I'm always up for a challenge, so when I offered plant advice early on in my stint here at Modish, my internet buddy Krystyn Heide decided to throw a tough one my way. Here’s how Krystyn described her gardening area:
It's about 3ft x 4ft wide. Three sides are enclosed by a short brick wall, with the fourth running flush to the cement patio (see image 1). On the left, I can only dig about an inch or two before I hit red clay, and an inch under that is concrete(see images 2-4). It gets deeper as it goes to the right, and on the farthest right side it's several inches deep. The pictures show the short plants I bought, and how high they stick out of the soil when planted on the shortest side of the garden. The WEIRDEST thing is, there's a drain under the soil, on th e LEFT side. So it gets deeper as it you get closer to the right side, but the drain is on the left. Which means the water just pretty much sits there when it rains.
Here are a couple thoughts:
The not so fun part:
Dealing with clay soil is hard (literally and figuratively) so I would do the not-very-fun task of digging out all of the dirt, and either amending it or replace it. To amend it, I like Espoma products because they are organic and easy to find, but there are a ton of others on the market. Greensand (which is actually a mineral) can also improve the soil structure for drainage, while adding nutrients back to the soil. Perhaps even, just to err on the safe side, adding the slightest layer of sand to level the bottom.
The Fun Part:
The things to consider for this particular bed include: zone (Atlanta is similar to my own - 7b) and elements that might create a microclimate. The heat of a city in combination with temperatures radiating off roads and buildings will allow consideration of plants that need slightly warmer temperatures than that particular zone. If I love a zone 8 plant, I'll just plant it closer to my house and it will usually do just fine. Also consider sunlight and shade, as well as, obviously, soil depth (in this case extremely shallow).
Have I mentioned I like adding features for the birds in the garden?
Blomus Feeder ($123) and base ($38; both top right) from Lekker: This feeder with the optional base is not only gorgeous, but she can put the base in before the dirt goes back in the bed and it'll be ready to go! Also since the design incorporates both the bath and the feeder option, she can give the birds refuge in the drought or offer a particular type of food to attract a more specific variety to the patio.
Now for the dirty fingernails!
Anemone (image a)should be planted in the fall, and much like ranunculus (image b), the small tubers need to be planted just about 2 inches below the surface. Bright and cheery and all mixed in with Mondo Grass the effect could be surprising and striking. Mondo grass, aka monkey grass and liriope (image c), comes in compact (or dwarf) sizes, which would work really well in such a limited space. I have been in love with Black Mondo Grass since the first time I saw it. It's a hardy plant that just might try to take over the space, but will put up with the uneven moisture, get it in the dwarf size and you're golden! And the color? Gorgeous, deeply hued, and nontraditional enough to match Krystyn's urban loft environment. Then, of course, there are the tried and true succulents that I love so much! I mean, come on: shallow roots, drought tolerant and most of them (at least in my experience) aren't too picky about their light requirements, either! Two Dog Gardens (image d) on etsy has some beautiful selections. The Garden Sage is also worth checking out for a variety of sedum cuttings.
Make several small groupings throughout the bed and cover the rest of the dirt with a layer of beautiful river rocks. And voila! A modern garden worth of loft style living.
Some resources strictly based on Internet research but are interesting enough that I've added them to my itinerary for my next Atlanta trip:
Randy's Perennials and Water Gardens has several good reviews on Dave's Garden; one reviewer specifically pointed out their broad selection of succulents. Sounds like a resource worth checking out to me!
The Urban Gardener has the Espoma products I suggested earlier as well as a selection of hardy succulents for Hotlanta (sorry, I had to use that phrase at least once to get it out of my system. I'm done, I swear).
A great resource for you Georgianers (Georgianese?) is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Xeriscape Guide.
So, what say you, Krystyn? Ready to break ground?
Anyone else out there that might have suggestions, questions or comments? Please feel free to join in on the conversation!
Renee Garner has a passion to make things grow, although her brownish thumb wants her to believe otherwise. When mud pies aren't on the menu, you can find her doodling the days away at Wolfie and the Sneak.