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The Miniature Garden

July 22, 2010

We’ve all had this happen. You plot and scheme and dig and plant and have everything laid out exactly the way you want, and for some reason there is one small area that doesn’t turn out right. It looks ridiculous, the plants are bigger or smaller than expected, the soil conditions are wrong, the colors are wrong, there’s too much sun, there’s too much shade, and blah blah blah.

So, what do you do?

I had a spot like that beside my steps – a little area just about eight feet deep by six feet wide, nestled under the overhang of the house. It was bone dry against the foundation, sopping wet in one spot where heavy rains always overflow the gutter above, burning hot in mid-day, and in complete dark shade the rest of the day. Insane! What can you do with an area like that???

Well, after many mistakes, THIS is what I did with it – a miniature rock-garden!

Roses in the back, Golden Globe Arbor Vitae, Yucca, Creeping Phlox, Pinks, Thyme, Basil, Tri-color Sage, Alpine Ground Cover, Irish Moss, and 16 types of Hen and Chicks!

Limestone slabs were used to make the terraces, and rubber mulch or pea gravel was used throughout. Every plant I used can put up with a wide range of temperature and moisture conditions and tolerate hard direct light for several hours a day without harm. They can also manage the dreadful heat generated in this southeast corner. The roses love it here, as they are not winter hardy and the soil by the house stays warm enough to keep the roots from freezing, especially with the rubber mulch four inches deep on top. The Irish Moss seemed fine at first, then seemingly died after blooming, only to suddenly return at multiple sites around the original planting spot from seed. The new plants have proven to be indestructible even though the parent plant didn’t make it. I’ve always had trouble with Irish Moss as it doesn’t follow directions very well or adhere to it’s supposed “ideal” planting instructions, so don’t be shocked if you plant it and it thrives, and then vanishes only to return from seed all over the place. As for the hens-and-chicks, I give them away by the bucket. The Alpine ground cover is pretty neat, growing only an inch high but spreading rapidly; the only problem is it wants to cover all the hens-and-chicks like kudzu; I have to take a scissor to it periodically to teach it a lesson. The phlox, of course, is gorgeous in May and tough as nails. Lavender also does well in this spot, though its growth habit is a little sloppy for this tiny area.
An interesting fact is that the various ground covers and hens-and-chicks maintain their color throughout the winter under the leaves and snow. In fact, some of the hens-and-chicks really take on their most intense color in the cold, late in the fall. So, this little garden provides a lot of interest all the time. In August the roses are six feet tall in the back with gorgeous blooms!

So, that’s what I know. I fiddled around with this spot a lot and must have moved plants in and out fifty times before it had any semblance of the little garden I had in my mind’s eye the whole time. I hate to admit it, but the process actually seemed more fun than the end result; it’s like a little artist’s palette – the fun is in the mixing of the paint.

Old Hen and Chicks, Alpine Ground Cover, tiny Sedum…  

From → The Garden

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