Saturday, June 20, 2009

Garden Patrol-- Jackie's Garden

I’ve been helping neighbor Dave with his fight against the creeping charlie that has invaded his lawn. We really knocked it hard a few weeks ago with the Weed Beater Ultra but it looks like we will have to hit it again before we reseed but with the weather we’ve had to take a break. So while we wait how bout another installment of Garden Patrol?

My daughter Alexa showed me this garden one day when we were out on our bikes. It belongs to the grandmother of one of her friends. What intrigued me about this garden is its complete lack of lawn area. I don’t know how well this concept would translate on a large country lot but it is fabulous on a smaller city lot. I absolutely loved the creeping jenny (lysimachia nummularia) “walkway.” You may have seen this plant used as the “spiller” or vining plant in a container, but it actually is winter hardy in our area. It takes sun or shade (in shade it turns darker green as the plant tries to capture as much chlorophyll as possible) and it likes water. It works well around a pond. As you can see in this picture Jackie has it planted with lamium, pulmonaria, geranium and various hostas.

One of the things I think is important in garden design is adding permanent structures. Jackie has done this in a couple of different ways. In the front, amidst the greenery of the perennials, is a whiskey half barrel (split longways) that is filled with red impatiens. This does a couple things for the garden: It brings the flower up closer to the viewer and it adds additional dimension to the plantings. Jackie has done a great job with texture, with the lamium, coral bells, hostas and pulmonaria. Adding the impatiens ensures that there will be constant bloom at least in this part of the garden – what a treat to have that pop of red!

The back garden is just as inviting and this dry creek bed adds some structure and visual interest to the design. If you’ve ever wanted a water element but didn’t want to make such a big commitment, a dry creek bed gives the impression of water without actually having to add the water. Jackie has integrated a small fountain at the head of the creek bed to give her that soothing sound of water in a smaller form.

Jackie’s garden is quite shady but she still likes to grow vegetables. The sunniest spot in her garden is the side yard next to the driveway. The dilemma is that she also enjoys the monarda and other sunny perennials that grow there and attract hummingbirds in the summer and didn’t want to give up. The compromise is to grow vegetables in containers. She has a few peppers in one and some tomatoes in the other.

Jackie’s Garden Tip: Jackie uses Soil Moist crystals in her potting mixes to help with the watering. In the pepper container, she has buried several liter sized plastic bottles cap end up in the soil. She poked holes in the bottom of the bottles and when she waters, she uncaps the bottles and fills them with water. As the soil dries it wicks the water out of the bottles, providing constant moisture for the plants. (This might also work with house plants when you go on vacation.)

Here's another picture of the side yard. Jackie is using arborvitae as a screen from the neighbor's driveway. Arbs are pretty fast growing. Jackie bought these a few years ago when they were only a foot tall and now they are almost 5 feet tall! I wasn’t surprised to learn that Jackie is a long-time volunteer McHenry County Master Gardener. The Master Gardener group in McHenry County is very active. As payback for the training they receive they are expected to contribute volunteer hours at the McHenry County Extension Office in Woodstock. There they man phones answering gardening questions from the public. If you have any questions they can be reached at 815-338-4747. Their annual garden walk will take place July 11 which is also the same day as the Countryside Flower Shop and Nursery Pond Tour. A great day for visisting gardens and ponds in McHenry County.