Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Then and Now

I used to plan my garden beds in great detail.  I would know exactly what plant I wanted to put where.  I researched every plant.  I knew how big the plant would get, which zones it would grow in, the type of soil it preferred, and the color of its blooms.

Then reality hit.

I found that I could not find a lot of plants that I wanted locally.  Which meant, I could change my plans or find these plants by mail.  I tried mail order for a while, and still do get my plants by mail order occasionally.  But the plants you get through the mail are quite small, need a little more care than the plants you can purchase that are larger, and sometimes the shipping costs can be quite high.

So, I plan my beds differently now.  I can't say it's better, but it's more exciting!

Now I go to the local plant stores with a general idea in my mind.  A general idea of the size of the bed, a general idea of the size of plants needed, a general idea of the bloom color desired.  Then I look at tags.  When I get home, I research the plants I don't know.  (I don't purchase my roses like this, but most other plants.)  Sometimes I'm disappointed.  But sometimes I'm very pleasantly surprised!

Such was the case for this plant:

indigofera decora

I had never heard of this plant before, but the tag stated that it was cold hardy to zone 6, and would grow 2 to 3 ft. high and wide.  Ding, ding, ding!  We have a winner!  I purchased it on the spot.

I would have never planned this plant in my garden.  I had never heard of it before, and it looks quite delicate to me.  Like it might shrivel up and die in our heat.  Like it needs a lot of water.

But, no, it has thrived.  Thrived!  In extreme high heat, and through a lack of water.  A lot of the plants surrounding this one has expired.  But this one never skipped a beat.  It keeps blooming, no matter what is going on with the weather.

In researching this plant, I've learned that it will die back to the ground in colder zones, coming back from the roots in spring.  That it will sucker and form a dense planting, if allowed.  Commonly called "Pink Chinese Indigo".

I've found a new plant that I would plan into more beds - if I planned that way!

How do you plan a new bed?


  1. Very pretty. I haven't heard of it before either but I like it.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Holley, your post got me thinking how I "do" my beds. I don't plan into every detail, but I make up my mind what color and plant size I would like to see in that bed. Part of the plants I do research, sometimes I would like to repeat plants that have been doing well in other parts of my garden, and partly I just go to the nursery and look around and see what catches my fancy. This method works for me :-)! I am starting to plant a bigger area (bigger for my small garden that is!) and for that one I will draw up a plan on paper for the very first time. We will see how that goes. Gardening is sooo... much fun!

  3. I've never been very good at planning myself. I try to but it seems like you I can't find the plants I want or I forget my list of plants at home. I do find it exciting to go to a nursery and simply try out whatever looks good. Sometimes it works and sometimes it's disaster but it's always a great learning experience.

  4. What a lovely, thriving plant. I don't think I've ever planned a bed, I just plop plants. Right now I'm not making any more beds at all. I have enough to handle as it is.

    Happy Gardening and enjoy that lovely bloomer all the more now that you know what a survivor it is.


  5. Cher - It's fun to find new plants, isn't it? Especially when they do well!

    Christina - How you do it is pretty much my 'method', too! :) Good luck on drawing your plan out on paper. I've seen some beautiful gardens that were obviously very well planned out in advance.

    Marguerite - A learning experience - exactly! And I've put some plants in that I absolutely love that I would never have tried if I didn't just go with what's available.

    Flower Lady - I plop where things don't go well. Or I need to change. You're smart to know when enough is enough. I want to finish a couple of areas, then step back and see if I can handle more.

  6. What a great find that Chinese Indigo is, Holley! I used to plan beds like that, too, and then be disappointed at the nurseries. For me, I think the plans also didn't work sometimes because I was doing too much of the work inside my head. Now I try to "see" what I want a little better and make a pest of myself at the nursery wandering around trying different pairings...

  7. I am glad you found a plant that does well for you, it is always a joy! I actually like shopping by mail order because the choices are much wider, I can do all the research I want and I love babying little plants :). But I do buy a fair number of plants at nurseries too just because I can't help it..

  8. Another new plant for me, I've never seen it before. I wish it could grow in Zone 4, but I love it in your garden. I'm a plopper by nature which isn't always a good thing, though sometimes there are 'happy accidents' and the pairings look great together.

  9. Great post! There is only so much planning a gardener can do and then, like you said, reality sets in. There are just too many variables to consider and things die. Things grow too big. Or they clash with their neighbor, etc. This is the fun of gardening, I think. Being able to forge a nice design tableau with so many elements at play. I grow Indigofera heterantha. It is a good sized deciduous shrub with similar lavender/purple flowers and that same pinnate foliage. It's one of my favorite plants. What a good eye you had for spotting I. decora at the nursery, definitely a gem.

  10. Stacy - Your comment made me chuckle, because I make a pest of myself at the nursery, too! I've been know to 'place' an entire bed out, changing plants, running up and down the aisles. I figure they won't care once I get to the checkout!

    Masha - You are right that the plants available by mail are so much more varied! It is very enticing, and why I still sometimes do it, too. Although, unlike you, I'm not a very good 'mother' and sometimes my baby plants suffer. :(

    Karen - Sorry it won't grow in your zone. That's always a disappointment when you find an interesting plant, then realize your garden conditions are not right. I agree that happy accidents can be the most fun!

    Grace - You're so right - the reality is that they're plants, living, growing things that don't always conform to a plan on paper! I'll have to look up I. heterantha. And keep an eye out for it.

  11. My first perennial garden was planned out. I took the plan from Crockett's Victory Garden and then once I got to the nursery I had to substitute some. That was 30 years ago! Since then I guess the front bed was planned and has worked well with the lavender, Russian sage, sedum, liriope, butterfly bushes and hydrangeas. My perennial garden was planned in terms of the shape (a compass rose) but as to the plants other than the herb triangle, nope. I move things around constantly & sometimes its an improvement, sometimes not. I'm tempted by the catalogs and the plants I see in the stores but I've resolved not to spend any more money on plants and divide what I have that work in my garden. Oh, and depend on friends like you to share. :)

  12. Marcia - Like you, I usually plan out the shape, then fill in. And I move things around, too, probably more than I should! That's a good resolve. I am a bit too impatient for that right now. Perhaps when the majority of my beds have been started, I can fill in with starts and divides. Although, it is fun to share and I loved exchanging plants with you.

  13. That's really pretty!

    I've found planning by catalog can be pretty disappointing. once I revolved everything around these gorgeous asiatic lilies I was in love with - only to find they were unavailable. Another time, I planned a section around a pale purple daylily, only to nurse them for 2 years and find there were not the variety they were supposed to be!!

  14. A dash of spontanouity when planning rarely hurts, and rather fun! :)

  15. Never heard of it either, but we are zone 6b and at the edge of its 'happy' zone. It looks like a spreader and good you researched to find out. Any plant taking this strange season is a winner this year. Hope this weather is not repeated next year.

  16. Jennifer@htreedogsinagarden
    I don't know this plant at all. It's really very pretty.
    I don't plan things, but I do check a plants references before I bring it home. I particularly check to make sure it is not invasive. I have been burned too many times!

  17. Wendy - Your two planned beds remind me of a bed I planned around some roses once - then realized there was too much shade there! Still haven't found just the right thing!

    Mark and Gaz - I agree. There are a lot of great plants that I would not know otherwise.

    GWGT - A little research after the fact is probably not the best way, but some nurseries I don't get to often, so I take a chance! I agree that the weather this year has made it extra hard on plants, and any that make it now are sure winners.

    Jennifer - Thankfully I don't have too many invasives. If I they start behaving that way, I usually yank them the second year, and try again. A little extra work, I suppose!

  18. Nice flowers on it, looks a good plant to have!

  19. I plan my beds out beforehand, but things always get transplanted and adjusted later. Sometimes my impulse buys are great, and sometimes I'm really disappointed. The best feeling is when I've been reading about a plant in catalogs and online and then find a big, healthy specimen at a local nursery. Then I know I've made a good buy. I've given away a few plants that I thought I desparately needed, though, when the color turns out to be ugly or another cultivar is far superior.

  20. Kelli - So far I'm very happy with it. I hope I can say that again next year.

    Yael - I do a bit of plopping, too. :)

    VW - Isn't it wonderful to find that special plant? It doesn't happen very often to me, but when it does - sheer joy!

  21. Hi Holley - I'm learning by trial and error and LOTS of reading! Thats how I plan too, mostly by reading and looking through my seemingly endless number of books. I often see a plant on a blog that I think will look great in my garden and then I write it down, and return to my books to check that it will work. I have a number of "impulse" plants in the garden ... I've learnt that I shouldn't buy on impulse but its hard sometimes. So now I have a list of plants I know will work, stored on my phone, and I am hopeful that I will eventually find them at a nursery. :)

  22. Gardening Blog - That's a great idea! A convenient list that you can refer to at the nurseries. Why didn't I think of that? I also read a lot, and get such inspiration from garden pictures. A few books I keep going back to, over and over and over again.


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