Fence Border, Second Draft
I have found, somewhat surprisingly, that the way I garden has a lot in common with the way I write. When I write, I begin with a topic or assignment. Then I gather information and start to make lists of ideas to include. I’m a writer who can’t write until I have a pretty good sense of where I’m going; so my lists of information and ideas eventually get turned into an outline, and the outline gets fleshed out in a first draft. After I write the first draft, I read through it once or twice, correcting glaring problems. Then I let it sit for a while (hours or days depending on the type of writing) and come back to it later with a fresh eye to create a more substantively revised second draft. In my blog writing, it is this second draft that usually appears, after some additional polishing, as a published post.
In gardening, I move in a similar way from an initial concept or location for a garden area, to research on plant possibilities and ideas about how to combine them, to a planting plan, and then to preparing the soil and planting. But in the garden as in my writing, I seldom get it right the first time. The first attempt is just a draft, and I know it will need revision.
I am now in that process of revision with the fence border. I developed this flower bed over a period of several years, beginning with a location and some general goals (creating a sense of enclosure for the back garden, screening the clothesline from the deck, and providing a sunny place to grow peonies) and proceeding through research and plant lists to a specific plan. I began preparing the soil and planting in 2008 and completed the planting in 2010. The planting plan linked this flower bed to the two other areas of the back garden, the blue and yellow border and the deck border, by repeating plants and combining the color palettes from both. Last year, the first year in which this part of the garden was completed, I noticed and corrected a couple of glaring problems. The diagram below is the tweaked first draft of the design for the fence border.
This year I found myself looking at the fence border with a fresh eye, and it became clear to me that I hadn’t given enough thought to color combinations and juxtapositions. When I imagined this flower bed, it was always with ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor) covering the right side of the fence. But even in a good year, these flowers don’t begin blooming on the fence until late August. The only other blue flowers in the border are two varieties of Tradescantia, one of which is blue-violet and the other of which is the white-brushed-with-blue cultivar ‘Osprey’. But in July, flowers on both these plants close up at mid-day, leaving no blue presence at all. The result is a flower bed that is predominantly pink.
In June, all the shades of pink in this flower bed worked well together and with the blue flowers of the blue and yellow border in early summer. As the blue and yellow border shifts to a strong yellow emphasis in July, however, and as the first yellow flowers open in the fence border itself, I’m not sure how well the yellow-pink juxtapositions are going to work. This flower bed needs a stronger presence of blue to mediate between the yellows and the pinks. I can also see problems with the two pink Geranium endressii varieties near the center of the fence border. G. endressii cultivars and their hybrid relatives tend to sprawl, and they work best when they have tall plants nearby that they can drape themselves over. Unfortunately, these are mostly sprawling on the ground or smothering the daylilies growing behind them.
I have now created a second draft of the planting plan, with substantive changes designed to address these problems:
The first change has already happened. This weekend, I took out the Allium ‘Gladiator’ growing just left of center at the back of the border. This flower turned out to be such a silvery lavender color when it bloomed last year that it practically disappeared against the weathered wood of the fence – and this year it didn’t bloom at all. It has now been replaced with the blue-violet flowers of Clematis viticella ‘Arabella,’ This plant will spread out from its spot near the center of the fence to intertwine with the pink flowers of Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’ on the left side of the fence and to provide a blue-flowered presence on the right side of the fence well before the morning glories bloom.
In addition, I plan to replace one of the pink Geraniums with the blue cultivar ‘Brookside’ and to rearrange these plants. The tradescantia will be moved back to the locations currently occupied by the two G. endressii varieties, and the geraniums will move forward. The salmon pink cultivar ‘Wargrave Pink’ will move to the circular bed, the deeper pink geranium will move to the right side of the fence border, and ‘Brookside’ will go in on the left side. Geranium ‘Brookside’ and Clematis ‘Arabella’ will provide a substantial blue presence in this flower bed throughout the summer. Moving the geraniums forward will allow them to drape their long flowered arms over the tradescantia plants behind them and the peonies at their sides, producing some very pleasing color combinations.
Although this flower bed will surely be subject to more tweaking and polishing in the future, I expect to look out at the improved second draft next year and feel a sense of satisfaction.