Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Walk on the Sunny Side

If I scrinch my eyes really tight and concentrate really hard, I can almost remember what my sunny border looks like in summer. It’s pretty much a winter wasteland out there right now. The few photos I have help some. Let me see if I can conjure up a good description for you.

This border is on the opposite (south) side of our house from the shade beds we toured in earlier visits. It started out as a three-foot by twelve-foot bare patch where we had removed an ugly privacy screen of buckthorns.

Every year, I have widened and lengthened the bed a bit until it now runs almost the entire length of our side yard. After four years, it is filling in nicely, if I may say so! There’s a good mix of flower colors, largely pinks, purples, burgundies, whites, and yellows. You’ll notice a variety in foliage too, with golden, purple, and variegated plants to break up the green.

This bed does have its challenges, however. It is exposed to strong, harsh winds off the reservoir behind us, especially in the winter, so I have to be careful what I plant here. After one storm, I found my butterfly bush snapped off at the base. I’d love to grow sunflowers, but I don’t think their tall stems would stand a chance.

Three years ago, I brought home a long-coveted Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ from an end-of-season sale and promptly plopped her into this bed. Only after she was nicely settled did I learn she can “suffer significant winter injury…if planted in locations exposed to cold winter winds and full sun” (Missouri Botanical Garden). They don’t put that stuff on the little plastic tags! So far she has done well, although she’s a fashionably late arriver in the spring and has me holding my breath every year till she decides to make her grand appearance.

Other shrubs here include deutzia, panicle Hydrangea, Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’—incredible fall color, and a great replacement for the overused and invasive Burning Bush), doublefile and dwarf viburnum, a gold-leaved ninebark, and a red-leaved weigela.

Scattered across the front you’ll see several golden varieties of spirea. I’ve also incorporated a few rose bushes, such as soft pink ‘Geoff Hamilton’ and ‘The Fairy,’ yellow ‘Carefree Sunshine,’ and ‘Meidiland Red.’

Taller perennials include siberian and bearded iris, plus many bird and butterfly favorites: biennial foxglove, cosmos, cleome, coneflowers, hyssop, joe pye weed, penstemon, and phlox. I planted two varieties of false indigo (Baptisia) last fall and can’t wait to see how they come in next summer. There’s also a nice patch of assorted asiatic and oriental lilies.

Shorter perennials include coreopsis, daylilies, lavender, asters, and several varieties of sedum, including my current favorite ‘Matrona.’ (In full sun, she grows strong and sturdy, never flops, and has rich red stems and flowers.)

Down low are mat-forming dianthus, creeping phlox, and several varieties of groundcover sedum. From top to bottom, I’m pleased with the way this border is coming along. Come back next time for a glimpse of the sunny foundation bed across from this border.


  1. I haven't used this line yet with anyone, and I vowed not to say it...but I'm jealous;O You have a lot more open, sunny areas than I do, it appears. I long for more sunny areas to expand my smallish-cottage-garden on the corner of our garage. I have a sunny area at the bottom of the driveway where I plant but I have to keep it 'basic' there,(bushes, a few low growing things, nothing extravagant--we have a HOA afterall:( There is also an area on the other side of the driveway (but that side doesn't get much sun). Anyway, I should write this in a post like you did...
    It is clear you have just about every plant out there, with gorgeous and appealing qualities (well, there are always MORE plants out there!!). But I do love your cottage garden, despite your cold & wind, etc., I think it's gorgeous;)

  2. Thanks, Jan. I have to say that's one of the things I've loved about this home--the chance to grow all the sun-lovers I couldn't anywhere else we've ever lived. There is a small green ash on that side that will some day take away some of the sun--if the emerald ash borers don't get it first!--but I'll enjoy it while it lasts. By the way, speaking of jealousy :), I envy the time you have for keeping up with so many blogs and commenting intelligently (and encouragingly) on all of them! Some day...

  3. Your gardens look very nice and I like how describe them. I have some of the same plants growing in my sunny border, although I think yours have more room to grow. I'm trying Baptisia for the first time, and hoping it comes back. I love your sedum and will have to write that one down. It doesn't look like it flops like my Autumn Joy always does.
    Very pretty!

  4. Hi, Catherine--
    My plants SHOULD have plenty of room to grow, but I keep cramming more and more in there! Need to learn some self-control, but too many beautiful flowers out there. Autumn Joy flops for me too, if I don't pinch it back in the spring. We'll have to compare notes on the Baptisia once summer finally returns.


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