown the shivers in hot coffee time!

Metro DC, MD(Zone 7a)

So Pagan, what'd you end up doing (or deciding) with your cottage garden? :~)

Have you decided on a basic design for the beds? When we first bought our piece o' clay (with nothing growing on it) 3 years ago, I marked out the shapes of my beds then just started heaping horse manure, wood chips, layers of newspaper, leaves, etc. etc. on top of it. By the following year I was ready to start planting, but I'll continue to throw a few inches of compost on top each year. We're getting there, slowly, but it's definitely improving. How's that horse manure pile coming along? Those guys better be earning their keep...

I'm turning my backyard into a cottage garden... I'd say that about 70% of my plants are perennials, with a few woody shrubs here and there to anchor, plus there are three huge existing oak trees which offer vertical interest and a canopy. I was dropping ridiculous amounts of $$ on plants from the garden center, so last year was the first year that I started perennials from seed. This year, I went High Tech (thank you, DG http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/683246/ ) and put together a system of grow lights for my seedlings, so now I've got an obscene number - and variety - of perennials started in my cellar. This pic' shows the nuts & bolts layout of the beds, but I'll probably tweak them a bit this year. Note the stall bedding near the back fence, near the compost bins. That's where I plant my veggies. By summer, the veggie garden and compost are hidden from view.

Edited to note: DUH, this is ~not~ the photo that I meant to post. Sorry, lol.



This message was edited Mar 5, 2007 8:36 PM

Thumbnail by wrightie
Metro DC, MD(Zone 7a)

Here's another shot from a slightly different angle. Sorry about the lighting in this one. Both were shot from the patio/deck area.

I've got a LOOONG way to go, but am having FUN, plus there's no need to marry myself to anything. I'm always digging stuff up and moving it around back there. The front yard is kind of formal, so this is my playground back here. Well, when I'm not at the barn...

Thumbnail by wrightie
Metro DC, MD(Zone 7a)

Here's what it looked like last Spring, before we added the new fence. I didn't have very much planted at that time. Taken from the back fence, looking toward the side yard.

Thumbnail by wrightie
Metro DC, MD(Zone 7a)

Borders beginning to fill in. That's a small 'bistro patio' being installed in the corner...

Thumbnail by wrightie
Morrinsville ~Waikat, New Zealand

A progress story is always exciting and you have achieved such a lot - I love your little corner 'bistro' - what is the creeper you have planted on the fence ?
Emelle

Metro DC, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks, I have big plans for this coming year. I can hardly wait to see how things fill in. On the fence is Scarlet Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera x brownii. Next to it, out of view, is another called 'Hummingbird Gold'. I'm trying to keep the local wild life happy. :~)

Thumbnail by wrightie
(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

LOL - the local wildlife in Phoenix would've been my neighbors down the street, and I don't grow what keeps them happy - although I could!

Admittedly, I'm still in the planning stages of what destruction I'm about to bring about - I've been so busy with horse stuff, sister and husband stuff, that plants and planting have really taken a back seat.

..... but spring is in the air!!!

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

LOL Pagancat!

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Wrightie -- the fence is wonderful -- really makes a difference! In fact, there is a huge difference in just one year..one SEASON! And those gigantic trees in one of the pictures....wonderful! How on earth do you get all those flowers to grow and bloom underneath them?

Suzy

Metro DC, MD(Zone 7a)

Suzy, those are massive oak trees. There are three of them now, but there were FIVE in that tiny backyard when we bought the place (we now have firewood that will last for years). Previous owners had trimmed them so that the lowest branches are at least 40ft up, consequently we get a high filtered shade and a reasonable amount of sun. There is too much bare trunk to look at for my tastes, so I'm looking for flowering vines to grow up them.

The fence isn't exactly what I had originally wanted (think Walpole Woodworkers), but it was a more affordable compromise. I knew that I wanted a tall, open lattice type of fencing, so I went with a picket style to mimic the curve in the existing fence but I had them space the pickets an inch or so wider than they normally would. I have grape, blackberry, hardy kiwi, and a few clematis on that fence, so I hope that they take off this year... they're too naked right now.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Well, it look wonderful-- as if it's been there forever -- and I guess those oaks have been LOL!

Suzy

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