An Easy Border

Long neglected and filled with weeds,
the long border behind the apartment building was filled with promise. Some 74 feet in length along a privacy fence of beautifully weathered wood, it held dark, rich, highly workable soil.
      When the new tenant moved into the building in 2012 he brought along a few plants from his former home in the country and a boxed-up shipment of some 20 Proven Winners "trial" plants.
      To his surprise and delight, the building management said sure, go ahead and plant the border.
      This modest border garden's transformation  has some good lessons for all of us, the first being When setting out to create a new garden always start, if possible, where the soil has been worked before. In this case the previous gardeners had already conditioned the soil into a rich loam. Then, when the time came that they were unable to work the border any longer, it was left fallow for several years.
      For this gardener, this soil, wet down and let sit for a day, was easy to weed, and with another day, dry enough to be perfect for planting. Here's the story.
In the Beginning--A Blank Canvas


Looking north along the border at the very beginning, it's filled with dandelions, Bermuda grass, dichondra, henbit, and other weeds, along with a very few "keeper" plants that survived from its earlier days.

Looking South


The view to the south shows one of two beautiful lilac bushes, the border, and, most convenient, a storage shed for garden tools and supplies.

The Lilacs


Two mature lilacs stand at the north end of the border. Even though one blocks the view of one part of the border, they're both so beautiful in spring that the gardener decided not to disturb them.

The First New Plant


The timing of the move meant starting late to plant the border. The first plant, added in mid-June, was this 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum), a graceful, colorful new ornamental grass from the Proven Winners company. it has wine red shadings, grows to 3 feet tall and 1 1/2 feet wide, and in fall bears deep purple flowers. The red mulch was requested by building residents  to showcase the colors of the plants.

And With Just a Little Growth...


...it didn't take long for 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass to show its true value in the garden, both in coloring and habit. We think it's a winner on all counts.

All Planted Up


By June 25th, the border was all planted up and ready to show its stuff. The design was easy. Our gardener simply used the Proven Winners plants and a very few perennial plants left from previous gardening as the skeleton of the border, then filled in with a few annuals like the white begonias at its edge.

Filling In


In July the plants were growing beautifully and filling in.

Looking North


A view of the developing border to the north.

A Look at the Plants: 'Watermelon Charm' Supertunia

Wow, stand back and watch this one go--'Watermelon Charm' Supertunia (Petunia hybrid), a Proven Winners introduction that seemed to virtually spring into full blossom a few days after planting. Besides its flowers' thoroughly engaging watermelon color, it mounds to 1 foot tall with a 2-foot spread, trails beautifully, is heat- and drought-tolerant, and draws butterflies and hummingbirds. We honestly can't imagine a better plant for hanging baskets or other containers or for filler in the garden.

'Luscious Berry Blend' Lantana

luscious-berry-blend-lantana-jpg.jpgLantanas do beautifully in the Ozarks because they flourish in our often-intense summer heat and are also drought-tolerant, so this new Proven Winners 'Luscious Berry Blend' Lantana (Lantana camara 'Luscious Berry Blend') was a most welcome addition to the border. The blue flower with it is Victoria Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea 'Victoria'), always a great annual to add to any garden mix. The four smoother leaves above the lantana belong to a naturally reseeded Four O'Clock from earlier plantings.

'Ice Chip' Buddleia

We're pretty excited about this new introduction from Proven Winners. 'Ice Chip' Buddleia (Buddleia 'Ice Chip') is a dwarf Butterfly Bush, which alone is a plus because it enables Butterfly-Bush-lovers to have their favorite in much smaller garden spaces. If that weren't enough,it also has lovely silvery foliage and bears a profusion of pure white, fragrant flowers all season long. It grows to 2 feet tall and 30 inches wide, is heat- and drought-tolerant, and, of courser, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

'Lilac Chip' Buddleia


As if one dwarf Butterfly Bush weren't enough, Proven Winners has also come up with 'Lilac Chip' Buddleia (Buddleia 'Lilac Chip'). We might like this one even better than 'Ice Chip' because of its lovely lilac flower color. Otherwise, this variety has the same characteristics as 'Ice Chip', shown above, and the same wonderful versatility in the garden.

Colorblaze Marooned Coleus

To put it plainly, this is one of the best garden plants we've ever seen. It's Colorblaze Marooned Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) and it knocks us out for its beautiful shape alone--a gorgeous semi-oval that speaks true elegance in the garden. Add dark red-purple foliage and purple flowers and you have a total winner. It grows to 3 feet tall and as wide and, as a bonus, also makes a literally stunning container plant and houseplant.

'Blushing Princess' Alyssum

blushing-bride-alyssum-growing-jpg.jpgThe 'Blushing Princess' Alyssum (Lobularia hybrid) is, quite simply, the most engaging, most useful Alyssum we've ever seen. Another new Proven Winners plant, its white flowers have a subtle, charming lavender blush and are also fragrant and more abundant than any other alyssum we know. It grows to 8 inches tall and 3 feet wide, which is ideal for gardens, hanging baskets, or pots. Our gardener says it performed beautifully throughout an especially hot and dry Missouri summer.

'Summer Storm' Hibiscus

summer-storm-hibiscus-jpg.jpg'Summer Storm' Hibiscus (Hibiscus hybrid) is a unique  hardy Hibiscus with very dark purple foliage that produces huge, gorgeous flowers 8-10 inches wide from summer into late fall. The foliage alone makes it a winner and it also flowers more abundantly than most Hibiscus. Another Proven Winners plant, it can grow quickly to 5 feet tall with a 4-foot spread. Great for the back of the border, it stands out wherever it's planted. Note: The pink flower in the pic is another great fill-in annual, Coral Nymph Sage.

The 'Summer Storm' In Bloom


Were we exaggerating when we said 'Summer Storm' Hibiscus flowers are gorgeous? You be the judge. This was the plant's first bloom and it just about blew our gardener away. He measured it at 9 inches across. With its vivid white, pale pink blushing, and magenta center, this flower seemed to light up the whole border all on its own. Note: The companion flowers at lower right are the 'Luscious Berry Blend' Lantana and Victoria Blue Sage.

Stars in the Garden

Among the most striking plants in the garden its first year were these beautiful Rudbeckia and white Coneflowers.

A Plant World Superstar--'Lemon Slice' Superbells Calibrachoa

lemon-slice-superbells-calibrachoa-jpg.jpg'Lemon Slice' Calibrachoa is an extremely vigorous, vividly colored Superbells hybrid by Proven Winners. Calibrachoas are related to and resemble petunias but have a cascading habit and much smaller blooms. Perfect for edgings, containers, and hanging baskets. 'Lemon Slice' tolerates our hot Ozarks summers and grows to 10 inches high and a 48 inches wide. Its white-and-yellow "pinwheel" flowers are often called "breathtaking."

'Lemon Slice' Up Close


Because 'Lemon Slice' has won way too many awards to note--for example, "Leader of the Pack for Containers" (Ohio State University), "Plant of Distinction" (University of Georgia) and naming to P. Allen Smith's Platinum Collection--we have to give you a closer look so you can better see the unique pattern and coloration of its flowers. An annual in most climates, this one survived temperatures down to 16 degrees.

Senorita Blanca Spider Flower

senorita-blanca-jpg.jpgWe've never encountered a Cleome (Spider Flower) remotely like Senorita Blanca. First, it blooms all over the plant, not just at the top. Second, the shape is neat, compact, and uniform, never stringy or splayed out, and it never requires deadheading. This annual from Proven Winners grows as tall as 4 feet and as wide as 2 feet. Visually commanding, it's ideal wherever a taller plant is desired. Overall, it's just a great presence in any garden. Caramba!

Senorita Blanca Up Close


A closer look at Senorita Blanca's flowers. As with the plant itself, these too are unusually neat and uniform. They're also a beautiful silvery white in warmer temperatures, but take on a lavender blush in cooler conditions.

'Fireworks' Goldenrod


In our humble opinion Goldenrod is one of the most beautiful of all plants, and this is one of the beautiful of all Goldenrods. Added to the border in its second year, it's the variety 'Fireworks', named for its long, graceful flower spikes that suggest cascading aerial rockets. Note: We trust that by now you know it isn't goldenrod that causes hay fever, but ragweed, which blooms at the same time.

A New Green Basil


Called simply "Green Basil," this new Proven Winners plant, botanically known as Ocimum basilicum, has beautifully aromatic leaves with a slight clove fragrance. Here partially hidden by a rather large coleus, it grows to 2 feet tall and 10-12 inches wide and perfectly upright, making it even more attractive. Altogether, it's a great addition to the garden...and the kitchen. 

A Garden Phlox and....

The cluster of white flowers with a tiny eye of pink is an old-fashioned Garden Phlox our gardener brought from the garden in the country. We're unsure of the identity of the plant next to it with the beautiful pale lavender flower spikes. We think it might be Lythrum, more commonly known as Loosestrife, but we're not sure. What do you think?

'Coralberry Punch' Callibrachoa

This beautiful 'Coralberry Punch' Callibrachoa was a major standout in the border garden. In keeping with all of the Superbells series of Callibrachoas from the Proven Winners company, it produced flowers in great profusion throughout the season.

Zahara Zinnia

Zahara Zinnias are considered a dwarf variety of Zinnia but actually have rather large double flowers in scarlet, rose, pink, coral,orange, yellow, white, and cream. They grow to about 20 inches tall and as wide, making them perfect for edging or containers. As if that weren't enough, they bloom profusely all season long, are totally resistant to mildew, and tolerate drought and fierce summer heat. Summing up, we can't think of a better annual on all counts for Ozarks home gardens.

The Border in August

As the plants matured and filled in, the plants finally seemed to be coming together as a real garden in August in 2012, its first year.

A Nice Mix

We thought this mix of plants especially good on many counts, including color, size, and texture.

The October Border

Even in October of its first year, the garden was showing vigorous growth and good color.

For 2013, A New Bed


In early 2013, the border's second season, our gardener, buoyed by the beauty it provided the first year, was seized with the idea of expanding the plantings. He started by adding a new bed, one that extended outward from the basic design. His thinking, he said, was basically, "Oh boy, I can stick a whole bunch of stuff in there."

A Big Surprise


Gardeners in the Ozarks were extremely surprised by a very late snowfall on May 4th, 2013. Our gardener was no exception, as he was just beginning to plant. So it goes, though, with the always-unpredictable weather in the Ozarks. And by the next day, the snow was gone.

Plants the Gardener Brought to the New Home

going-bananas-daylily-jpg.jpgOur gardener was able to add to the rosy-glow-coneflower-jpg.jpgborder a few plants he'd grown at his country home. At left is one of his favorites, a 'Going Bananas' Daylily, shown in its old location, At right, a more-than colorful 'Rosy Glow' Coneflower as it bloomed in the new border.
      At left is the rose he says is his single-oranges-n-lemons-rose-jpg.jpgall-time favorite rose. "It's called 'Oranges 'n Lemons,' he says, "I just love the color, but it also has a beautiful sort-of-citrusy fragrance, and the plant itself has a garden-phlox-jpg.jpgreally nice, arching shape."
      At right is an old-time favorite, Garden Phlox, shown as it grew in its old location, and at left are three red lilies our gardener says he likes three-red-lilies-jpg.jpgbecause "they're the shiniest ones I've ever seen."
      The plant at the right, shown transplanted and thriving like crazy in the new border, is Perilla frutescens, which goes by the common names Beefsteak Plant and perilla-frutescens-jpg.jpgShiso, Some also call it Purple Basil for its herblike fragrance and taste, but it's really from the mint family, says our gardener. "It grows like crazy, looks great in the garden, and reseeds wildly," he adds. "I just don't know a better value as a plant."
      reseeded-althea-zebrina-jpg.jpgAt left is another plant that reseeds freely, Althea Zebrina, commonly known as Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina', sometimes as Braveheart, and sometimes as French Hollyhock. This one suddenly appeared in the gardener's old lawn. The more mature Althea is shown at right growing althea-zebrina%2C-lysimachia-jpg.jpgalong with a nice stand of yellow-flowering Lysimachia. Both plants have now been transplanted into the new border and, our gardener says, "should be great this year."
painters-palette-jpg.jpg      The cream, green, and maroon variegations of the plant at left make it a true wonder in the garden. 'Painter's Palette' goes with literally any color or color combinations, making it a perfect complement or filler plant wherever desired.
      At right is a favorite ornamental grass, zebra-grass-jpg.jpgvariegated Miscanthus, which the gardener prized in the old location for its 7-foot height, dramatic green-and-white striping, and long elegant flower plumes. It's taken hold in the border, he says, and should reach its full height there this summer.
voodoo-lily-jpg.jpg      The last plant brought from the old home is the decidedly eerie specimen at left, commonly known as Voodoo Lily. It blooms infrequently, but when it does, it's a real conversation piece. Among its charms: a scent like dead and decomposing meat that attracts the flies it uses as pollinators. "How could I not bring it?" asks our gardener.

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