There comes a time in every gardener’s life when that AMAZING garden bed you planted starts to look more like a chaotic battlefield than the Garden of Eden. Big bullies pushing in on their neighbours with unbridled expansion and desperately waning plants waving white flags begging for help. Does this sound familiar?
You know it when you see it and you feel it in your bones…the balance point has slipped away and clearly some intervention is required when beloved plants need to be rescued. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit it, there is a wild beauty in the cacophony – but the plea for harmony can’t be ignored forever.
It’s time to refurbish that flower bed!
The third year after planting the two foundation beds that frame the front of our house I stood in awe admiring the sheer beauty of how it all flowed together – COLOUR, VIBRANCE and VITALITY!
All is well…I pulled a few weeds here and there, but for the most part I stepped away while I focused on creating other parts of the yard and left my ‘beauty’ to take care of herself. She did a great job of that for many years. Then one summer I did a double-take and it hit me…”Oh whoops – my attention is needed here!” I had let it go, and I realized it was going to take more than a facelift to deal with the neglected overgrown mess.
Globe thistles (love em) had taken over, along with hardy roses (they are brambles after all!), ribbon grass, baby’s breath and burdock (oops) had taken over the show. Where were my Oriental poppies? What the heck happened to the painted daisies and lilies?!
Don’t get me wrong…there were many surprises that joined the chorus, like mullein, Aquilegia canadensis (better know as Columbines) marguerites and Blue-Eyed grass which are ALWAYS welcome and feel like a gift when they arrive…but, in the same way I feel more relaxed and open in a clean house with an energetically clear space to create with less stress…the same compulsion arises to bring back balance to the gardens. The intent is for harmony…not control or perfection. That’s an important distinction here…because over-controlled and perfect garden beds truly bore the life out of me!
Where to begin?
Well, for me it literally began by pulling up a lawn chair in front of the two foundation beds, a glass of wine in hand and a good look at what was going on.
My gaze fell first on the Burdock plants – an incredible wild edible that happily roams freely in other uncultivated areas of my garden, but in this setting – staring back at me like little trees growing where once there were delicate plantings of creeping phlox and Monarda (Oswego Tea, Beebalm). I could only imagine the size of the tubers underground where they grew – HUGE!
Then I noticed the Ribbon grass…a beautiful little variegated grass given to us by a friend that seemed harmless and charming enough to add to the mix. A newbie mistake…lovely perennial grass, but it NEEDS to be placed where clear boundaries exist. In my case, it had become a marching army of invading Roman soldiers advancing throughout the whole land and conquering everything in its path. I admired the ambition and vigor of course, but seriously!?
And by the way – where on earth did the stepping stones I placed so carefully in this bed to allow me access get to? Surely, underneath all the creeping jenny and grass they lay waiting to be excavated from their hiding places?!
Retrieve and dig up the fading but “I’m not dead yet” perennials in need of space and nutrients. This is where having other garden beds to transplant them to comes in handy…or failing that, a nursery bed in the vegetable garden set aside to care for plants awaiting a permanent home in the garden.
That was my first task – shovel in hand…digging up the fading lilies, painted daisies, irises, phlox and chives and transplanting them to the vegetable garden with some good organic soil and a deep watering.
Globe Thistles – so beautiful, and the bees LOVE them..once dug up and carefully potted up in leftover plastic pots from years of garden centre visits were shared with friends and transplanted to wilder gardens around the pond. DONE.
Shrubs that were thriving, like our Bridal Wreath Spirea and Cotoneaster were left in place. All ostrich ferns at the western edge of our garden were also transplanted to the pond garden where wild abandon is encouraged. Where we have, by the way, a resident mole living and that’s a topic unto itself for another upcoming post!
Then I called in the big guns for the remaining task…Ray and his tractor.
Refurbish the soil!
Once I had removed all the plants I wanted to ‘rescue’ from the foundational garden beds, we needed to dig out the old soil and replenish with fresh organic gardening soil. We ordered 20 yards (yes that is a lot – but our beds in front of the house are each at least 30 to 40 feet long so nothing less than a mountain of soil was required) and started to re-fill the beds with fresh soil.
All this work was done in the early fall of 2016…and as you can see from below picture, we are left with an essentially BLANK CANVAS for planting this coming spring.
It always looks worse before it gets better…true to life!
When you are re-doing any aspect of your life, in your home, your garden – in your own psyche…you KNOW it always looks and feels pretty bad before it gets better. Anything in need of healing looks distorted and a mess before a loving hand comes in to light up the dark…gardens are no exception!
This is where I’d love to tell you I have spent the winter planning to the last centimetre which plant will go where. I have not…my mind doesn’t work that way.
What do you mean it looks worse before it gets better? Well, consider the back and forth of the tractor across our ‘country lawn’ to transport dirt and dump in the beds. Things get chewed up…and part of the renewal overall was to address and deal with the refurbish not only in the beds, but the lawn casualty from all the work. Below photo shows you just how much of the lawn got torn up in the process, the new soil laid down to assist and fresh organic grass seed laid to regrow and heal the damage done…looks bad, but I know something better will rise to fill the void.
What you are seeing in this picture is the actual path the tractor had to take from the pile of soil at the front of our property to where it meets the new garden beds. Quite the distance, but when you live on a 5 acre property a little stroll to the compost pile is something you might consider packing a lunch for. HA – okay that’s an exaggeration, but you understand my meaning. In the past, before we had the blessing of a tractor in our lives, all this was done one wheel barrow at a time…and we were younger then as well!
Without fail – I will share a beautiful garden plan of all the plants I lovingly place in these beds with you. The only thing I am certain of – is I plan to put 3 or 4 panicle hydrangeas (probably Strawberry Vanilla) at the front steps of our house in the eastern foundational garden bed.
The rest I will share with you soon this spring when all is completed in this garden bed refurbishment!
I am an intuitive, seat of the pants kind of gardener…I go with my gut. I begin with what I know, and the rest will flow from there. Perhaps, that is why I am not a professional garden designer…I would drive my clients crazy no doubt 🙂
Dream of your garden to come…we are in the home stretch here in Northern Canada toward spring and many beautiful gardens are germinating in your minds even now. Soon!
Stay tuned for the resolution of this garden refurbish…and I promise I will share the whole process as it unfolds.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend my friends! Much love 💚
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