Tuesday, July 2, 2013

West Facing Flower Bed; Take Four

We have lived in our home for exactly four summers. When we moved in the back yard needed a lot of love. Over the past few years we have put in a fence and a shed and added a lot of beds around the peripheral of the lot, (see a sneak peek pic at the end of this post). There is still much to do but I love to garden so its less of a chore for me than my husband....he hates it. 

There is this one spot that I have wrestled with every spring, hence the title of this post.  
West facing flower bed take four!

Here is a "before" shot of the bed. Okay, okay...keep strolling down. It gets better, I promise. LOL

In this bed I have tried various plants and flowers without success. The space gets most of the afternoon sun so it needs a plant that can tolerate the heat. And no...roses did not work and this really led to some head scratching. Hmmmmm! Well...this year I am going to try Phlox Paniculata Franz Schubert or what most gardeners call Garden Phlox.

This plant is a herbaceous perennial (family: Polemoniaceae) that grows well in zone 4 to 8, I live in zone 7.  In the right garden it will grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet with blooms of lilac with white eyes from July to September. I chose this perennial because it can take full sun.
I know, I know....if the roses didn't make it what makes me think this will? Sorry, I have no good answer except that I really want a  showy fragrant flower that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies and can be cut for indoor arrangements (fingers crossed).

To give these new plants the best possible chance I decided to pay special attention to the soil preparation. One reason that the other plants I tired didn't thrive might have been due to poor drainage. 
Before going any further I must provide full disclosure - I am a novice gardener at best so this is nothing more than a gut guess on my part. 
The bed had build up quit high over the past several years so removed some of the soil (A), added a fertilizer and tilled the dirt well. 

After soil prep I also edged the bed with my new favorite gardening tool (B), the "Hound Border Dog Edger"
  Since I didn't take any photos of this process, here is a picture from their website showing its use:

After preparing the soil I covered it with a couple of tarps and power washed the brick around it. Remember this house was build in 1951 and I am sure the brick is original. 

Above is a photo taken after I did a portion of the power washing to show the difference it made. Nice huh? Oh yea...I also LOVE my power washer.

After finishing the power washing and removing the tarp I laid out the plants while in their pots. I wish I could say I measured them with a tape measure but I didn't...used the old eye-balled-it method which usually works for me but I can't recommend it. Use the tape measure to avoid error. 

Last step....planting, mulching and watering. 

And here are photos of the finished bed.

In a few weeks (July) they should grow to look like this....

Oh yea..I almost forgot another reason I picked this plant. If you scroll back up you will see the very ugly concrete basement stairwell and hideous blue door in the background. Someday we will replace the door but regardless the stairwell is an eyesore. These plants are suppose to grown to a height of 2 to 3 feet with a spread of 1 1/2 to 2 feet and will hopefully hide their background. 

So cross your fingers for me. I'll check back after summer with the results, good or bad, and as usual, thanks for visiting.
 Oh yea...here is a sneak peek of my back yard this past spring. More to come :)


  1. Phlox are heavenly smelling and prolific however but are prone to mildew, so be careful watering once they begin to bloom. Needs wet or constantly moist soil. water as much as you can without watering flowers or tops of plants, concentrate water on bed below foliage. Humidity is another threat to phlox so prevent it by improving air circulation in and around the plant.
    Do this as shoots emerge by “thinning” the clumps—just use your finger (or a pruner if need be) to knock out like a third of the shoots, to space the remaining ones less closely together. The plant will breathe better, so to speak, and that will help prevent the fungus from overtaking it. Also this variety is somewhat mildew resistant phlox so that is a good start! It is well worth it to grow it and will look beautiful against your fencing. I am in Ohio and have grown it for years, the full sun will help tremendously but the humidity is impossible to control LOL.

  2. Ohhh I bet they are going to look great. Phlox is a fairly easy plant to grow, and I agree with your previous visitors comments but will add a little more to help.

    A watering guideline I go by is this: 70's to 80's - water once every 4 days. 80's to 90's water 2 to 3 times a week, anything hotter...water everyday or every other day until the plant is established.

    One last thing, I can't tell how deep your mulch is, (in the photos it looks only 1-1/2" to 2")and if that's the case I would seriously add 2 more inches....especially in a zone 7 or you will be watering everyday because the soil is drying out too fast.

    Good luck, I got my fingers crossed for you!

  3. It looks so nice and loved in the after pictures. Job well done!

  4. Wow..wonderful comments and especially suggestions. A couple of question...Cathy: can you explain what you meant by "clumps"? Christine: I do only have about 1.5 inches of mulch. Are you saying there should be about 4" total?

    Thanks to all for visiting!

  5. 2018 update
    I followed all of the suggestions and they never bloomed and sort of dwindled down to only a few barely living. I pulled those few out last fall and the bed is empty again. Any suggestions for that area would be welcomed.