Friday, January 30, 2009

The First Bed

As soon as, whenever that will be, the utility line gets buried and the temporary power pole goes away, it will be a high priority to plant the entry way to the cozy cabin and the large section directly in front of the porch. This will be the primary focal point coming down the drive and the main bed that will anchor the cabin to the site.

I'm not planning a direct path from the front porch down to the basement patio. That would involve stair like steps and I feel it would interrupt a bed that needs to make a very strong opening statement. Instead the path will come down the garden accessory drive and cross the slope below the bed to get to the basement patio. A more direct path down to the patio will come from the rear kitchen door steps.

It's on a slope. This picture was taken one path further down that will go to the bottom of the sunny utility valley. You can just make out the path between the basement patio and the garden accessory road in the center of the slope.

Basically this bed has a rectangular shape with a ninety degree angle that comes to a sharp point, which I hate. That point will have to be smoothed off or rounded when I widen the path. Once I widen the path on this slope, I will end up with a steep cut in the slope and I think that means there is another dry stack stone wall in my future.

The question is, what in the hell am I going to plant in this bed to make a strong opening statement? It has to have winter interest, so it will need evergreens, but I don't think I could bare to look at sad and forlorn rhododendrons off my front porch when their leaves curl up in cold bitter misery. That's not the look I want when I am freezing.

Can't plant any full size trees because it is to close to the utility easement and I can't have any tragic misshapen trees in the opening statement. I will need some height though to step the cabin down from the height of the surrounding forest and to give the front windows a light dash of screening.

What I am going to plant?

This is just a gratuitous shot of the siding I managed to get on yesterday when it was sunny, sort of, and almost forty degrees. Today it was windy, in the twenties and with snow flurries on and off all day.

There will be a narrow foundation planting along this side of the cabin of course, between it and the driveway. Gas and water lines need to cross through first and the final grade for drainage established. Then what will I plant there?


chuck b. said...

I don't know! Can't wait to find out tho'.

Have you thought about joining Twitter? I don't want to follow strangers. So far it's just Carol, Annie and GardenRant.

lola said...

Oh my, this does cause a lot of thinking. I just can't think of what would do to serve the purpose. I'm sure that there is something out there that would work. I do see the need for a bit of privacy for the front windows. I planted hemlock to form a hedge from eyes but my situation was different. Let us know what you decide.

Christopher C. NC said...

Chuck your supposed to fling plant ideas at me not ask me to tweet. I barely comment properly. Tweet chat would just be awful for me.

Lola I have plenty of time to think about it. I think at least one large tree like shrub or small tree like a Japanese maple is needed to help screen the windows just a touch. I don't want to block them.

bleulily said...

Funny, the first thing I thought of was a Japanese maple; that and some interesting dwarf conifers. But then, I love the japanese influence. Really enjoying the progression of the cozy cabin and surrounding areas; you're doing a wonderful job. Thank you for sharing all of this.

Pam/Digging said...

How about some grasses? Frances makes a strong case today at Faire Garden.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I like the idea of some Holly bushes. The ones that are evergreen and have berries. It is fun to have those berries to attract birds during winter. The ever green is fun.

I have some deciduous hollies that have berries and are interesting even though they don't have leaves. They only get about 4 foot tall. The birds are now eating them due to all the snow cover.

I really like the evergreen ones best. They have such color and texture for winter.

As to beside your house. Well, I know you will come up with some wonderful design. I can't wait to see it.

Les said...

I think some dwarf and tall narrow conifers would look good, particularly some with blue foliage. That color would look good against your house, but throw something red or burgundy in for balance. Here is a link to an old Fine Gardening article about designing with dwarf conifers.

(my word verification is "outinugo")

Christopher C. NC said...

Bleulily, the Japanese maple and dwarf conifers with big boulders (got plenty)is the obvious choice which is why I have to think about it. I hate being typical. For a small tree item I was thinking maybe Cotinus coggygria or Chionanthus.

Les that is a nice article. The choices in small conifers is really good these days and while I think, how typical, I already know I'll be using them. The cabin will eventually be painted grey, so I think some of the yellow colored ones would be nice with the blue tones.

Pam I woke up this morning with visions of grasses and conifers in my mind. I also read Frances post yesterday too.

Evergreen hollies. That is a good thought Lisa. They'd contrast well with the conifers. The resident gardeners have had trouble with the hollies, but I think it is lack of sun and competition from the wild things.

Anonymous said...

I like the holly idea for evergreens best. Another more boring choice would be laurels, as in skip laurels/Otto Luykens, the latter not getting too high. They are boring but do have nice white spring blooms and then provide a nice, low maintenance evergreen background; do well in sun or shade.
I just don't know about hardiness, would have to check on that. I assume you are zone 5.


Homask said...

OK, you asked for it... I'm assuming the conditions are acidic, low-fertility, drought-prone, sun and shade? Erosion would be a large concern. I'd focus on groundcovers first. Maybe broad colonies of Tiarella 'Jeepers Creepers', Potentilla tridentata and a sedge of your choice, like Carex appalachica, C. plantaginea or C. flacca 'Burton's Blue'. This mix would be pretty, neat and interesting every day of the year with little work but weeding, mulching and watering till established.

Then pop in the woodies of your choice. I like the previous suggestion of evergreen holly. I wouldn't use a Japanese maple here, only because it's a cliche and it gets all brown and crispy during drought. And though I'm definitely not a natives dogmatist, why not celebrate pride of place and explore:

Your blog is fun to read!

Christopher C. NC said...

I did ask Homask/Don. Thank you for such good suggestions. The Carex plantaginea is very common on site though it seems to prefer more shade than the direct sun of this bed. The three quarter acres that will make up the main garden between the cabin and road is chock full of native plants I intend to utilize.

Your website looks to be a real treasure trove. I will have to spend more time looking at it. And of course the native azaleas will find a home in my garden.

Even though I am new to this climate zone it is easy to see that the JM's are cliche and that is not what I want my opening statement to be. There will be plenty room for them elsewhere. Plus I tend to prefer the small upright tree forms of the JM's over the weeping types. One of those might be nice on the driveway side to breakup that wall of the cabin.

Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

EAL said...

That is such a sharp slope to plant on; it would totally defeat me. I have no ideas, but I'm really fascinated by the progress of all this.

Christopher C. NC said...

Elizabeth, in minds eye I just pretend it is level and the back of the bed where the taller things need to go is down hill closest to the front porch.

lisa said...

Well, are some creeping phlox evergreen? I thought I'd read of one, and they are champs on a slope. Then there's sedum, grasses, creeping thyme (my 'Doone Valley' is evergreen even in zone 4, and fragrant!). Um...I came across some creeping, fruiting 'Swamp Dewberry' (rubus hispidus) z3-7 that's only @ 12" tall and provides wildlife benefit. "Trailing, low-arching prickly stems with gray-green semi-evergreen foliage. Reddish black berries are sour, moderate drought tolerance." Big rocks and hardscape elements can sure help out too, and even close to the house cause an inviting aura, IMO. (Heh, or "keep out", depending upon the desire effect. As a fellow hermit, I employ both. :)

lisa said...

Just thought of another fruiting groundcover suited for tough sites: Eastern Sand Cherry (prunus pumula), z3-6, 1-2' tall, "Fast growing prostrate shrub. Bright showy flowers open before leaves develop into small black cherries."

Frances said...

Ah, the slope. What has worked well here that you might consider are my favorite evergreen, blue star juniper, interestin callunas, firefly is good, also sunset. Salvias, lamb's ear, sheffies, grasses, dianthus. I also like the look of little hedges, dwarf yaupons like Schillings or korean boxwood wintergreen can be used for some geometry. Osmanthus goshiki. I personally like the look of a variety of colored foliage for the year around interest. Cerastium makes a good silver groundcover, although it is the same color as the dianthus. Ajuga....well that's enough for now.
ps, I was on twitter but felt overwhelmed and dropped out after just a day.

Homask said...

Hi again. I'm glad you liked Mr. Hyatt's website, but I'm not him. I discovered his site a few years ago when researching native azaleas. I'm very content with the so-fragrant R. atlanticums and viscosums that thrive here by the coast, but have also always lusted after the showy ones that thrive in the mountains. Lucky you.

I agree that seersucker sedge likes some shade, and was thinking that after you plant woodies in the bed they'd be understory. On the other hand, the previous suggestion of creeping phlox species (P. subulata, nivalis, stolonifera, etc.) is excellent, and they are so trouble-free. This can easily become another addiction as the range of Phlox species and hybrids for your area is lavish.

I also thought that low-bush blueberry would make a very decorative landscape plant, in addition to the obvious benefit. The twigs are so red in winter.

And what about Kalmia? That's something that doesn't grow well in most other parts of the country. If they grew well for me, I know I couldn't resist some of the more brightly-colored and patterned forms.

I guess overall, you're probably looking for a landscape that says 'garden' without looking discordant in the context of the surrounding landscape. Happy siding and choosing.