My Problem Flower Bed

The bed along the east side of our house has always been a problem . It’s separated from the neighbor’s old brick garage by a stretch of grass about 8′ wide. These are nice neighbors, and I want my side of this side yard to look presentable but also consistent with my style of gardening. Unfortunately, I’ve mostly fallen short of this goal.

When we moved in almost 10 years ago, this side of the house was bordered by overgrown forsythia and a big dying yew. We had to take these out to fix a leak in the basement. I planted summersweet and a flower bed edged with woodland phlox, celandine poppy, and wild geranium.

There were two problems, however. First, the summersweet just weren’t happy, and they failed to live to to their reputation as fast growers. That meant there was even more open space between the edging plants and the wall of the house.

Newly planted columbine and solomon seal join the phlox, geranium, celandine poppy, and red elderberry on the east side of our house.

My solution was inspired by frugality:I would just fill the empty space with volunteers from among those wildflowers most enthusiastic about reproduction: Short’s and calico asters, anise hyssop, sweet joe pye weed.

The result was less than ideal. The sickly shrubs combined with the big rangy wildflowers to create a distinctly weedy look. So I came up with a two part solution.

First, I removed the summersweet and replaced them with some red elderberry (now in their second season) and a common lilac at the far end (planted this spring). The elderberry are starting to fill in and should make a solid hedge in a couple of years. I was pleased to see that they have already flowered and set fruit this spring.


Next year this bed will look really good, I swear.


The second part was just implemented yesterday and today. I dug out all the big wildflowers, except for the sweet joe pye weed standing right against the house. Then I planted a host of tidier, spreading wildflowers that should fill in around the open parts of the bed: wild columbine, lady ferns, and Solomon seal.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ve found the right formula at last.



2 Comments on “My Problem Flower Bed”

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