Monday, April 25, 2011

Foundation Planting in Need of Serious Help!

Here's a picture of the front of our house.  We moved into my husband's childhood home on a beautiful lake four years ago.  My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman and had many talents, but she is not a gardener.  When she had the house resided and landscaped several years ago, she instructed the landscaper to put in plants that she wouldn't have to do anything with to maintain.  So we had a lot of evergreen shrubs and river rock around here when we moved in.  It is a design that worked for her, but doesn't work for this girl who likes to see flowers blooming and get her hands dirty!

This little foundation planting is the last of the river rock, and it's coming out this spring!  We're in gravel soil, which you could probably guess by the sorry state of our grass, so every bed that I've put in has required a LOT of work removing gravel and hauling in some good soil.  I'm hoping that the landscaper did his job amending the area before he planted way back when.  The site is mostly shade as it is north facing.  I'd like to add some height to the area as well and I wouldn't mind bringing the bed out a few more feet.  Any advice or suggestions out there?


  1. Hi. Well, it's like deja-vu looking at this photo! Now I just have to post what the rest of our beds looked like when we moved in!

    I've found out that a lot more things bloom in shade that I had thought.

    How much summer sun would you say this bed gets, if any? And when you say gravel soil in your other beds, is it the kind of thing that will be hard to shovel out (as it: you dig your shovel in and the hole you made just backfills in instantly)?

  2. PS - what size would you say this bed is?

  3. The bed in it's entirety is about 30 feet long, and about five feet deep. But I'm thinking about bringing it out further from the foundation, if I'm up to lugging all of the gravel out of there! It's really hard to shovel, not that it backfills, but that it's hard to dig deeply with each scoop as it's just pretty much big, solid rocks! Kind of like how tough is it to shovel out river rock! :) The spot gets about four or five hours of dappled shade, and the rest of the day full shade. I'm going to try some of that monkshood there for sure!

  4. Billie Jo, you're garden conditions sound very much like my foundation garden, between the house and the pathway. Even down to that gravel-like soil. I just did the best I could taking it out and putting soil in. (A lot of it remains, but between the plantings - things seems to do okay.

    My bed is fairly new, so things haven't really established yet (many of them I just put in last year), but so far this is what I have:

    Tall things for the back:
    the 'forementioned' monkhood (really thriving)
    foxglove (digitalis)
    campanula (bellflower)
    bee balm

    Mid range height:
    pink bleeding heart (the kind with the deep cut leaves, that bloom most of the summer, not the ones with leaves that look like parsley that only bloom in the spring, sorry, you probably know the ones) ;)
    white bleeding heart

    Short things for the front:
    cranesbill geranium

    Plus lots of different kinds of hosta and some ferns

    Those are just what I have in mine, but I also might try some columbine (they are supposed to do well in partial shade) this year. I'd also like to put some forget-me-nots in there.

    Check out one of the blogs on my sidebar, - he's a gardener from Edmonton (zone 3) and his garden is all in the shade!

    Also, my favourite place to learn about hostas is - I thought all hostas were for the shade, but apparently not, so this is a good reference.

  5. Hi Billie Jo,
    I think that Diane has given you some great plant suggestions already. I don't want to duplicate, so I will comment on the design aspects.
    I wish we had a full view of the house, but from what I can see, the garden bed is very straight and uninteresting. Perhaps you could add a sweeping curve to the outline of the bed. (This might blend into and follow the front walkway?)
    Also, as we Canadians must cope with long winters, I would try to put some permeant structure (bare shrub branches in winter and evergreens for year round interest) at the back of the bed. I would use neat, compact shrubs and evergreens (no monster evergreens-yews might work, if you keep them trimmed). Then, I would place an assortment of perennials in front. (Lots of hosta, as they always look neat and tidy) I would anchor the end of the bed at the corner of the house with something taller (shrub or evergreen-maybe a lilac, if there is enough sun). Finally, I would add a birdbath in among the plantings (snap one up at the end of season sales at Loblaws or the like). Hope this helps.

  6. You're very welcome! So it's snowing there? It's raining here! (Road-washing-out rain!)